By Nathan Allen
The Ride of a Lifetime: Chapter 3
After I said goodbye to my new friends at Daluyon Resort in Sabang, I started the long ride to Port Barton, a place I have always dreamed of visiting. I actually had to backtrack a bit to get there, because there aren't too many roads in this region yet. When I realized it was late afternoon and I hadn't even reached the cutoff for Port Barton yet, I decided to stop at a local eatery. I was starving. Here's a photo:
These are called "carinderias" in the Philippines, and this one was owned by a nice woman with a daughter in Canada. She was interested in my tourism projects, and I enjoyed practicing some Filipino (the national language) with her. She also taught me a bit about their local language, called Cuyonon.
Anyway, I thanked her, said goodbye, and turned off the main highway just as the afternoon sun was starting to fade. The small paved road I was on grew more and more narrow with each kilometer. The nipa houses and shops started to disappear, and soon I was on a dirt road deep in the jungle.
For quite some time, there wasn’t a structure or person in sight. I motored loudly along, apologizing to the silent spirit of the jungle. Haha. I had to be careful on that slippery, muddy road. It started to rain, but luckily, just a tiny bit. This ended up being great practice for some of the very challenging riding the next few days.
I rode on and on, and just before it was completely dark, the road came to a dead end at the sea. I made it! There, I was greeted by a helpful boatman named Jensen. He was so nice that I decided to go on his island hopping tour the next morning. He pointed me to my destination, which was Summerhomes Palawan. I was so thankful to have a nice meal and get some good rest after my ride.
I woke to a beautiful day in paradise...as promised, I met kuya Jensen and a small group of tourists on the beach the next morning. One man was from Russia, and the two women were from Belgium I think. In anxious anticipation the adventure ahead, we headed out to sea. First stop was snorkeling, where we were able to see a few sea turtles, along with stunning German Island in the distance.
This island has a private owner, but your tour can still stop there (assuming you purchased the right one). As far as I know, there is no charge to visit German Island. You can snorkel around here, but finding the best corals can be a bit tricky, so be sure to ask a knowledgeable guide. You may see a turtle as well!
After this, we docked our boat on beautiful “Exotic Island”. This really is an incredible place to swim and relax. This kind of paradise is why I always travel with an ultralight hammock!
There are actually 2 islands here, with a crossing that gets swallowed up by the sea at high tide. Pretty unique!
This was our view from the boat as we left...and it was hard to say goodbye.
We continued to Twin Reef for snorkeling...with some of the best corals I’ve seen anywhere in the Philippines! I really didn’t expect it. As always, I recommend using “reef safe” or "child friendly" sunblock if you’re going in the water. That kind generally doesn't damage the corals.
It’s best to put it on 15-20 minutes before you go out and start sweating in the sun, otherwise it will be wasted (and contaminate the water).
(In photos: Coral garden and school of fish, me snorkeling over a giant plate, or table coral)
There were also plenty of giant plate corals here. Really cool! Hopefully the boatman will drop you off in deep water, so you never touch the bottom. It's best to avoid puncturing your skin, or damaging the fragile ecosystem here. Wearing a life vest is recommended - that way you can rest at the surface without having to put your feet down.
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After a lunch of fresh caught fish in our nipa hut, our last stop was a sandbar full of starfish in the shallows. Our guide picked one up to show us, but I'm not sure this is good for the starfish. Probably best to avoiding touching any sea life.
(In photos: 1. Island lunch of fish, rice, & veggies 2. Tourists out at sea 3. Beach bungalows
4. Tourist Silhouettes on Sandbar 5. Starfish from the sea
By now the afternoon sun was creeping toward the horizon. We made our way back to Port Barton beach, and I snapped a few more photos along the way.
Overall, it was well worth the price of the tour, which is about half of what you’ll pay in places like El Nido now. Kuya Jensen’s boat is called “Tres Palawaneños”, and his contact # is: 09216269191
The next day, Summerhomes offered another fascinating tour, this time of the nearby mangrove forests.
It’s a mystical place, full of colorful kingfisher birds and beautiful mangrove snakes that sleep high in the branches during the day. There’s nothing like slipping silently through these waters and taking in the otherworldly landscape.
In photos: 1. Floating huts on the water 2. Fascinating mangrove root system
3. Mangrove Snake high in trees 4. Lone fisherman on rustic boat
The last tour I did was self guided, as I rode my motorcycle there. It’s a short trek to Pamuayan Waterfall, about 3 or 4 kms away. It's a beautiful place, worth the trek if you ask me. If you ride there, it’s only about a 1km hike afterward. Just make sure you get good directions from your resort or from a local. If you prefer, you can pay for a guide / transport.
I love low-light photography. It was nice to make friends with some families in the village nearby, and then take these shots of the kids (and cat) playing by the sea. Further up the coast, I found a group of fishermen pulling a large net in from the sea.
(Click photos for more info)
There are Recaro vans which can transport you to Port Barton from Puerto Princesa. They take 3 or 4 hours and the cost is 350 pesos ($7). There is an open air bus that is 100 pesos cheaper, check the Puerto Princesa bus terminal for more info. Note: You can take a boat to Port Barton from Sabang if the weather is nice, and also from Port Barton to El Nido!
Port Barton has a great vibe, and is not nearly as crowded as other beach destinations in Palawan. There are plenty of restaurants and lodging options, yet it doesn’t feel overdeveloped at all.
The paved road will be completed soon though, so let’s hope it retains its small town charm in the future!
Oh, almost forgot! They are starting to throw full moon parties in Port Barton, so if you happen to be there during that time, check it out.
Curious about how much a flight to the Philippines costs? You might be surprised, check it out.
Special thanks to Summerhomes Palawan for making this part of my journey possible. The next episode is the verrrrry arduous ride to Long Beach, San Vicente. The longest white-sand beach in the Philippines! Spoiler: It was worth it.
*Motorbike for this trip was graciously provided by www.rent-a-bike.ph.
If you notice any misinformation or something that needs correcting, please don’t hesitate to let me know!
- Nathan Allen
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