Hi, thanks for the immediate reply. Since you'd be travelling earlier than us, hope you can share your experiences and the expenses as well. :)
Are you travelling as a group? The rates for the honda bay as the local contact said is P1200 per head for a whole day tour includes entrance fee, permit, boat, guide, aircon van at food buffet.
Ang underground river daw ay P1350 per head. How does this compare with yours?
What other sites are included sa trip ninyo? Is that a package?
Hope to hear from you again.
Thanks a lot.
The Honda Bay Island Hopping Tour includes guide fee, land transportation via air-conditoned van to the port, boat rental, 3 island stopovers for snorkeling and swimming, entrance fees and beach cottages, plus a picnic lunch in one of the beaches. The standard rate for this kind of tour is P1,100, but your resort/tour agency can give you 10% discount if you take this along with other tours (like UGR Tour, City Tour).
Although we passed many islands (like Bat Island, Luli Island, Starfish Island, etc) along our Honda Bay Island Hopping, we stopped only at the floating platform for Pambato Reef, Snake Island and Pandan Island. I was sad that we weren't stopping over at Starfish Island, but our resort manager then explained that the said island is not included in the itinerary during that period. Our guide said Starfish island was being "rehabilitated" by ABS-CBN Foundation in preparation for its declaration as a marine sanctuary. Almost all Honda Bay Tours now include Pambato Reef, Snake and Pandan Islands.
Life vests are provided free, but snorkeling gear can be rented for P100/set. Damaged or lost snorkeling gear will cost you P350. Waterproof case for camera can also be rented at the wharf for P200-250.
About 10-15 minutes from Snake Island is Pandan Island. It is called such because of the presence of giant pandan plants all around the island. Compared to Snake Island, it is more developed, with more modern cottages, landscaped gardens and more modern facilities.
Pandan Island's surroundings are known to be great sites for snorkeling and diving. However, it was so hot at the beach so I didn't bother to snorkel. I just strolled a bit, then just stayed at our picnic table, rested and chatted with other tourists.
When we left Pandan Island, the waters were already beginning to get rough. I noticed that many boats were on their way back to the wharf. As I watched the horizon, I screamed with excitement when I saw dolphins jumping. Most of my companions were taking a nap so they were shocked with my screaming. I got embarrassed, but eagerly told them what I saw. Everybody then looked towards the direction where I saw dolphins, but no dolphin appeared. I felt so happy and lucky that I was the only one who saw 2 or 3 dolphins jumping above water. Just to think that I wanted to have a dolphin watching tour, but the resort couldn't gather enough numbers for it. Lucky me!
Snake Island was known to the locals by some other names in the past like "Kalungpang" or "Calumpang" Island and "Masong" Island. Its name was changed to Snake island because of its long sand bar (about 3 kms long) which looked like a giant white sea snake from the sky.
Today, Snake Island is considered the most photographed island in Honda Bay. Tourists love the fine white sands, the clean crystal-clear sea waters with plenty of fishes and other marine life, the mangrove plantation and fresh sea breeze.
I was amazed that fishes teemed even in the shallow waters. I didn't even have to snorkel just to see the fishes. Perhaps they are already used to the presence of people in the beach, and they probably know that where there are people, there would be food for them. If you want to see the more colorful fishes and live corals, you will have to snorkel in the deeper part of the waters.
It was so hot by the time we arrived at Snake Island so after strolling and taking some pictures in the beach and mangrove area, I just stayed in our cottage to chat with other tourists. By lunchtime, our guide came with our food: chicken-pork adobo, grilled fish, steamed prawns, grilled eggplants, white rice, and mango-tomato salad. We had fresh ripe mangoes and bananas for dessert. After lunch, our boatman "entertained" us with his photography trick shots. He was so good at it that other tourists who were not with our group requested him to do some trick shots on them, too.
Shortly after lunch, we left for the next island. Our guide said the waves tend to be stronger in the afternoons so we needed to hurry.
Pambato Reef is also known as Mini-Tubbataha Reef. It is a popular snorkeling and diving site because of the presence of rare, diverse marine life.
Although I love taking dips in the shallow parts of the sea, I have never snorkeled. For this trip, I was determined to learn. My daughter gave me a disposable underwater camera and even lent me her snorkeling gear...but perhaps, there was still fear of drowning so I forgot to bring my daughter's snorkeling gear.
