Alona Beach on Panglao Island and Diving Balicasag Island! :D

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2017 May 2-4.

For our ride to our next destinations, Susana and I lucked out and got a party tuktuk (rickshaw?). Our driver had his rigged up with a lots of speakers and bass. After a few of his songs, I asked whether I could DJ. And then the Tomorrowland-esque music started and we had a blast haha.

Along the way, I took pictures of various busses and other modes of transportations I saw.

There’s someone on top of that!!

I forget what their busses are called.

But they were colorful!

Crossing the street here is a fun experience.

So is riding on back of trucks!

Sure, cut right in across flowing traffic. I love that driving rules are just suggestions! :D We dropped Susana off at a ferry and I was a bit sad to see her go. We had so much fun together! :D We planned to meet up again somewhere in the world. She’s in Copenhagen, I’ll be in Boston, easypeasy, just a hop across the pond! (I had told her about Sipadan, Malaysia, being one of the best dive sites in the world and she actually went six months or so after we met and it looked as life changingly epic as I remembered. :D Her posts gave me serious dive/wanderlust all over again haha.)

My driver knew of some relatively cheap accommodations close to Alona Beach. When we reached the lodgings, he asked for a playlist of my music and I happily grabbed a notepad and shared some of my favorite DJs. The place he recommended was clean, had AC, reasonably priced and yay hammocks! It was also a 3 minute walk down the beach, which was great. I paid a few bucks for them to do my laundry and gave the girl at reception some of the things from my backpack that I didn’t feel like carrying anymore haha.

And then the hunt began for a dive shop! There were a bunch along the beach and I inquired at all of them. Most only had certain trips to certain islands on certain days. One of the dive shops was very honest about the best places to dive. I had told the guy where I’d been diving (some of the top 10 world dive sites, because I’m spoiled af) so he knew my standards, and he said the best in the area would be Balicasag Island! Deal! I also wanted Nitrox, now that I was newly certified. Sweet! I’d be going tomorrow. :) So excited!

I wandered around. I splurged a little on a more expensive Western-style dinner because I’d been relatively unimpressed with Filipino food so far.

It’d be an early morning so I went to bed early.

YAY!!! WHITE SAND BEACHES AND CLEAR WATER!! This is what I came for. (But mostly just diving haha.) I think I reported around 8 a.m. to get fitted for a wetsuit and gear.

I had considered snorkeling since I had my gear but there didn’t seem to be much to see in the water.

Too lazy to figure out how to rotate this on a Macbook.

Alona Divers apparently had the newest and largest dive boat on Panglao Island. It was amazingly spacious.

We were catching up to the other boats easily. I’M SO EXCITED!

TURTLE!!! I love turtles! This island was well known for them.

Dive tanks ready!

We arrived at Balicasag Island and it looks spectacular. The water was inviting.

SO MANY TURTLES!! One of the Divemasters had an underwater camera and took photos of us.

Swimming with fishes!

Hang ten! Universal hand signal for “rad, dude”. :)

That’s meeeeee! I love diving. :D

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Boating and Motorbiking Around Bohol! (Waterfalls, the Chocolate Hills, Endangered Tarsiers, Fireflies, and Nuts Huts!)

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30 April-2 May 2017.

Susana and I took the Filipino version of a tuktuk to the ferry station in the morning.

The ferry we planned to catch didn’t quite work out so we waited in a long queue in the stifling heat and humidity for over an hour, which was cutting close to the last ferry to Bohol. We may have griped that the ferry company should have online ticketing! #modernconveniences

It was perhaps paranoia, but Susana and I took seats near the exits, whose doors suspiciously didn’t seem to close/lock properly. I’m glad I’m not the only one that questions the safety of anything haha. In the hopefully unlikely incident of the ferry sinking, I was going to be one of the first people jumping off the boat haha. But! No problems, other than the air con being really strong.

Once on the island of Bohol, we took a cab to a designated spot near the river, where we were to get on a boat to reach our destination, a retreat of sorts in the jungle, called Nuts Huts.

You can’t reach Nuts Huts by land. I had heard of it from backpackers and/or blogs and was uncertain if I wanted to go sleep in the jungle.

Susana had convinced me going to Nuts Huts would be interesting. She had booked a room for 2 nights and said there’d be room for me. Adventure!

I don’t know where I am most the time haha. Taking photos of maps has become a good traveler habit. Our room was at river level but the main lobby/restaurant area was wayyyyy up the hill, up lots and lots of stairs.

FOOD! It had sounded promising but looked like instant ramen with some veggies. It was okay. I did wonder what was in the jungle I could eat haha.

Representing!

OH MY GOD AND THERE WAS A GINORMOUS TARANTULA SPIDER THING IN THE BATHROOM! I went in and there were a few mosquitoes in there, which I was not pleased about but the idea was tolerable (be quick! else they’ll bite my butt!) but then I saw an effin tarantula on the wall and may have actually yelled something along the lines of “OHMIGOD!” and ran out, pointing back. One of the staff obviously heard me, went in and took care of it, in whatever way I didn’t want to know. I laughed at myself, only slightly embarrassed for not-screaming haha.

Some of the pathways at Nuts Huts were made of coconuts! I think this was supposed to be for a walking foot massage, which I didn’t do.

Walking to our room.

Our house! Susana and I had the left side. There were a few buildings like this and I almost went to the wrong one once haha.

That night, Susana and I hired a private boat to go looking for fireflies. It was SUPER COOL! Millions of fireflies in the trees, blinking like mini galaxies right before us. It was a beautiful sight. Neither of us had a camera good enough to capture it but just imagine all the stars you would see in the country away from city light pollution.

