Tuesday, April 18, 2006

CLUB NOAH, PALAWAN – DAY 3 (Lunch and Cave Tour)

[Always remember to shoot full color in-camera and convert to b&w in post-process..don't let the camera create b&w jpegs...this was a crappy color shot originally, but worked well in grayscale.]
Picnic Lunch
We had to leave pretty much as soon as we got back from our Eco-Tour and cleaned up (to say we were hot and sweaty would have been a great understatement) to meet at the main pier for transportation to our picnic lunch. We had heard a lot about how you could have a picnic lunch on a secluded place of the island which was really nice and romantic. Much to our disappointment, we learned upon arriving that actually to take the private picnic you had to pay $100 US extra. The one provided anyone could sign up for, and we shared ours with – you guessed it – the newly arrived annoying group of loud-talkers.

We were all packed into a small boat after the requisite amount of waiting and brought over to the island where the staff had been hard at work setting up tables and chairs and a BBQ right at the waters edge. Rose had brought along 2 plates of food for me, which was very good – potatoes and squash and some stuffed pepper things. I shared it with Tim and he also got some food from the buffet as well. Tim had a banana leaf plate full of bread, rice, fish, squid, chicken, and mangos. For dessert there was bread pudding and raisin cookies.

[Lunch on the Beach]
[What's on the menu? Squid, fish, chicken, etc]

Tim and I must have been as annoying to the larger group as they were to us, because they sat as far away from us as they could. The Italian/American/Japanese family came and sat near us under a canopy. After this we swam for awhile on that part of the beach and Tim looked for cool shells for his mom. After this, we had to high-tail it back to the main pier to start our cave tour.



We walked along the beach and wooden walkway rather than waiting for the boat to take us back to cut down on the annoyance factor of more waiting and other guests. I really was excited for the cave tour, since I had heard great things about it.

Cave Snorkeling
When we got to the pier, we saw on the white board that there were 39 people signed up to tour the cave – among them the group of loud people and some additional even more loud people. Perfect. Predictably, over half of this group was very late and we all had to wait. People could tell we were sick of waiting and they kept coming to tell us it would be a little while longer.

To put it in perspective, remember we are on a unique and expensive vacation. If I am going to spend an hour sitting around, I want it to be on a beach with a book and a drink – not on a crowded and noisy pier with annoying people. Eddie arrived at the pier and gave us some bread to feed the fish while we were waiting. That was pretty fun. It was cool to see the fish all swarm the pieces of bread and eat them. Some of the fish here literally look like rainbows or parrots with all the colors.

Finally it was time to leave. As Tim recounts – “Us and a bunch of annoying people set out on a larger boat across to the islands containing the cave and the lagoon.” This was about a 25 minute boat ride and almost everybody had brought their snorkeling gear. I was asking the staff a few questions about the cave while we were on the boat and it became very obvious that this was not going to be a picnic. There were way too many people to fit into the cave and the lagoon-much less room to snorkel freely. I didn’t say much, but I think it became obvious to the staff too that this was not practical. What they decided to do is bring people over in small boat trips rather the typical method of piling everyone in. This made it a little better, but still not overly practical. The boat came up to the island containing the lagoon. There was a small beach with some small boats, a little shack, and several pigs and dogs running back and forth on the beach. One of the dogs was barking and chasing the boat as it was floating by just like a family dog in the U.S. chases cars.

Tim and I got into the last boat which took us over to the entrance of the cave and dropped us off in shallow water. The bottom was very slippery, but the surrounding boulders were razor sharp, so we were very careful not to fall. Picture at this point that Tim and I are in our swim suits with a towel around us, carrying all our snorkeling gear which takes all of one hand and most of another for support. We ducked under a little tunnel under the rocks and saw a bamboo ladder leaning up against another rock, leading to a bamboo bridge stretched across two boulders. All of this was very wet. With our arm loads and the low overhangs, we were pretty nervous. However, we went slowly and made it over the makeshift bridge. Then we realized we had another bamboo ladder leading down into the cave and the lagoon. This one was a little trickier. It was completely wet and there were sharp rocks everywhere and a low overhang. We had to inch down to a small bamboo platform at the bottom of the ladder on our butts and find a space in the nearby rocks to stash our things and put on our snorkeling gear.

[Tim's Note: This is the kind of "instant-death" rock we were dealing with. All around, under, over, on our sides- this kind of rock was everywhere. Closer to the water's edge the rocks were even sharper, with half uncovered fossilized shell things. I'm amazed with the amount of tourists (including small children) that go to this cave that there aren't more instances of people slipping, reaching out a hand to catch themselves and getting severly sliced open. Given that the majority of the visitors here are Asian, the passages were so narrow, that we were glad that we were wearing our life jackets, given that the shoulders and sides were unavoidably scraping against the adjacent rock walls.]


Once we entered the cave, it was really cool but downright frightening. I was almost sorry that we brought our snorkeling gear – and just not because there was no room for it in the lagoon and people kept running into each other-being able to see under the surface of the water was very eerie. The rock formations were spooky- there were big, smooth cylinder structures that reached deep down into the water and caverns 15 feet below us that reached off into the inky dark water. I dropped my flippers as I was putting them on in the water and the security- turned-scuba diver dove down I don’t know how far to retrieve them.

We were pretty fascinated by all the formations and scenery and I hope our pictures from our water-proof disposable camera turn out well from that, but it was very scary. It was almost like an underwater city with rocks, pillars, and caverns opening off to the side. There were no fish at all to be seen There was a section of the lagoon that was pitch black. We went to that part following closely behind our security guard friend because we were both too scared to go ourselves. Certain parts of the cave and lagoon were lit by sunlight streaming in from holes in the roof far above which made the whole appearance even more interesting.

We exited the cave extremely carefully and headed back to the outside and then waited for the small boat to come pick us up and transfer to the larger one. About an hour later we were back in the cabana and were completely worn out with all the activities of the day. We decided to read books and nap until dinner and skip the sunset viewing for that day. As it turned out, we didn't have to leave the cabin because there was a gorgeous cloud formation on the horizon just outside our balcony.







Dinner on the Terrace
We woke up in time to clean up and dress for dinner which was on the terrace overlooking the water. The place was decorated very nicely as usual. We had vegetable stir fry and other fruits with wine. People came to talk to us periodically throughout dinner to ask us about out day. At the end of our meal, a man – I think Chinese – who was not among the annoying people but was among the large camera people – came to give us a piece of his wife’s birthday cake, which was a very nice gesture. I went over to thank him and greet his wife and tell her happy birthday. We headed back to our cabin after dinner. We were happy for our vacation, but not entirely upset it was over. Unless we could have another day just to relax, we figured we would just become more and more frustrated.

[This is our baby shark friend, probably about 2.5-3 feet long]

Links:

[Palwan Summary]

[1] Palawan, Club Noah, Day 1 (Airport and Flight)
[2] Palawan, Club Noah, Day 1 (Journey to the Resort)
[3] Palawan, Club Noah, Day 1 (Activities)
[4] Palawan, Club Noah, Day 2 (Easter Sunday)
[5] Palawan, Club Noah, Day 3 (Bottom Fishing and Trekking)
[6] Palawan, Club Noah, Day 3 (Lunch and Cave Tour) [You Are Here]
[7] Palawan, Club Noah, Day 4 (Departure and Return Trip)

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