Wanting to try something new and with not much time to plan, I found myself alone in Coron, in the Filipino province of Palawan in July. I had almost a week in Coron but never knowing what would come in the following days, I took up the most comprehensive of the tours on the first day, the Super Ultimate Tour. Turned out to be the perfect introduction to Coron, Palawan, and as luck would have it, the only day of good weather I had for the week.
I arrived in Coron the day before to an afternoon of heavy rain. Started to feel apprehensive about my tour the next day, not just the Coron Ultimate Tour with 7 stops, but the Super Ultimate Coron Tour with 8, all out at sea. Seemed that my fears were unfounded the next morning, with a clear blue sky awaiting.
Exploring Coron, Palawan
There’s the option of getting a private boat or joining a tour. If you’ve got a group of friends and know exactly where you’d like to visit, a private boat would be a good option. On the other hand if you’re alone or unsure of where to check out, the tours provide a cost effective way of exploring the amazing beaches, islands and snorkeling/ diving spots the waters around Coron has to offer.
Tours are pretty standard in Coron, with seemingly tens if not hundreds of companies hawking similar offerings from the moment you step out of the airport. The names are the same across providers but itineraries may differ slightly, so check the itineraries carefully to ensure if is what you want. More on the standard tours in a later post.
About the Coron Super Ultimate Tour
I purchased the tour with Wonderful Island through my guesthouse at 1,600 PHP. You might be able to get it at a lower price directly from the operator or from other operators. You can find someone selling these tours almost anywhere in Coron. I opted to go through my guesthouse for the peace of mind as I trusted them. From what I observed the price this tour ranges between 1,400 and 1,800 PHP, if you’re paying anything significantly less or more than that you should be concerned.
On paper the package covers 8 spots, but in practice it is kinda 6 as 2 are the same place and one is for lunch. It is also very identical to Coron Ultimate Tour just missing Barracuda Lake. The order of visiting the stops may differ depending on that day’s conditions. At each stop we were given roughly between 20 and 40 minutes to explore.
The price includes all entrance fees, lunch, a small afternoon snack and in some cases such as for Wonderful Island, snorkeling gear and kayaks. Remember to get snorkeling gear from the reception before setting off though. I mistakenly assumed it would all be on board and had to do without snorkeling gear for the trip. The price also includes pick up and drop off at your accommodation in Coron Town on Busuanga Island. Pickup is around 8am and you should be back by 5.30/6pm.
Done with the nitty gritty, now on to the tour!
Our friendly guide welcome us on board at the jump-off point for all island tours in Coron Town on Busuanga Island. So the first thing you’d probably find out about Coron is that the airport and main town is not even on Coron Island but the neighboring one, Busuanga. Coron Town is also not on Coron Island. However, most of the highlights are around Coron Island, so after a short wait we were bumbling over the water across to Coron Island. Getting to Twin Lagoon involved weaving through a maze of karst rock formations in clear blue waters, which was simply magical. Take a look!
Twin Lagoon is known for the small tunnel that separates the sea from the lake. At high tide you can hold your breath and swim through, and at low tide you see the arch above water. It was high tide though, so no pictures here. Didn’t dare to dive through, so took the short stairs to cross into the hidden lake. Life jackets are required to be put on here, as with Barracuda Lake and Kayangan Lake, after couple of drowning incidents.
Had fun floating around and testing out the action camera before it was time to go. We spent just under an hour here. Here’s a shot from the stairs looking out into the lagoon where boats were waiting.
CYC Beach/ Coral Garden
Here’s where it’s a stop considered as 2 on the itinerary. We stopped a distance from the beach and were free to snorkel/ kayak around the coral rich waters for about half an hour. CYC Beach looks like a lovely spot but it was also really crowded so I was glad we kept a distance from it.
I couldn’t see much without snorkeling gear so the best I could do was snap underwater shots with my action camera and hope for the best. Not too bad in the end!
Then off to the only wreck of the tour. Coron is also known for the many wrecks around the island, after the US sprang a surprise attack on the Japanese fleet in WW2. Skeleton Wreck is the remains of a supply ship, and is probably the most accessible of wrecks in the area, just a couple of meters below the surface at its highest.
