In this part of the world, taking a leave from office without any strong reason is not a common practice. And at the age already considered old by some, and already past mid-life by majority, I still am trying to join more fit people for adventures not considered easy. I did that for the last week of April. Our destination was South Palawan, Philippines, a big group of islands called our last frontier. The foremost reason in our minds was to photograph butterflies in the wild. We are three ladies from Luzon or North of the Philippines. And we have 2 new male companions who are residents of Palawan. We have joined them in another expedition for butterflies last November. The three of us are in our 40s, 50s and 60s; maybe you already guess which group I belong. We are not mountaineers, seafarers, or athletes, but we are bonded by our interest for butterflies, unusual trips, photography and lots of fun. And we enjoy being together.
My lady friends left home before midnight for our 9:00 am plane. I live in Manila so woke up at 4:00 am before going to the Manila Airport. We were fetched at the Palawan airport by one of the companions there; he is responsible for our itinerary. We rode an ordinary bus for 2.5 hours to their family’s cottage in South Palawan. That was our resident for nights we are on shore. Immediately upon arrival we just deposited our big bags, got our backpacks and camera and hurriedly proceeded to our first waterfalls. In 40 min by an old army jeep we are in front of the Estrella Falls. My two lady companions took an almost mandated dip in the cold cascading pool. I refrained from doing so, instead I tried looking for the much-advised presence of luxuriously growing hoyas near the falls. To my dismay no hoya at all was found, maybe every vine is already at the hands of collectors. In fact, it was a hoya collector in Hawaii who told me about it, supposedly growing abundantly on the big tree near the falls!
The following morning we got early for our next stop, camping on a beach at the next town, 1.5 hours from the cottage. We attempted to climb the nearest Peak to our campsite, however we lacked enough time for the necessary clearing of the trail. Nobody seemed to have hiked that peak for the last few years. We went back to the campsite to rest for the night. Next day was another enduring hike to the Tabon Caves Complex, where the first human skull in the country was theorized to have lived. We rented a boat to and from Tabon. The trails to the caves are composed of very steep inclines and undulating paths. But the series of stops and deep breaths led to awesome still growing stalactites and stalagmites, plus a myriad of other finds. There are piles of broken clay pots in some cave corners. Mosses and lichens of different colors make some familiar outlines of figures on the walls. We visited only 6 of the caves and there still are lots. Some are burial caves, others are dwelling caves and others might be for prayers! The famous Glossy Swifts, which make the famous birds‘ nest soup live in one of the caves. They were so close with us that we were able to get their photos in the nest. Spelunking is not one of my dream adventures, but it was indeed informative, fun and exhilarating.
A cave at Tabon Caves Complex, Palawan
We were finished at 1:00 pm and with just water and little bread our boat proceeded to our main destination, the Nasirik Island, reached at 2.5 hours. The island is small, almost just a boulder mound and a sand bar with beautiful rock formations at one side, pristinely clear waters and two coconut trees. It is very idyllic, looking really like paradise. Our canned goods are already limited, so we dumped our things and one male companion went out to fish for our meals. He was joined by the boat driver and I guess they also had fun looking for fishes to spear. Imagine, we were really like pirates accidentally landing on an island, who will not eat if we will not fish for food! That was really an awesome experience. We even had the chance to taste different fish species, broiled and stewed! What a wonderful life. That night was spent more for photography than sleep. Astrophotography was done at midnight, the best spot I’ve seen for the Milky Way. The moon setting on the west horizon was eventually ended by the sunrise, the most spectacular scenes I’ve observed.
Nasirik Island, South Palawan
Sunset at Mangove Point, Narra, Palawan
On the way back to the mainland, we passed by the Double Islands, called such because 2 islands were joined by a sandbar. Another stop was on an undulating white sandbar that is really captivating. Our next 3 days were spent hiking for waterfalls, butterfly chasing, more river crossings and herping or looking for snakes at night in the forest. I am most thankful for these experiences, and cannot ask for more. At least I can do these before my joints complain of arthritis!
Undulating Sandbar, at the Horizon is the Devil’s Peak