With heavy hearts, we waved goodbye to Bamboo Island and travelled to Busuanga Island where we were to catch the plane back to Manila.
On the way we stopped at Kayangan Lake which is, once again, encompassed by gigantic limestone and lush green plants. The lake is recognized as the cleanest in the country and is made up of 70% freshwater and 30% salt water. After the 200 steps, you are faced with a huge blue expanse of water that looks incredibly inviting. We all had a swim before drying off in the sun.
I don’t think the scenery gets much better than this!
After having lunch in the harbour, we drove 40 minutes to the airport. The land and scenery is different again here. It looks like safari parkland. It’s quite remarkable.
Coron Airport is the tiniest airport I have ever been to!
From here, we flew back to Manila, where we waved goodbye to Max’s parents before flying onto Kalibo.
Obviously we were delayed on every flight!
From Kalibo, we took a 1hr20 bus journey up to Caticlan and boarded the boat destined for Boracay. We had set off from Bamboo Island at 7.15am and arrived back at our new apartment in Diniwid at 11:30pm.
It was an exhausting day of travelling!
The next morning, first on my agenda was Maccie (of course). She had been looked after by a local vet for nearly 2 weeks but had to stay in a cage so understandably was thrilled when I arrived to release her. She meowed and meowed. I would like to think she was genuinely pleased to see me.
I had been wondering if she may have turned slightly feral or forgotten us but she did all her usual things even in the new apartment that she didn’t know as home. It is really great to have her back.
Look at her perfect pink nose complete with the perfect freckle.
Whilst I snuggled with Maccie, the boys got back to work on the Dive Master training.
In the days that followed there was some.. lets say.. Restructuring at the dive shop, which left the owner, and good friend of Max, without a bookkeeper. I have therefore taken on this role until we leave the island. To begin with I found it more stressful than I had hoped, partly because the previous employees hadn’t left things in order and there was no ‘handover’. I am also not at all qualified in this department but after a few days I had got my head around how to input information onto the balance sheets, do the banking and sort out the employees weekly pay and the instructors commission. This may sound fairly simple but trust me, there is nothing simple about business in the Philippines! It’s far more complicated than you may think. I now find it mostly satisfying with the odd frustrating moment. I actually enjoy the little brain work out.
Payslips, Filipino style.
I have been diving 4 times since we got back, 2 of which I really didn’t enjoy unfortunately. After feeling really proud of myself whilst diving in tricky conditions in Coron, I decided to dive Yapak. It’s listed as the number 1 diving site in the Philippines but is only suitable for divers with and Advanced certification as the site is at a depth of 30-35 metres and there is often strong currents. It is important to check the tides and ensure you dive at the right time of day.
Due to the location of the wall and the current, it is very easy to drift away from the dive site if you do not get down quickly enough so you have to make a ‘negative entry’ off the boat. This means that your BCD must be entirely deflated so that when you enter the water you don’t bob back to the surface but travel straight down by swimming headfirst (remember that you also wear a weight belt to dive so this additional weight helps you sink). Having processed exactly what the plan was, I entered the water after 1,2,3 with everyone else. Unfortunately in the process I think my mask slipped slightly and as I swam down it just kept filling up with water. I couldn’t empty it and swim down and keep up with everyone! I aborted the dive and in a little bit of the fluster swam back up to the surface forgetting to breath on the way. Max, who was my ‘buddy’ followed me up. We could see the instructors bubbles so after I had sorted my mask out we attempted to go back down but I then couldn’t equalise. The air-con on the planes was freezing and I think I had got a little bit blocked up. The boat was still nearby so I signalled the boatman and got back on the boat feeling rather shaken and very disappointed. The other divers emerged 20 minutes later and hadn’t even found the dive site. It was the 13th of November and my 13th dive. Enough said.
A few days later I got back in the water and dived Camia Wreck and Crocodile Island. Camia Wreck went really well and the visibility was good.
However, Crocodile Island was a tough dive. This dive is located next to a small island near the channel between the mainland and Boracay. The sea was really choppy and I knew there would be some current so our instructions were to stay close to the reef wall. Normally this is a drift dive and the current carries you around the reef. However today it was different. The current was fierce from every direction possible. Sometimes it was so hard to swim against that I was out of breath. When this happens you are supposed to stop and get your breath back but because of the changing direction of the current, there was quite a bit of pressure to keep moving so you were not carried away with it. For our decompression stop I clung to some coral in a really awkward position. I didn’t realise at the time because I was so busy focusing on not being swept away but Max filmed this!
It may look like I was effortlessly holding on, but trust me, I was clinging. Look at the coral moving.
*Excuse the filter change*
When we all surfaced the only way to swim back to the boat was to make a human chain and swim together. On our own, we just couldn’t swim against the current. The instructors said they had never experienced such bad current on that dive site. It was a shame as I really could have done with a confidence boost.
Since then I have decided to mix things up a little and learn to kite board. Max also wanted to learn so we began taking lessons together. The school we are using is called Greenyard and it sits right on the end of Bulabog beach, away from where most of the kite schools are, giving beginners the space to learn.
The vibe over on Bulabog beach is completely different to White beach, where the dive shop is. It’s always breezy which is a pleasant change and most of the time it’s quiet and very peaceful. There is an excellent cafe next to the school serving delicious fresh vegetarian food and the best coffee on the island.
