Untapped adventure still exists, but damn it’s hard to find. Before traveling to Palawan, I read about some amazing expeditions from El Nido to Coron. This area is considered the last frontier of the Philippines. The Linipacan and Culion islands are basically the same they were a 100 years ago. There’s just a handful of tiny fishing villages and pearl farms, but no development. Basically, it’s an endless landscape of deserted beaches, healthy reefs, and crystal clear water. Thanks to Buhay Isla and a few other tour companies, the adventurous traveler can now experience a small slice of this paradise.
On a 4 month trip around the world, I’d probably consider the couple of days I spent with Buhay Isla as the best of my entire trip. Beyond the fact that the beaches were gorgeous and it was the best snorkeling I’ve ever done (see video below), it was also a truly unique experience. I went to islands that few will ever see, slept in hut, slept on the beach, and experienced local Filipino life.
Buhay Isla Expedition BoatA local bangka boat, which transported 7 passangers and 7 crew members.
Fellow Passengers & Buhay Isla Expedition Crew
Most places I’ve snorkeled have been coral graveyards, including Hawaii, the Caribbean, and Thailand. Reefs are fragile and simply can’t take mass tourism, global warming, and pollution. To my disappointment, even El Nido’s reefs are seeing moderate damage. This is one of the primary reasons I signed up for a Buhay Isla Expedition. Luckily, the reefs were healthy and full of fish. I’d do this trip over and over just to do the snorkeling again.
Day 1 – Buhay Isla ExpeditionWe met at 6 a.m. to get an early start, so we could have a nice breakfast off of Cadlao Island before the local tour groups headed out. Just before lunch, we stopped off at a local fishing village that’s about 30 miles north of El Nido (check out the video below).
Night 1 Camp – Buhay Isla Expedition
We stayed in huts on the first night. We were fortunate to have only been the second tour group to stay in them, so they were brand new. This is basically what the local fisherman would live in. Pretty simple, but also pretty nice.A local pearl farmer.
Day 2 – Buhay Isla Expedition
The entire day was spent island hopping around the Linapacan islands, which was probably the highlight of the Buhay Isla Expedition. Other than one or two local fisherman, I don’t think I saw another boat all day. We made 3 stops on our way to the next camp, each of them more beautiful than the last.
Night 2 Camp – Buhay Isla Expedition
Our crew pitched us small tents on the beach for the second night. It was a perfect location to watch the sunset over the water. This was the best night of the trip as the crew joined in on some story telling and drinking games.The rum is flowing.
Day 3 – Buhay Isla Expedition
We started out the morning snorkeling on the beach we had spent the last night, but the main highlight of the day was where we had lunch. We pulled up to this perfect strip of sand that was surrounded by shallow water (see first couple of pictures below). It reminded me of a French Polynesian lagoon.We finished off the Buhay Isla Expedition with a stop at Barracuda Lake, a freshwater lake on Coron Island. This place is famous with divers for its underwater rock formations, thermoclines, and haloclines.
The Food – Buhay Isla Expedition
As you can see by the pictures below, the food was excellent. For lunch and dinner, there was always fish, rice, and fresh fruit along with an assortment of other items. The crew also provided mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks. There was nothing better than coming on board after a good snorkel session for some fried bananas and coffee. Oh, I almost forgot, unlimited rum was also included, so that was pretty great too.