FOLLOW THE VOYAGE:
Island Trails Of The Philippines
Keelung to Manila | 24 October 2023 to 9 November 2023
Master: Mark Neill, Expedition Leader: Dawn Singleton, Guest Lecturers: Tim Harvey, Micheal Hermes, Greg Watson, Stella Freund and Yogi Freund
Day 1: Keelung, 24 October 2023
We boarded the Coral Adventurer ready to embark on our journey through the island trails of the Philippines. After embarking we enjoyed a presentation where we got to meet the crew that would be taking care of us for the next few days and learn about the upcoming activities that await us tomorrow in Hualien. As the day came to an end we waved goodbye to Keelung and went to sleep in anticipation for the big adventure we were embarking on.
Day 2: Hualien, 25 October 2023
Our arrival in Hualien was greeted by a troupe of dancers, which was a pleasant surprise as we enjoyed their cultural performance. As we traveled by bus, we admired the scenery along the road to Taroko Gorge. We had steep cliffs towering hundreds of meters above us, with the Liwa River below. Both sides of the bus allowed views of the gorge as the narrow road cut into the cliff and wove along bridges crossing to each side of the river as we ascended higher and higher into the national park. Afterward, we stopped for a walk along the Marble Bridge, where we learned that the bridge was built in 2020 and offered extensive views of the gorge and the river below.
We enjoyed lunch at Silks Place Hotel’s restaurant, where we all sat in front of lazy Susans as the waitstaff brought out various exotic dishes. Finally, we explored the Eternal Spring Shrine, where we found an abundance of Macaque monkeys who were quite tame and hopping about on the roads and in the park. We also ventured to Qing Shui Cliff, which provided a view overlooking coastal cliffs 800 meters above sea level, giving us perspective on just how steep the island’s eastern coast is.
Day 3: Sea Day, 26 October 2023
Our day began with an insightful talk from Mike on ‘The Region’s History in 20 Objects.’ It was a hands-on presentation that used authentic objects to tell stories about the culture and history of the lands and seas we are exploring. Next up was a very moving talk from Stella on ‘The Bloodiness of South-East Asian Politics,’ which gave us insight into the political situation that led up to the revolution of the 1960s. After lunch, we had a snorkel and dive brief before we enjoyed the ‘Voyage Book Club’ with Mike, who supplied us with plenty of relevant books regarding our upcoming adventure.
Day 4: Claveria, 27 October 2023
This morning, we arrived at Claveria, where a group of young dancers in colorful costumes performed the story of the Dakils’ fishing method. We could see that the dancers had put in a lot of rehearsal time and effort to put on the performance for us, which made it even more enjoyable. There was also an example of the Daklis’ fishing method on the beach. Even though it began to rain, we walked down to the beach and heaved on the taut line that trailed into the deeper water to ‘pull in’ the fishing net. As the rain continued, we boarded the fun jeepneys and made our way to a viewpoint and then Claveria Fiber Industry. Here, we got to see the silk worms as well as pick up some of the cocoons with the animals still inside. In another building, we saw the method of spinning the silk thread off the cocoon onto a spool and then a place where they had looms set up. The looms actually had abaca fiber to weave, a strong fiber derived from a wild banana palm, which was woven into basic bags and water carry bottles. We even got the chance to sit at the looms and weave a few runs of the fabric ourselves.
We were soon off again to visit the St. Maria Eco Park. Here, there were two sites. One was the making of candles in a thatched hut with wooden seats, and the other, more in an open-air garden where the local ladies were pounding a sweet treat called Lubi Lubi, made from cassava and banana with shaved coconut on a palm leaf. Another stop was a fun little stop where the locals again showed us how to cut and thresh the rice when it’s harvested the traditional way. We got straw hats and tried our hand at husking and cutting the rice.
Once back on board and after lunch and a break, we enjoyed Tim’s talk on coral reefs and Lead Chef Dylan’s cooking demo, where he made beef tataki. Our day ended with a talk by Greg, “My Island Home,” an introduction to islands: Are they cauldrons of evolutionary experimentation, or places where species go to die, or both? Big islands, little islands, close by or far away, they all have stories and lessons vital for the preservation of biodiversity.