The sea was so beautiful in its aquamarine to emerald green color, and the water was so clean and clear. It was beckoning me to go and see the beauty underneath the surface...and so, I rented a snorkeling gear. Our guide suggested that I ask our boatman to guide me as I learn to snorkel while holding on to a floater. As I learned to breath and float with my snorkeling gear, my concentration was divided into keeping my two arms afloat and holding the underwater camera to take pictures. I failed to do both at the same time, and I drank a lot of salt water as I failed to breath properly. Finally, I let go of the camera, gave it to the boatman and enjoyed the sight. I thought, if my camera's film can't capture the marine life, my "cerebral memory card" will definitely capture and save them to my memory bank.
After quite some time underwater, I felt some itchy sensation in my arms and legs as the brown seaweeds touched my body. I was afraid I was stung by some creatures, but our boatman assured me it was harmless. The itchiness was supposedly due to what they call "laway ng korales" or sea urchin. Literally, "laway" means saliva, but our guide said the boatman was probably referring to the secretion emitted out during the reproductive stages of live corals.
Notwithstanding any discomfort, I enjoyed my first snorkeling experience at Pambato Reef. It's a pity I didn't have good shots with my disposable camera.
The most-awaited part of our Puerto Princesa trip is the Underground River Tour. St. Paul Subterranean River is the longest (8.2 kms) navigational underwater river and is a nominee to the New 7 Wonders of the World. The regular cave tour will bring you up to 1.5 kms of the river; beyond that, you need a special permit, and will of course entail higher cost. (UGR Tour is pegged at P1,500 but travel agencies/resorts can give discounts.)
I have detailed tips about our underground river tour in my Sabang, Palawan Travel Page.
The Puerto Princesa City Tour is a 4-hour familiarization tour of some popular destinations in the City. It is usually done on the first or last day of your stay in the city. The standard tour fee is P600/pax which already includes the transportation via an air-conditioned van to and from your hotel/resort, services of a guide, and entrance fees.
If you are only 2 and you'd like to travel around in an air-conditioned van, then take the tour so you can share the transportation expenses and guide fee with other tourists. Otherwise, if you have the numbers, hire a van for P2,500 (good for the whole day). You will have an unhurried tour that way, and you can choose the destinations for your itinerary. For your protection, I suggest you ask the Tourism Desk at the airport or your front desk for a list of accredited tourist vans. If you are on a strict budget, you may still do a city tour by commuting or hiring a tricycle for about P400 (capacity is 2-4 pax). I will be describing the destinations we went to, then you can choose where to go for your DIY City Tour. My comments are based on personal impressions and/or experiences so you can opt to heed my tips or not.
The places we visited were the Crocodile Farm, Iwahig Penal Colony, Mitra's Ranch, and Baker's Hill. The Butterfly Farm wasn't included in our itinerary because it was undergoing renovation that time. The City Tour also included a running tour to Bay Walk, Immaculate Conception Cathedral, Plaza Cuartel, Eulalia park, Rizal Avenue and Souvenir Shop.
The City Tour includes Rancho Sta. Monica, popularly known as Mitra's Ranch. It is owned by the family of the late Senator Ramon Mitra, an illustrious and well-loved politician-legislator. It was so windy and cool at the ranch, very conducive for relaxing on a bench in the garden. We couldn't go to the veranda of the mansion because there was a meeting going on, but the sloping garden below the mansion offered a panoramic view of Honda Bay and the islands. I enjoyed looking at the flowers in the garden. I then strolled in the ranch compound and marveled at the sight of the mountains that served as background to the pasture land. Our guide proudly pointed to Puerto Princesa's sanitary landfill at the mountain.
Beside the Immaculate Conception Cathedral at Taft Street is Plaza Cuartel. I didn't explore the whole area anymore because of lack of time. We're supposed to have only a running tour of the place, but since I was already finished with my Visita Iglesia, I peeped in briefly.
Plaza Cuartel features restored ruins of an old garrison. The historical Marker states that during World War II, Japanese soldiers burned some 150 American POWs (prisoners of war) inside a tunnel. and stands as a grim reminder of World War II atrocities. Some managed to survive and swam to Iwahig. Locals said only 10 prisoners survived and told their story about the massacre in the tunnel.
