Thankfully, getting settle in Coron, post boat ride, was a breeze. Ian and I walked part of the way to town, eventually flagged down a tricycle and soon arrived at the Sea Dive resort, where I had a room booked. There was a kitschy bar, conveniently located about 10 feet from my room so Ian and I decided to grab a drink before calling it a night. The next morning I was up early thanks to the combination of roosters, construction and the dive office being directly next to my room, there really is no sleeping in with budget accommodation. I made my way into the dive office planning to figure out an island hopping tour for the day; different than El Nido, where you pay per person/per tour, in Coron you pay 1,500 for the boat, but can share it with up to four people. I didn't really want to hire my own boat so I was looking to tag along with a group of two or three. It was my lucky day because a Chinese couple were just preparing to leave and said it was no problem if I join.
I had just enough time to fill my water bottle and rent a snorkel mask before I was being whisked away onto the boat. I was glad to have arranged a tour so fast but my stomach was screaming for food, after all I had barely eaten the day before. Coron is all about the beauty of the islands and water surrounding it, the city is small and on top of that was severely damaged by Typhoon Haiyan, two months ago. Our day started with a stop at the 7 islands which is just what is sounds like, 7 small islands which provide a great area for snorkeling. I was a bit hesitant to get in the water, the sun barely out and I was cold, but I didn't want to pass up some potential beauty so I jumped in. The coral and array of fish was much better than anything I saw in El Nido, there were actually colors in the coral!
After swimming around, getting attacked by a few fish, one tried to eat me, and seeing many 'Nemo' families, it was time to move on. Our next stop was Coron island to see and swim in Kayagan Lake, one of the most famous (or at least most photographed) destinations in Coron. I'm sure that pictures of the lake and surrounding area are what first drew me to wanting to visit Coron, so I was happy to finally be seeing the area in person. The lake is a mix of fresh (70%0 and salt (30%) water so it was much more refreshing to swim in than the ocean water. Visitors are only allowed entry to a small portion of Coron island, partially to protect the environment and also because the rest of the island is inhabited by the indigenous Tagbanua tribe and they don't necessarily want tourist tromping through their back yard every day.
I could have stayed in that lake all day, if someone brought me lunch, but after an hour or so it was time for us to move on. I was happy to hear that it was time for lunch and although I had no idea what was on the menu I knew i'd enjoy it. Yo-yo and her husband had bought supplies for lunch at the market that morning but said that it was no problem if I shared with them, again lucky me! Our boat guide, Jam-Jam had apparently prepared lunch while we were swimming in Kayagan lake so it was all ready to go by the time we arrived at Atuayan beach. We had a feast of fresh fish, crabs, a veggie stir fry, fruit and of course rice. The food was delicious, maybe I should marry one of these boat men, they're fit and active, outgoing and great cooks. At first I felt bad having to make them share their food with me but there was more than enough to go around.
We were given the option to do go snorkeling, but I was seconds from entering a food coma, seriously, Yo-yo kept pushing food my way and I thought I might burst. Our next stop was CYC (Coron Youth Club) beach, no idea where it got the name. As we pulled up Jam-Jam explained to us that when he was a boy the beach actually used to be at least double the size, but businessmen keep selling the sand to aquariums so the beach is shrinking. I was getting cold (my mom would probably kill me for saying that) so I decided to actually swim here to work up some body heat. After doing a few circles around the boats I came back to where Yo-yo and her husband were floating and soon turned into teacher. Neither of them knew how to swim but Yo-yo asked me if I would teach her how to float on her back (as I had been doing) without the life jacket, which she finally managed.
When we were done with our swimming lessons Jam-Jam said this would be our last stop and that it was time to return to Coron. Yo-Yo was expecting to be out touring until 5pm, so asked if there wasn't somewhere else we could go before heading back (it was only about 3 o'clock) and so we made our way to the twin lagoons. I guess since we paid the price of the boat for the day the tour was more flexible than those in El Nido, you can kind of do what you want - within reason. To enter the twin lagoons your boat parks outside one of them and then you must swim under, or climb over, the entrance to the second lagoon. I opted for the swimming method but felt a bit claustrophobic as I passed under the low hanging rocks. The lagoons, similar to Kayagan lake, are a mix of fresh and salt water but with a higher percentage of salt water. The mixture creates an oily look in the water as well as warm and hot pockets where the fresh and ocean water are mixing together. Although we were told to bring our snorkel masks there wasn't much to see due to both the deep water and cloudy waters. Instead I enjoyed some more swimming, loving the warm pockets and swimming quickly through the cold.
After getting back to our boat I was hoping I could sit in the sun for a while to dry off/warm up before we hit the sea; thankfully other boats had parked us in so I was given the opportunity to do just that. I could probably sit on one of these boats and just watch the boatmen work all day, the way they maneuver around each other thoroughly entertains me. I thought about it when we were in El Nido and it was definitely clear in Coron that these boys grow up on these boats, it's their lives. I'd guess that it's one of the more secure jobs in Coron, it's not like there's going to be a shortage of tourist any time soon, and I'm assuming they love their job...sail around on a boat all day with gorgeous scenery? Doesn't sound like a bad gig to me.
By this time, the sun had given up on making a full time appearance, my fingers and toes were turning to prunes and I think we were all a bit tired, so it was time to return to Coron. During lunch Yo-yo had asked if I wanted to join them on a trip to the hotsprings that evening after dinner, but she now changed her mind and said they were too tired. Throughout my trip I got super lucky with the people I met along the way, and this day was no exception. Yo-yo reminded me of many of my Korean co-teachers, friendly, outgoing and genuinely interested in my life, i'm glad I got up and stumbled into the dive office when I did. Looking back, this day was actually another result of my boat disaster. Had I come into Coron, on time, the day before, I likely would have already booked a tour for the next day, either with less enjoyable company or possibly alone. So there you go, everything really does happen for a reason.
7,500 islands of pure bliss. I've been twice, both times arriving with a "what am I doing here" hesitation, but weeks later resisting my departure. Forget about being on time, or eating lots of vegetables, but welcome beautiful sunsets, gorgeous beaches, and welcoming, friendly locals.