Day 5: Calayan Island, 28 October 2023
Our morning at Calayan began with a morning swim as the Xplorer dropped us off close to idyllic shoreline which allowed us to dive into the clear water, explore the marine life and swim to shore. The morning then evolved into one happy sunny adventure as we enjoyed exploring the beach while other walked along the coral beach to the base of a cliff that was the trail head to a lighthouse. We decided to hike our way to the top and were rewarded with the expansive 360 views of not only the bays to the north but also offering views along the coast to a distant village. After a bit more exploring we departed Calayan, and enjoyed a talk by Yogi about fishing for survival as well as an engine room tour and a half hour presentation by the onboard photographer Mark who provided advice and tips on photography for our upcoming locations.
Day 6: Palaui Island , 29 October 2023
We enjoyed breakfast with clear views of Papau Island, and then we set off for the morning activity in the jungle-clad bay of Palaui Island on the northwestern coast. Here we met friendly locals who assisted us in hiking to the fort and lighthouse, showing us the easier walking tracks that led not only to the top of the hill where the fort and lighthouse are situated but also into the coastal forest. Once at the top, we had a 270-degree view of the green island, getting to see both sides of the cape as well as local water buffalo far below in the pasture. The fort itself provided excellent photography opportunities, with strangler fig trees slowly breaking apart the concrete and stone building.
Then we dived into the island’s waters with a snorkeling activity and kayaking, and enjoyed some local sweet lemon tea, T-shirts, and fridge magnets. Back on the ship, we had a bridge and engine room tour, a talk from Mike on historical trade, and a talk from Stella about the pearling industry in the Philippines.
Day 7: Jomalig , 30 October 2023
We started the morning at sea and enjoyed a relaxing breakfast, followed by a presentation from Greg on ‘Camouflage: Amazing Animals You’ve Never Seen.’
After this, the ship arrived at Jomalig, and we were greeted with the tropical atoll scenery of golden sandy beaches, turquoise water, palm trees, and bamboo huts dotted along the shore.
We landed in front of a village and enjoyed a leisurely walk through the rustic sandy street, admiring the collection of huts.
We strolled down the beach to greet the locals who offered us fresh coconuts, crabs, and lobster.
During this time, we explored more of the village, interacted with the locals, and learned about their culture.
We spent some time snorkeling, swimming, and relaxing on the beach before making our way back to the ship.
Later, we enjoyed a wine tasting session led by Purser Sara.
Day 8: Tignob Island, Virac (Catanduanes) , 31 October 2023
Our day on Tignob Island began with a grey sky and torrential rain, but despite the weather, our enthusiasm remained unwavering.
We, the group, dived from the Xplorer into a secluded corner of the bay at Tignob Island, where we relished snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters.
As torrential rain ran down the igneous rock point, it created small waterfalls cascading into the snorkeling area, forming a fascinating layer of fresh water above the saltwater.
Those who wanted to stay dry enjoyed the stormy atmosphere in the Bridge Deck Lounge as Yogi presented his lecture on ‘Great Marine Spawning Events.’
We boarded the Xplorer and enjoyed the atmosphere as we cruised through the lightning and rain toward Virac, Catanduanes.
Upon arriving, we had a dock landing and were greeted with a performance of traditional dance and song by the locals.
Afterward, we explored a nearby village where we learned about the fresh local produce.
Finally, we visited the seaside town of Virac, where we had some free time to explore the town and witness an Abaca weaving demonstration.
Day 9: Biri Island and Capul, 1 November 2023
Today, we visited two of the most welcoming and picturesque villages on Biri and Capul islands, which filled us with a great sense of joy. Our morning at Biri was so much fun.
We were greeted with a very loud and colorful dance/drum troupe, and we got to enjoy a ride in tuk-tuks and motorbikes.
The Danggit village was not only a fun and adventurous drive away from town but also charming, with stalls along the road showcasing the process of rabbit fish food preparation.
We all had the chance to taste the fried fish, a breakfast staple for the locals.
Afterward, we had another drive to a picturesque beachside setup with food and speeches that allowed us to learn more and connect with the locals.
Then we explored Capul in the afternoon, going on a walk to the beachside stop near the banadero, where we were greeted with more dancing, singing, and drums.
It was a picturesque village with a warm welcome that touched our hearts.
We explored Fuerza de San Ignacio de Loyola Church and enjoyed more local food, singing, and dancing before we made our way to the lighthouse at Faro de Capul and a coconut farm.
It was a great way to interact with the locals and truly feel part of the community.
We enjoyed a refreshing swim at the end of the day, reminiscing about this special day.
Day 10: Maripipi , 2 November 2023
The volcanic island of Maripipi looked picturesque from our northern anchorage.