We were supposed to just have a running tour of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, but our guide obliged that we stop by for Visita Iglesia and photo shoot.
It was in 1872 when the Immaculate Conception of Mary was proclaimed by a Spanish expedition as the Patroness of Puerto Princesa. The first mass was celebrated at the site the same year. The cathedral was built in 1961 under auspices of then Bishop Most Rev. Gregorio Espiga. The architecture features angular structures which some tourists liken to San Sebastian Church in Manila.
The Cathedral is sometimes called the blue church because of its blue color outside, as well as inside. We didn't have a chance to take pictures of the church interior because there was an ongoing mass.
Iwahig Penal Colony was established in 1904 during the American occupation of the Philippines. It was originally intended to supply food to other prisons all over the country. Today, it is known as "Prison Without Bars", and is considered one of the popular tourist spots in Puerto Princesa City. The historical significance of the old building in the colony is eclipsed by the unique approach to the rehabilitation of criminals.
According to our guide, the prisoners here are classified into 3 groups: minimum, medium and maximum. Those in brown shirt have 2-3 years jail term; they belong to the minimum group. Those in blue shirt still need rehabilitation and are classified in medium group. Those wearing orange shirts belong to the maximum group; they have more than 3 years jail term. Only the men wearing blue and brown shirts may move freely inside the compound. Many of these prisoners freely roam around, tending to farms and selling their produce, making unique souvenir items and selling them.
There is a cooperative store/souvenir shop where products and souvenir items of prisoners are sold to the public. Many of the items sold here are not available in other "pasalubong" centers in the city, so buy whatever you like while you are there. Items are very reasonably cheap, some key chains and refrigerator magnets even cost as low as P100 for 7 pieces.
Tourists are advised to buy from the store rather than directly from the prisoners. If you buy even just 1 item from only 1 prisoner outside the store, you will instantly be surrounded by more prisoners selling things to you.
Baker's Hill is more than just a bakery. It is more of a theme park. The big compound has a restaurant, refreshment ("sa malamig" drinks & bbq booths, mini-zoo, beautiful collection of ferns and rare flowers, amusing life-size statues of Hollywood and Walt Disney characters, and mini dinosaur park. There's even a sidewalk souvenir area.
Our guide said Baker's Hill is known for its "hopia" variants so hubby bought 2 boxes of "ube hopia" and "hopia baboy". He still prefers Bonondo's Eng Bee Tin "hopias" over those of Baker's Hill. I liked their "sago't gulaman" drink.
Our 1st destination was the Palawan Wildlife Rescue & Conservation Center. Just like in Subic's Zoobic, there is first an orientation of the tourists about the place before they tour the various areas of the Rescue and Conservation Center. But unlike Zoobic, the place is not as attractive so hubby and I didn't join the hike to the whole area. We couldn't stand the heat so we stopped by the souvenir shop and canteen to rest. Then, we proceeded to the Crocodile Encounter area for a chance to hold a baby crocodile and have some souvenir shots. It was the only time I enjoyed the afternoon tour.
A good old city tour will give you a good idea of what Puerto Princesa is all about! This will be a whole day activity so be prepared to get your brain rattled!!! Included in the tour is:
1. Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm
2. Crocodile Farm
3. Butterfly Garden
4. Mitra's Ranch
5. Baker's Hill
6. Vietnamese Village
7. Sea Port Area
8. Eulalia Park and Rizal Park
9. Plaza Cuartel
10. Immaculate Conception Church
Honda Bay Tour- P1,500/head with lunch. Consist of pansit, fried chicken, Grilled porkchops, fresh fruits, sweet and sour shrimps.
We went to 3 different islands and snorkel around. I liked the corals more in Boracay. What I enjoyed in this tour is our tour guide/lifeguard. He did some exhibitions and all of us got amazed and always asked for more. Lol. He explained well every fish and corals we passed by. He’s really a great swimmer.
TIP: If you like exotic foods or too adventurous, I suggest you to try Tamilok. It’s a woodworm found in the mangroves. It just tastes like oyster.
National Highway, Brgy. San Pedro Puerto Princesa City, Palawan 5300
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Solo
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