Exploring Coron Island by Kayak

Thomas Kayaks near Coron Island

Sitting in our stilt house recovering from our spectacular wreck dives, the second major reason to visit the Philippine Island of Busuanga is clearly visible on the horizon. Dramatic and mysterious, Lonely Planet describes mystical Coron Island best when it says, “It wouldn’t be out of place in a King Kong film.”

Ominous walls of jungle-covered black karst erupt from the surrounding turquoise seas. Jagged and spectacular, Coron Island is the ultimate karst showpiece. As mountainous as Yangshuo, as labyrinthine as the Stone Forest, mid-ocean like Halong or Pang Nga, and as razor-edged as the spiky tsingy of Madagascar, Coron trumps them all. The place is Continue…

Sagada’s Cave Connection

Tony enters a chamber while spelunking in Sagada

Sagada, a cool mountain station in north-central Luzon, is a restful escape from the tropical heat of the Philippines. The destination offers up forests full of pines and tree ferns, exotic burial rituals, a once grand head hunter culture, and gorgeous slopes filled with extreme rice terracing.

Our principle reason for coming here was to bone up on our spelunking skills by doing the famous Sagada Cave Connection, a four-hour cave crawling tour linking the Lumiang and Sumaging cave systems. This tour requires its participants to repel down vertical shafts, crawl, squirm, dangle off of ledges, slip, slide, wade waist-deep through underground streams, and clamber over wedding cake cave formations – in other words, it’s serious food for your inner child.


El Nido, Palawan: 100 Ways to Kill Coral

El Nido's Coral: Crown-of-thorns Starfish

We first published this article on El Nido’s coral destruction in 2010 after our month-long visit to Palawan. Sadly, eight years later, we are still getting comments from travelers confirming further environmental degradation. Read on to find out what causes the coral destruction and make sure to check out the comments below documenting the state of El Nido’s corals in 2018.

Above water, the Bacuit Archipelago is one of the most stunning places on the planet. Below the surface of its perfectly turquoise waters, it’s a different story. A story of neglect, corruption, mismanagement and ignorance.

It is estimated that only 1% of the Philippines’ coral is still in pristine condition. Sewage run-off, anchor damage, shore erosion, a crown-of-thorns starfish infestation, and overfishing are some of the more typical culprits. And, of course, coral bleaching due to global warming is a huge problem. But to kill that much coral, you need to employ some of the more destructive practices such as Continue…

The Vanishing Whale Sharks of Donsol

As I mentioned on our Facebook Page last week, Berlin is THE crossroads for travel bloggers this summer. While exchanging stories and travel tips, we discovered that the whale sharks of Donsol, Philippines appear to be vanishing.

I was stunned.

When I got home, I immediately started researching the claim and discovered that it appears to be true. Apparently, the number of whale shark sightings has dropped dramatically. There has not been much international media coverage on the issue, but newspapers in the Philippines are reporting Continue…

Remembering the Lady in the Snake Bone Crown

For years, we referred to her as the “lady in the snake bone crown.” We met her while we were people watching at the market in Bontoc in the Philippines. Perhaps, “met” is a bit of an exaggeration as we really couldn’t speak to her. But we sat with her as she showed us her tattoos and her snake skeleton hairpiece, memories of a rapidly vanishing age. Despite the fact that we did not know her name or really anything about her, we remembered her very well. In fact, meeting her was one of the most meaningful experiences we had in the Philippines, a country full of amazing people.

In March 2013, Janet Scott Tama wrote to us to tell us the lady in the snake bone crown was Ina Ngallowan from Tucucan, a village near the Maligcong rice terraces, and that she was still alive and doing well. Putting a name to Ina’s face was an exciting discovery for us. We had talked about her and Bontoc’s vanishing traditional culture many times.

Last week, we received an email from Tesiesakoy Chapap telling us that Ina had passed away. We can Continue…

One Last Look at the Philippines

When we came to the Philippines, we only intended to stay for two to three months. Over five months later, we’re still here. Clearly, we like it.

Amazing underwater treasures, beautiful jungles, deserted white-sand beaches, stunning landscapes, and some of the friendliest people in the world make it a hard country to leave. To recall our terrific time here, we’ve put together a Philippines pictorial of some of the highlights.

Dolphin Superpod

Ripples throughout the picture only hint at the number of dolphins below the surface.

Returning from our dive trip to Calanggaman Island, we had yet another stroke of extraordinary luck. Well before we arrived on the scene, we could make out chaotic splashing on the horizon and what appeared to be animals leaping out of the water. As we approached, we realized that we had stumbled upon yet another of nature’s great spectacles: a dolphin superpod.

I’ve seen dolphins from California to Madagascar to Indonesia, but I had never seen anything like this in my life. Hundreds upon hundreds of spinner dolphins forming one massive group. At the center a chaotic splashing in what appeared to be a unified attack on a large school of fish. Hyped from the hunt, all around us dolphins leapt through the air. Some shot up high above the surface performing feats of aerial acrobatics straight out of a Seaworld show. Incredible. Thresher sharks, a manta, off-shore tornadoes, pygmy seahorses, and a dolphin superpod. Perhaps, the Philippines is giving us a few good-bye gifts before we leave the country.

Pygmy Seahorses

It took us three dives, but we have finally sighted the elusive pygmy seahorse. This tiny creature is, perhaps, the ultimate testament to the miracles of evolution. (I’ve said it before, Darwin would have loved scuba diving.) But finding these little guys isn’t easy. After several minutes of searching a large sea fan gently clearing debris and carefully examining each branch, our divemaster pointed out the ultra-tiny seahorse, which was about 1/3 of an inch (8mm) long. When he first pointed it out, I mistook it for a part of the fan. I stared at it for several seconds before I realized “the tiny piece of fan” had an eyeball. Its unbelievable adaption to the surrounding fan branches allows the tiny seahorse to blend in perfectly. Man, the underwater world really blows me away!


While enjoying pina coladas at our dive resort in Malapascua, we suddenly noticed people running to the beach and pointing excitedly out into the water. Cocktail in hand, we ran over to join the group on the beach just in time to witness two funnel clouds forming off in the distance over the ocean.

Within minutes, the right cloud had touched down and formed a water spout. Everyone was oohing and ahhing while snapping pictures of this spectacle. It definitely pays to come to the Philippines during the typhoon season. Sorry for the photo quality, but it was dark, I just had my snorkeling camera, and I was on my second pina colada. 😉