Sail Away: Whether on a Sail Boat, on a Dive, or by the Shore, Palawan Remains an Escape Worth Returning to - Lifestyle Asia

“Being able to enjoy Palawan like that was such a unique experience.”

The best way to see the beauty of the Philippines Is by sailing through its coast. This is what a sailor friend told us when we started going to the beach regularly during the pandemic.

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While on the beach, we found ourselves wondering and wanting to wander to the nearest islands that our eyes could see.

As a family, we decided to buy a speedboat with the mindset that it would create many memorable experiences. The Philippines is blessed with lots of islands and beaches. It’s funny that there are only a handful of people who sail as a hobby.

A top view of Marina Del Sol

There are a handful of boat makers in the Philippines all with different specialties, and we decided to get a Trevally speed boat.

The company was established in 2009 when the owner Geronimo Begre was looking for a sea-worthy boat to take offshore while helping manage the Philippine Hobbie Challenge regattas. They would experience rough seas and strong winds during the races. He designed a deep V haul that would fare better in these conditions. 

Ours was a 30-foot dual-console sports boat with 400 horsepower, capable of traveling over 300 nautical miles. My deal with the husband is that I will allow him to buy a boat as long as the craft has a restroom. It’s pretty stressful to have a kid who needs to do number two in the middle of the ocean.

From left: Arthur Tuason; grilling steaks at the ocean

As soon as we got the boat, my husband was already planning to make a long-distance trip to Palawan. It’s something he has always wanted to do so a speedboat run to Busuanga was planned and scheduled during the summer months.

Traveling by sea

My husband, eldest son Arthur, and daughter Alysha together went to Palawan on our boat along with Manchu Garcia, an experienced sailor.

Manchu is also one of the biggest proponents of sailing in the Philippines as he takes the helm of the Philippine Hobbie Challenge. It was a group of two speedboats and a 42-foot catamaran.

A ship’s skeleton on the shore of Black Island

They left Punta Fuego at the break of dawn. Here is my son’s Arthur’s account:

Our journey began when the two groups met up and said a short prayer of thanks for the great experience ahead. Both families packed their boats and then set off for Busuanga Bay. With the coastline of Punta Fuego disappearing behind us, we traveled in-between islands with only the ocean in sight. This was not yet the open ocean, and the water here was calm and glassy, with the bright fluffy clouds reflected clearly. It felt like we were about to sail into the sky.

Once we left the sight of the nearby islands, we took turns driving; it was a 9-hour trip provided that the sea will cooperate. We stopped briefly at Apo Reef for lunch; there, we were able to see schools of fish. They were huge, not the kind you would see on a snorkeling trip.

From Apo reef, we found ourselves heading into a storm path. We had to take a wider turn to avoid it but felt the rougher waves, wind, and rain.

Here, Tito Manchu gave us a valuable lesson on navigating the boat in these kinds of conditions. The storm took up almost the entire latter half of the trip, but we managed to make it safely to the resort just as the sun was going down. We even got lucky and caught a turtle shell sighting on the way to the bay.

One with the sea

My younger kids and I opted to travel by Seaplane. We arrived at the hanger in the airport, weighed our bags, and boarded that plane. In one hour, we were on the docks of Marina Del Sol, situated in Busuanga bay. This boutique hotel with only 10 rooms, and had a magnificent view of the bay. 

The villas have an outdoor terrace where you can enjoy reading a book or just relaxing on a hammock. Both the rooms and the bathrooms had big open windows that framed the bay. Since the resort owners are the same family behind Oriental Merchants, a purveyor of Spanish products, the food here was fantastic.

Kayangan Lake

The bay has much to offer. There’s a mangrove where people can take paddle-board or kayak with a cool plane wreck, something my kids loved. We visited nearby islands where life is so abundant. One notable snorkeling site was the coral garden, where you will find flower-like corals so big and colorful you feel like you are in a cartoon. There we also saw turtles and exotic fishes.

There are also shipwrecks and plane wrecks which the kids enjoyed seeing. We spent a day on Black Island, which boasts white sandy beaches and limestone caves.

The view from Marina Del Sol’s Villa

On another day, we went around touring the different resorts and tourist spots like Kayangan Lake in Coron and Secret lagoon. Since the tourist spots weren’t operating at the time, the bay was so quiet, and we were the only ones at sea. It felt surreal to be able to go to these breathtaking places by ourselves. We felt like explorers.

Island dwellers

We also visited a farm run by Gunter Bernert. He’s been diver all his life and is credited for finding places now enjoyed as tourist sites like Gunther’s Cathedral, Barracuda Lake, and Okinawa Maru.

Gunther has been living on the island for 30 years and has built himself self-sustaining farming. We were treated to great stories and a special dinner with ingredients all sourced from his farm.

Island Stories by Bonfire

One thing to be mindful of when traveling by boat is one’s carbon footprint. Be sure to bring a lot of reusable items like water jugs, food containers, and utensils.

Also, make sure you are protected from sand mites and mosquito bites by religiously putting insect repellant. Since sea life was abundant and there were many jellyfish in the water its best to wear protective gear such as a rashguard, swim pants, and face covers.

We also use this sunblock which protects us from jellyfish and sand mites bites called Safesea. We like this because it’s also safe for the ocean.

The author, Jeanette Tuason

Sometimes what you are looking for is just in front of you. We go thousands of miles away to see places that will take our breath away. But in reality, each Philippine island is abundant with wonders, so breathtaking that you become more certain of a higher being.

Imagine on their way back to Punta Fuego, a school of dolphins kept them company near Mindoro. How cool was that?

Being able to enjoy Palawan like that was such a unique experience; We were able to bond with family and friends over the beauty of the sea, great conversations, and good food.  Every sunrise was like a prayer, and every sunset was like a blessing.

This story came out in the October 2021 issue of Lifestyle Asia.

Photos by JEANETTE IPAPO-TUASON, JEAN PIERRE TUASON, and TINA GARCIA

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