Friday, October 21, 2011

Honda Bay Island Hopping without a Tour Package

Honda Bay is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. It is a group of islands and islets with waters thriving with marine life. The islands itself boasts of rich mangroves and other flora and fine white sand that glistens under the sun. It is an awesome treat to weary souls who long to relax and commune with nature - the sea world that is.

Puerto Princesa Tourism Office regulates and standardized the Honda Bay package tours offered by different Travel agencies for Php1,100 which includes pick-up from and  drop-off to your hotel. It also includes the boat fee, entrance fees to the islands and sumptuous lunch which is usually grilled treats. It is advisable if you don't want the hassle of researching and making your own itinerary and if you have a limited time for the tour. Personally, I think that amount is reasonable. We did the island hopping on our own though because I'd like to save a few bucks and to have the freedom to stay in one island to the other as long as I want. We hired a tricycle and a driver that would drive us to the Lourdes Wharf (jump-off point to the Honda Bay Islands) and would wait for us until our tour ends. There is no regular public utility vehicle passing the area regularly. We paid Php500 for the three of us. We then rented a boat from the Tourism Office for Php1300. We visited 3 islands during a stormy day. The bad weather didn't even influence in the natural beauty of the islands.


Arriving in Pandan Island, we were greeted with a white sand that was soft to the feel. I knew right away that I will like it.  After paying the entrance fee of Php50 per person, we hurriedly changed into our swimming clothes. Our boatman served as our guide. He toured us not in the island but under the surrounding water of Pandan Island. He let us hold into a ring buoy attached to a rope that he was holding while swimming. That way, we'd all reach the same part of the sea at the same time plus there's assurance we're safer. We bought few pieces of bread and started to feed the fish. The moment the bread is dipped into the water, fishes would start swarming from everywhere. It was thrilling! Fishes here are also a lot bigger compared to the other sanctuaries I've visited in the country, and they aren't shy at all. I suddenly had second thoughts of still feeding them when out of nowhere, a very big fish (about 1 feet long) attempted to bite the bread I was holding and it's two teeth stuck in my fingers instead. I felt a sharp pain and saw the bites starting to bleed in the water. It's good the fish isn't poisonous. I won't forget that experience though. :D

The water is truly blessed. Corals are very colorful at the deeper part of the sea. Another guide was able to catch a blow fish. We hurriedly snapped a picture of it before it was thrown back to the sea right away. There were also several starfish at the shallow part of the sea. Changing in the island isn't a problem for they have decent bathrooms/restrooms with clean water.

If you can't manage to  bring your own food (although that's advisable) there are some food stores available at a higher price of course. If you're lucky, you might be able to buy fresh catch (sea foods) from the locals in the island and have them cook it for you for a small fee. We bought kuracha (a crab that also looks like a lobster) which we had for dinner that night. It was superb.


Unlike Pandan Island, Snake Island is owned by the city government so there is no entrance fee collected. They offer open huts for picnics or where tourist can have their meals. Tourists are expected to donate any minimal amount they can for maintaining the island.

Snake island has a very long sandbar that is winding and looks like a snake from afar, hence the name of the island. The sand is also fine and is creamy in color. The left side of the sandbar is perfect for swimming, and snorkeling with even bigger fish compared to Pandan Island. The other side at the back of the mangroves is too shallow and I saw fishermen harvest mussels and small shrimps. Scattered in the shore are several extraordinary looking shells that according to our boatman are star fish shells. I didn't know starfish comes from a shell. Pandan Island is surely another island to visit in the Honda Bay tour.


There's an entrance fee of Php50 in this island if you buy the tickets right in the Tourism Office before island hopping and becomes Php75 when you buy it once you dock in the islands. I'd suggest you pass by the island first before deciding to pay the entrance. In all honesty, I didn't really like Starfish Island. The sand is course and a bit rocky near the shore. There's no fish to see except for starfish during low tide. It was high tide when we went there and it took us several minutes to scout for starfish. Dos Palmas (an upscale Resort in Honda Bay) used to have a structure in this island but was then razed after some problems in the purchase of the island. That is the ruins you'll see near the shore. I think, it's ok to skip this island on your tour and try checking out the others if you still have enough time available. We then left when the heavens turned black.

On our way back to Lourdes Wharf, the rain poured really hard and the wind blew it's best. Typhoon intensified in Palawan and I couldn't be more thankful that at least we were still able to enjoy the islands for the whole day.

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