After half a day of touring some of the tourist attractions in Puerto Princesa City and after a good night’s sleep at the top notch hotel in Puerto Princesa, Hotel Centro and after a filling breakfast at Hotel Centro’s Expressions cafe (whew!) it is time for day 2 of our tour of Puerto Princesa. We especially reserved the entire day for a day of boat ride, island hopping, snorkeling and fish feeding! Ok well, we did not really look forward to snorkeling, heck it was not even in our itinerary but our tricycle driver, kuya bert, brought us to a place where we could rent snorkel gears.
En Route to Honda Bay
Honda Bay is around forty to forty five minutes away by tricycle from the central business district. Along the way kuya bert brought us to a snorkeling gear rental establishment and asked us to rent specialized shoes and snorkeling gears. He said it was necessary to wear specialized shoes in order not to harm the corals and to keep our feet safe while walking on the beach, i really did not catch the real reason. The shoes are rented for around 200 pesos a pair. Aside from that we rented some snorkeling gears and an underwater case for our iPhone. Renting those gears were done blindly, without thinking, it turns out it is a good idea after all but more on that later.
At Honda Bay Port
Upon arriving at the Honda Bay Port i realized that you cannot just call for a boat and rent it to take you island hopping. There are processes that must be done. First, you have to register and then pay the boat rental fee. You can rent either a boat good for six persons or good for 12 persons. Since there is only the three of us we rented the boat good for 6 persons. The fee for such is 1,300 pesos, fortunately a couple wanted to join us and split the fee so we only paid 650. However the process doesn’t end there, you also have to pay for an environmental fee, the only good thing about it is that payment need not be done at the local Environment office the port has sort of a one stop shop for these transactions. For 1,300 you have to boat to yourselves and you get to choose the islands that you can visit, well at least 3 of the major islands.
For this trip we chose, Luli, Starfish and Pandan Islands.
Luli island is called as such because of the Filipino term “Lulubog” “Lilitaw” where the first two letters of each words were combined. In english lulubog roughly means sinking and lilitaw means floating. The LuLi Island is visible only during low tide and its gobbled up by water during high tide. When we arrived we were lucky that the island is still visible. The Island have some nipa hut structures that are constructed with high posts as if they are stilts that are used to elevate the house to avoid being flooded by water during high tide. The sun was high up and there was practically nothing to do at Luli island except to snorkel and sun bathe maybe, it was feeling so crowded with people that we decided to move to the next island. By the way LuLi island requires a minimal entrance fee, so do not forget to register and pay the fees.
After another 10 minutes boat ride from Luli island we reached what they called the Starfish Island. Guess why they called it Starfish Island? Correct! Because the place is full of starfish. It was a great place for my daughter to see since she cannot snorkel yet. Upon arriving our boatman went with us bringing his snorkeling gear, we did not bring ours since we thought we would just be there to look at a bunch of starfish. We walked around the island and saw two starfish, then we decided to swim on the shallow parts of the water instead then out of nowhere our boatman came holding lots of starfish which he placed on the shallow part of the water.
Now that really made the place looked like starfish Island, the boatman warned us though that we should not take the starfish out of the water for more than five minutes as it would perish. So we just let the starfish stay in the water and watch some of the slowly move back to the deeper part of the sea. So to enjoy starfish island you either find a way to bring the starfish to the shallow parts or you could go snorkel at the deeper part of the sea. The only drawback though is that we only saw one type of starfish species. Overall my daughter enjoyed it so i enjoyed Starfish island too!
According to our boatman the most beautiful island in Honda bay is Pandan island. Upon arriving i began to assume why is that so. Maybe because it is the island where you can do fish feeding, the island where there are food stalls, basically there are lots of things to do in Pandan Island. Having arrived there during lunch, we immediately looked for a cottage or a place to sit on and order lunch.
The table and chairs with umbrella are for rent, however if you order food from them rent is already free. So we decided to buy food from them, after ordering a flock of women holding trays of different fresh seafoods are offering it to us. Basically you choose the type of seafood and they will cook it for you depending on how you wanted it to be cooked. Honestly some of the fish and other seafood they are offering are things that i have seen for the first time, one of them is a unicorn fish.
Anyway we settled for a big red snapper and it was cooked “sinigang” style. We also ordered some sea urchins at 20 pesos each, at the restaurant we ordered a plated meal of squid with rice and fish with rice.
We did not expect that the plated meal was more than enough for one, the fish was huge and the squid they served was those worth two to three hundred pesos here in Baguio City, whilst in Pandan Island i only bought the meal for 120 pesos. I also enjoyed their fresh buko juice/coconut water, to get it you just have to look for a pile of coconuts ask the person in-charge to open one for you, well for a price of 20 pesos of course.
Swimming With the Fish
After lunch and after resting for a while we decided to take a swim, and of course try out fish feeding. At first i thought there is a specific area where you can feed the fish and it is controlled by tourism authorities, you know like an aquarium or something. I was surprised that it wasn’t, the shores of Pandan Island have many fish that when you throw the bread in the right direction they will start to flock around. The experience was “natural” in a way, although i fear excessive fish feeding done in the area would make the fish dependent on tourists feeding them, hey it could happen. We couldn’t see the fish underwater clearly so it was time to use the snorkel gear. Upon submerging in the water it was a different world. I saw underwater plants, corals and colorful fish in their natural habitat.
Honda Bay Fees
Now these are the amount we spent doing an Island Hopping Tour in Honda Bay As of May 2013:
Boat Rental – 1,300 good for 6 persons
Environmental Fee – around 80 pesos
Luli Island Entrance – 50 pesos
Starfish Island Entrance – around 30 pesos
Pandan Island Entrance – 50 pesos
Table and Chairs Fee: Free since we ordered food at the restaurant
Squid Meal : 120 pesos
Fish Meal: 120 pesos
Tricycle Hire: 600 pesos from Hotel Centro to Honda Bay Port (you get them to bring you to the port in the morning and will fetch you in the afternoon. Kuya Bert even guided and helped us in the paper works and processing of registration and fees).
Definitely a must try when going to Puerto Princesa, do not miss it! Allot one day only for Honda Bay Island Hopping Tour!