Coron, Philippines

We finally got to meet the two other guests at the resort. Karen and Mathias, a young newly-wed couple is on their honeymoon here. Karen is a Filipina and Mathias is Norwegian. They're with us early this morning on the banca. With Robert guiding us and the skipper manning the outrigger boat, we sailed across the calm waters of Coron bay for a whole day of island and beach exploration.

We anchored near some islets and both Karen and Mathias, avid snorkelers that they are, took no time in enjoying the view of coral gardens just a few meters below while the "non-swimmers" among us were contented gazing around the vast seascape. Their watery escapade was cut short however by the presence of tiny jellyfish. Mathias was stung in his leg but he's fine. Nonetheless, Karen proudly showed us the underwater world they just saw through their digital camera.

The wedge-shaped island of Coron, consisting mostly of steep limestone cliffs, was our main destination. As we got nearer to one of the hidden lagoons, my excitement grew. The water turned into emerald green. In front of us were massive karst formations dotted with hanging plants and small trees. It's truly a jaw-dropping scene right out from a postcard. I stood in silence looking around this paradise.

Suddenly, we're ashore. A member of the Tagbanua tribe, a semi-nomadic indigenous group who controls the whole island, meets us. Robert tells us that we are all visitors in their island and are expected to show respect as we intrude into their environment. We were asked to pay a donation which is collectively used by the tribe: a sort of "entrance fee"as they spread the welcome mat for us. Not all of the island is open to outsiders though. In fact, we're only allowed to see a portion of their habitat.

Robert led the way up a very steep path with jagged rocks all around us. I noticed him carrying a pair of life vests. "It's for you and Clarence, so you can swim in Kayangan Lake", Robert explains. How thoughtful of him. The view of the lagoon earlier so overwhelmed my senses that I forgot for a moment that we're going to the so-called cleanest lake in the Philippines - Kayangan Lake. On a promontory, we had a commanding view of the gorgeous lagoon we passed by below. It's one of those killer views that can make your friends working behind the desk really jealous.

Hidden on this rocky island is Kayangan Lake. Fringed on all sides by limestone formations, the turquoise water looks very inviting for a swim. Robert says it's deep. Karen and Mathias takes the lead while Clarence and I don our vests and join them in the water. I'm not really fond of "swimming" in deep water but the temperature and the views are both perfect. We actually like it so much that we spent half an hour just floating and letting our minds wander. Our solitude was cut short by the arrival of a Filipino family - two English-speaking tots with their parents. They're also getting ready for a swim.

We hiked back to the lagoon and Robert brought out the kayaks from the banca. Kayaking is the best way to explore the many hidden coves around the so-called Twin Lagoon. We took one kayak and found paddling around these calm waters very effortless. Soon we see Karen and Matthias following our lead and racing with us towards another hidden lagoon. It's truly an exhilarating experience to kayak in the midst of this incredible natural beauty.

On a secluded beach away from the Twin Lagoon, the four of us shared a sumptuous lunch prepared earlier in the resort. We even found our appetite have doubled after seeing so much in half a day. We rested for awhile in the beach, relishing this moment of seclusion where nothing can be heard but the gentle lapping of the waves.

Later in the afternoon, Karen and Mathias resumed their snorkeling as our banca anchored above the Skeleton wreck, the remains of a 25-meter steel-hulled ship that sank near Coron island. Coron Bay is quite popular among divers from all over the world because of the the other sunken vessels in the area. In 1944, twelve Japanese supply ships anchored in Coron Bay were sunk by the US Navy after a massive air strike. Today, eight of these ships lie in their watery grave, giving wreck divers another shot at being adrenaline junkies.

The sun was setting in the western horizon as we sailed back to Divelink Resort. On terra firma again, Robert arranged for us - the resort's only four guests - a truly memorable al fresco dinner overlooking Coron Bay. Tomorrow, everyone's leaving: Clarence and I will be flying back to Manila while Karen and Mathias sails on to Coral Bay, a sister resort in another island further into the sea.

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