At low tide, no one is around, just some locals collecting sea urchins.
A milky coffee and this view is utter perfection. I could do it every morning.
Our instructor, Salih, is an ex-professional kite-boarder who runs a kite school in Turkey. Whilst it’s ‘off season’ in Turkey, it’s the high season here, so he comes to teach in Boracay. Our first few hours of kiteboarding involved learning about the wind and controlling the kite without the board. The power of the kite is quite something but once you learn how to control that power and use it, it’s a great feeling.
After 5 hours learning together we took individual lessons and began properly using the board.
It’s a real learning curve actually learning a new skill like this. It’s entirely different to diving where there is no ‘crash’ factor. During the first 8 hours I fell off the board quite a lot, often snorting and swallowing water on the way down and sometimes pricking myself on sea urchins or stinging myself on jelly fish. As you fall the likelihood is your kite falls into the water too. You then have to re-launch your kite whilst stopping your board from drifting away. Surprisingly I have found it quite mentally tiring co-ordinating all the different elements of kiting. You must control the kite whilst positioning your body on the board, dive the kite enough but not too much, stand up and angle the board correctly…. And then you fall and you have to do it all over again. This does subside but it’s certainly frustrating at times. My left leg just wouldn’t listen to my instructions and definitely went on the red traffic light! The aim is travel upwind so you travel away from the beach. However, this is learnt over time so quite often you end up too close to the beach. Until you are experienced enough, you have to walk your kite back out or sometimes Salih would come and drag me, especially if the tide was high.
Max in action.
Max in action again… this time, pulling out sea urchin spikes from my feet. They even penetrated my boots! Another head torch moment.
After 10 hours I was consistently getting up on the board on the right and travelling, but it wasn’t all that controlled. The left still felt a little unnatural but after 11 hours it clicked and the jigsaw puzzle began to fit together. After 13 hours of lessons, I now have my license to kite independently, I just need to put in some hours of practise. Some learn more quickly, so if you’re thinking of taking up kiting, you can definitely do it in 9 hours. I think I subconsciously took more time because I know I have the time. Max has been so busy diving that he hasn’t been for a while but he is probably only a few hours from gaining his license too.
This is my instructor Salih, showing us how its done!
I have been lucky enough to have a visit from my Dad in the last few weeks. It took him 25 hours door-to-door with no delays, so we are really grateful that he made it out to see us. Luckily he could combine this trip with a few business meetings but it meant he could only stay for 3 nights.
First on the agenda was obviously sunset drinks on my favourite beach, Diniwid.
Followed by a BBQ at home…
The next day, Max had a meeting at the Shangri-La, a luxury resort in the north of the island, so we decided to treat ourselves and go for breakfast and some beach time.
In the evening we went for some local food and showed Dad what it is like in the evening around Station 2. We then wandered home and turned in.
The next morning we went to the other side of the island to where we have been kiteboarding, Bulabog Beach, and had a delicious breakfast at Greenyard. On the way back into town we caught a motorbike each.
It was the first time my dad had ridden a motorcycle in 30 years. The last time he rode one was in New Zealand where he fell off and put a hole in his knee. He doesn’t look anxious at all I don’t think…
After a day of general exploring, we decided to enjoy the sunset from Wahini with some lovely friends we had met at the dive shop.
For supper we went to our favourite restaurant on the island, Mamas Fish House, also on Diniwid Beach.
The boys sipped on … plenty of Margaritas and we discussed our adventures so far and our future ambitions.
(P.S. How handsome do they look?)
The tables are quite literally on the beach. With the waves lapping quietly onto the sand you can sit for hours and enjoy these surroundings. Stalks in the ground bearing little flames enclose the dining area with only candles to light the table. Oh, and most of the time you are one of maybe 2/3 tables although I hope for the business’ sake this rises during the high season.
In the short time he was here, I feel we really gave him a taste of island life and when I dropped him at the jetty, his words were, “It has been and experience…!”. He left me with the coolest care package from home containing so many amazing things, making me feel very cared for and grateful to have such thoughtful parents.
I hope he is planning business near to South America so he and maybe Mum can visit us next year too.
To finish, I would like everyone to take a moment to appreciate health, happiness, family, friends and other loved ones.
A few days ago I learnt that an old school friend, a peer of my sister, had lost her short battle with cancer. She was just 24 years old. Abby was an incredibly talented athlete, an exceptional hockey player and a little ball of energy. I hadn’t seen her for many years but I vividly remember watching her and my sister work together over numerous seasons to defeat rival schools on the hockey pitch. They were a pair to contend with I tell you! Abby would flit and jump around, always smiling, always exuding energy and happiness and it seems so incredibly unfair that she should be taken so soon in her life. When something like this happens, its like an electric shock. It wakes you up and suddenly you are reminded to be grateful for everyday, for all the “I love you’s”, for your health and for your family.
Before Abby died, she set up a Just Giving page to raise money for Eric Lim’s research project for Royal Brompton & Harefield Hospitals Charity. They are trying to develop something that will enable lung cancer to be identified with only a blood test. If you would like to donate, please click the underlined link above.
Rest in peace Abby!