Hidden beach for lunch
Lunch is cooked on board by the crew and taken at one of the many beaches in the area. The exact spot may or may not match your itinerary. Some of the listed lunch spots are Balinsasayaw Beach, Atwayan Beach, Beach 91, Smith Beach and more, but the one we ended up with didn’t seem to be any of those. Nonetheless, a secluded and beautiful spot. How often do you have lunch in such places:
Food was okay, and more than enough to go around. Quite an amazing spread considering all was prepared on the boat while we were touring around in the morning. Had some time to enjoy the beach after lunch before it was time to leave our ‘secret’ spot.
Barracuda Lake/ Luluyan Lake
After lunch, straight for another of the Coron’s famous lakes, Barracuda Lake. Honestly for snorkeling there isn’t much here, but it’s apparently a great dive site and a spot for learning freediving. The water is as deep as 40 meters and the main draw is experiencing the thermocline – very distinct changes in water temperatures as you cross different depths. First from comfortable to hot then to cool. This is related to the mix of saltwater and freshwater, and interaction with underground volcanic activity. But for floaters like me, just enjoy the relaxing waters surrounded by tall karst cliffs.
There’s a flight of stairs to get over the rocks separating the sea from the lake, the portal to another dimension, as it was with Twin Lagoon, just a larger version.
Barracuda have been spotted here hence the name but it’s not like they’re really common, apparently only in some obscure corners quite a dive down. Unlike Twin Lagoon, there’s a section cordoned off, and tourists aren’t allowed to venture beyond the demarcated area. Life jackets are also a requirement here.
The last lake of the day, Kayangan Lake. This was much more popular and crowded than the earlier two lakes, and was slightly more developed.
The lagoon itself was beautiful and as it turns out most pictures of Kayangan Lake are actually of the lagoon. Here the lagoon from the sea level. It’s a much longer walk and a taller flight of stairs to conquer before the lake, as compared to Twin Lagoon or Barracuda Lake, but the view from the midpoint is what most people come for.
Here’s from somewhere near the viewpoint. There was a long queue for the best spot where you get a much wider view of the lagoon, but I couldn’t wait and so got a shot from the side, partially obscured by the trees. But for that perfect shot just look up Kayangan Lake on Instagram. Half of the top shots will be of this lagoon instead of the lake. Also, there isn’t a spot to get an aerial view of the lake.
By now the lakes were starting to look the same. Just a longer boardwalk and a lot more people here. Even if you’re not getting in it’s possible to sit by the side here. I brought my camera over and left it with the lifeguard before heading in with my action camera. Under water, it was a different story.
Under water wonders
The water was so clear it was possible to see sunlight filtering through, gently perturbed by swimmers on the surface. Dramatic rock formations rise up from the floor of the lake and in some instances almost reaching the surface. I was also able to see schools of some long thin fish swimming around, as well as little black things on the rocks that swam away if anything came near. Would love for anyone to tell me what those are!
Our last stop of the day, Siete Pecados. By then storm clouds were starting to form, but it held up long enough. Siete Pecados is a group of rocky outcrops near Busuanga Island, known for the abundance of coral and fish living in the surrounding waters.
Fortunately, someone in the crew found a pair of googles on board and lent them to me. Once I dipped my head underwater I was spellbound. The following pictures do not do it justice, as the underwater casing had added some cloudiness to the pictures. Imagine endless coral and fish of every color, everywhere.
Be careful though, as the water is quite shallow and there are plenty of sea urchins. There isn’t any possibility of getting upright at these parts without stepping on a coral or urchin. I tried my best to keep to the surface with my life jacket and all these were taken close to the surface.
Really cool to see smaller fishes darting around the coral, and slightly larger fishes swimming around without giving a damn.
End of the Super Ultimate Tour Coron
The clouds were significantly heavier, and rain had already started on an island in the distance. We barely set foot back on shore in Busuanga Island when it started to pour. Great timing indeed. Felt really fortunate to be able to see all those wonders and having a full day of good weather. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the subsequent days. Next, an overcast day in the surrounding islands and beaches!