I’ve been asked many times what my favorite place was on my trip round the world. While it’s hard to pinpoint just one destination, Thelma and Toby’s Island Camping Adventure is undoubtedly close to the top. Upon arrival, I was awestruck by the crystal clear water and idyllic beach flanked by perfect palm trees. I knew I had found what I was searching for.
As soon as I landed on the beach, Toby came out to greet me with a big smile. Toby is a big ol’ Canadian who spent some of his early years kayaking and camping around northern Palawan. He just so happened to paddle onto a gorgeous stretch of sand 30 years ago that would later become the camping resort. I’m glad he decided to share it with the few lucky travelers that decide to venture this far off the beaten track.
This isn’t a place to come if you’re concerned about being connected to the outside world or looking for a high level of comfort. There’s no Wi-Fi and you only have electricity from 6 – 10 p.m. There’s also no real ‘western’ toilet or shower. Though, I’d argue the bamboo shower is better than a real one (see pictures below). With that being said, there isn’t one thing I would change about the place. From my perspective, it was backpacking perfection.
I’ve always thought its not just the destination, but the people that you spend it with that make a place great. Playing Pusoy Dos with the staff, sharing stories with the other guests, and drinking a Red Horse with Toby as the sun set was truly unforgettable. I can’t wait to go back next year!
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The BeachThe tents are at the far end of the beach. As you can see, there’s no problem finding a piece of sand all to yourself. I could look at this picture for hours! Inaringan Island is off in the distance, which can easily be reached by kayak or paddle board. On the south end of the beach is the entrance to the Bamboo Shower. Just an average sunset by Toby’s standards. I think he ranked this one a 3 out of 10. It looked pretty good to me.
The TentsThere were 7 tents in total. Thelma said they won’t be building any more to preserve the special atmosphere they have created. Sounds like a good decision. In case you haven’t realized it yet, this wasn’t real camping folks. Each tent has a nice bed and plenty of room to move. Not a bad view to wake up to every morning! I had originally only reserved two nights and wanted to stay one more, but all of the tents were booked. Toby said I could stay up in his son’s bungalow. It was open air and a little more rustic, but still lovely.
The Bamboo ShowerThe entrance to the Bamboo Shower right off the beach, which is about a five minute walk from the campsite. Now that’s a shower with a view! I loved rinsing off while the sun was setting.
Thelma and Toby’s Island Camping Activities
Swimming & Sun Bathing
Thelma and Toby’s has the most idyllic beach at its doorstep. There’s no better activity than heading out for a swim in the crystal clear water or lounging around on the beach.
Kayaking & Standup Paddle Boarding
This is the primary mode of transportation once you arrive at Themla and Toby’s Island Camping Adventure. Inaringan Island lies just to the north and took ~20 minutes to paddle to and an hour to paddle around. You can also paddle to other beaches, islands, and even a waterfall.
You can go on an organized Port Barton island hopping tour (this isn’t something organized by Themla and Toby). If you’re feeling extra energetic, you could kayak to the offshore islands. Altogether, you’d probably be looking at a 15 mile roundtrip.
On the beach just to the south of Thelma and Toby’s is a trail to a waterfall (you have to take a kayak or paddle board there). It’s about a 20 minute hike to the falls once you land on the beach. As you can see from the video below, I was lucky enough to have a guide, who actually worked at Thelma and Toby’s Island Camping Adventure. He even let me borrow his sandals. Just one of many examples of the friendliness of the local people I met in the Philippines.
There’s a local family within a short hike from Themla and Toby’s that will take you fishing. All you have to do is ask and maybe provide a small donation. This is a great way to experience local Palawan culture. Toby occasionally goes out on his boat, so you could probably go fishing with him as well.
Electricity is shut off at 10 p.m. with only torches and flashlights left illuminating the tent sites. There is also almost no electricity in the vicinity of the campsite, so there is virtually no light pollution. This meant some of the darkest skies I’ve ever seen and perfect stargazing conditions.
Another camper I was staying with said he went out one evening in a kayak and was surprised to see a blue glow as his paddle hit the water. This phenomenon was bioluminescence from plankton living in the water.
Getting To Thelma and Toby’s Island CampingThe journey to Thelma and Toby’s Island Camping Adventure isn’t easy. It’s in the middle of nowhere by western standards, but this is precisely what makes it so great.
To get to Palawan you first have to fly into either El Nido or Puerto Princesa. Then you take a mini-bus to Port Barton (3 – 4 hours). Alternatively, you could take a mini-bus to San Vincente.
No roads go to Thelma and Toby’s, so you have to be picked up by a boat from either Port Barton or San Vincente. From there its a ~30 minute boat ride to the campsite.