We arrived in Casibang Village and boarded local transport in the form of tuk-tuks and motorbikes that allowed us to explore the area, passing local sights, spotting colorful flags and grand welcome signs.
The locals were extremely welcoming, teaching us how to weave and allowing us to join in their dancing in colorful costumes.
We then walked to a food stall set up where we enjoyed local cuisine, including a sweet drink made from sweet potato leaves and lemon.
The next stop was Candol beach, where we had a relaxing dip in the shallow water for a good half an hour, enjoying the sunshine with plenty of shade available.
For those who chose to visit Casibang village, they made their way to the southern end of the island, enjoying a parade of locals waving colorful flags.
Upon arrival in Casibang, local dancers and drummers performed a wonderful interpretative performance.
Colorful flags lined the streets as guests wandered around, creating a festive atmosphere.
In front of houses, there were small demonstrations and stalls showcasing local ways of life.
Everything from weaving banana leaves, cracking coconuts, making fishing lures, and local wine production.
We enjoyed the local cuisine, including sticky rice and dried fish, with all the products made from local ingredients and traditions.
At the end of the street was the pottery village.
Walking around each station, we learned the processes involved in making traditional pottery.
We mingled with the locals and even had a go at compacting the clay to mold it into pots.
The immersive experience was joyous and fun.
Once again, there were more local delicacies to feast on, including a spit-roasted pig.
After lunch, the ship was right in front of the small island of Sambawan, which looked like a picturesque paradise with colored flags all over the beach.
The fantastic weather provided the perfect opportunity to finish the day with a swim, snorkeling, kayaking, and beachside drinks while watching the sunset.
Day 11: Tacloban and Leyte, 3 November 2023
Our welcome to Tacloban was grand, with a marching band and locals gifting us handmade necklaces.
Our first stop was the Holy Cross Mass grave at Yolanda’s Ground Zero, where we paid our respects to the victims of the super typhoon.
Then we explored the Santo Nino Shrine and Heritage Museum, where we learned about the Marcos family and their fame in the country.
We were greeted at the museum with a welcome band and enjoyed a nice buffet lunch with a table of fruits and sweets at the end.
There was also a fantastic dance from the troupe of dancers who showed us the traditional bamboo clacking dance where they use two long bamboo poles to hop in and out of.
Our day ended with a trip to the MacArthur Landing Site, where we learned about the historic landing of General MacArthur in Leyte Gulf and were welcomed once again by the friendly locals with a performance of singing and traditional dancing.
Day 12: Cuatro Islas, 4 November 2023
The four islands that make up the Cuatro Islas are reminiscent of the Maldives with small palm-lined islands and golden sand.
We split into groups, with one group relaxing on the ship and enjoying a documentary, while the others dived from the Xplorer into the water at the beach on Mahaba.
After lunch, we spent the afternoon at Digyo Island where the atmosphere was calm and called for a leisurely afternoon of swimming, snorkeling, and relaxing in the shade of the coconut trees.
Day 13: Tagbilaran and Bohol Islands, 5 November 2023
Today we arrived at Bohol, ready for a full day of adventure.
A few highlights included visiting the Corella Tarsier Sanctuary, where we got to see 4-5 Tarsiers and were in awe of how tiny and adorable they were, taking pictures.
They had a small refreshment table outside, and we met Carlito, the Tarsier guru, and asked many questions to learn more about these adorable creatures.
Then we enjoyed a cruise down Loboc River, which had very good food and live acoustic music that we all danced to.
The river cruise was not only relaxing but also great entertainment.
We also had the chance to stop at a local market where we saw herbs and spices and locally made goods.
There was also the option to go zip-lining at Eco Park.
After a picturesque drive through Ebony forest, we arrived at the zip-lining location, where many of us decided to zip-line solo.
It was a great way to end the day with echoes of laughter throughout the park as we all enjoyed zip-lining.
Day 14: Canigao Island, 6 November 2023
This morning, we awoke to glassy conditions on the palm-lined Canigao Island.
We started the day with an Xplorer ride to the island, where we snorkeled and explored the beach, discovering various shells along the shore.
Tim gathered the shells, and we rested underneath the palm trees, learning all about the different species.
Some of us took advantage of the beautiful conditions to kayak around the island, while others opted to relax on the beach, sunbathing on the white sands.
Local residents provided complimentary coconuts and set up stalls selling handcrafted trinkets.
After lunch, Guest Lecturer Yogi presented a talk on ‘Marine Protected Areas and Marine Life of the Indo-Pacific.