We went to a few different spots along the water and just watched the fireflies glow.  It was kind of like the drones at Lady Gaga’s half time show for last SuperBowl, but millions of them! At one point, Susana started sobbing and I asked if she was alright. She was so moved! I was almost a bit jealous, I wanted to be that moved too! It was wonderful. When we were ready, the boat driver took us back to Nuts Huts.

I always bring a small speaker when I travel now, so I had music playing while we got ready for bed. It was our first time sleeping in the same room! I was grateful she let me crash with her on this little adventure. Going solo into the jungle would’ve been a bit more daunting! I showed Susana the best way of folding her mosquito net into the bed but having it still be easy enough to get in and out. She complimented my ultralight backpacking skills. :D

In the morning, we climbed up all those stairs for breakfast. Reception wasn’t open yet. This message is ironic because we were in the Philippines haha. The billing system was everything was paid for at the end of our stay in cash.

 

Before we checked out, we took some photos on our balcony.  I enjoy living in a bathing suit and sarong.

The river was so calm! The slightly annoying part was that there were tourist boats that went up and down the river blaring American pop music, disturbing the jungle noise.

We hired motorbike drivers. I could drive one, but I wanted to not worry about navigation and have hands free for photographs! We went to the Tarsier Research and Development Center in Corella, Bohol (also called the The Philippine Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary)  and found a few of them. They’re an endangered species. Susana said there was a so-called Tarsier sanctuary but it let tourists hold the tarsiers but they end up committing suicide from the stress of it. Go to the official one!

It was brutally hot (to me) and we had brought our bathing suits with the plan of finding someplace to go swimming.

The drivers took us to some waterfalls!

I could swim.

Welcome to the jungle!

We also went to the famous Chocolate Hills. They’re mysterious mounds that have no geological reason for being. Just hundreds of them. I wasn’t impressed. :P

Lots of stairs here too haha.

And then we went exploring in the countryside.

This was my favorite view! You could see the ocean from here! It was beautiful.

The drivers stopped at a few different points they thought we would like. Susana at one point yelled “PULL OVER!!!” which was a bit alarming to everyone else. Turns out there were some beautiful natural hanging orchids hanging in front of someone’s home that she wanted to photograph haha.

Rice terraces! Okay, this was a really great view too. :) It reminded me of Indonesia.

It was a very full and fulfilling day! :D

Diving in Dauin and Apo Island in the Philippines!

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25-28 April 2017.

The day before I left for the Philippines, I sold my car. I was moving to Boston for a new job! So exciting! But first! Two weeks in the Philippines.

It was the one last Southeast Asia country I had not traveled to yet and I wanted to visit before moving back to the East Coast.

Look at that water! I was thrilled. Tropical paradise sounds a fantastic way to end a few months of funemployment.

The hills were green! Southern California was going through a drought so greenery was hard to find. I landed in Cebu airport and decided I didn’t like it, so booked a one-way flight for a few hours later to fly to Dumaguete. I missed this life, where I could just spontaneously book flights for the same day. :)

I feel like I only get to walk on the tarmac at smaller international airports. We landed in Dumaguete and were met with military, which I thought was a bit interesting. I later learned that President Duterte’s son had been on the same flight I had been.

I checked in at a beachside hotel and then went to find Dumaguete Divers, the dive shop I’d selected, which also had a restaurant. I inquired about diving the next few days.

I remembered to bring my cards! :D While signing up for a dive to Apo the following day, Susana entered the shop! She was a lawyer living in Copenhagen, also a female traveling alone, and full of spunk! We got along great! :D She was also staying at the same hotel I was and also interested in Apo Island. Perfect!

In the morning, we arrived to our boat to Apo Island!

Gleeeeeeee! The water looked so inviting. I was ready to jump in.

On the way to Apo Island (where you can swim with sea turtles!! I LOVE SEA TURTLES!!!) the weather was a bit overcast, but that didn’t really matter since we’d be underwater soon! :D

I didn’t have a Gopro to capture what it’s like to breathe underwater, float above the coral, swim with sea turtles and tropical fish, looking to chase sharks, but this video captures some of it!

Fortunately Susana has a GoPro!

John was our divemaster and really funny. He used to be a divemaster in Utila, Honduras, well known for their whale sharks! I still need to go there. :D He was amused by how well Susana and I got along.

Back on land, we climbed out of our scuba diving gear and we rode standing up in the back of the truck, holding on to the frame. FUNNNN!

It’s bumpier than it looks haha.

Lilo and our dive tanks!

Susana and I had such a great day diving at Apo, we giddily signed up to get Nitrox certified. :D Since I was on a flexible schedule (I had only bought my flights in and out of the Philippines with no bookings inbetween), this was totally doable. YAY! So now I am Nitrox certified.

We went muck diving in Dauin as well, which was a bit less exciting although John did find a frogfish and a few other interesting creatures.

A few days later, Susana and I left Dumaguete together. She actually had plans/bookings and I was welcome to come along. Fun! :)

Bohol was next! :)

Hiking Santa Catalina Island! (Day 3)

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14 May 2017.

Rather than dinghy everything back onto the yacht, the new logistical plan was devised to pay the park rangers to shuttle our stuff to docks halfway across the island and then load from there.

By the time our campsites were packed and ready to go, all other campsites had emptied out. They had an 8 mile hike back to Avalon.

We carried our stuff to the top of a hill, where a truck came to load up our things. I think normally we wouldn’t have been allowed to have the park provide a truck to bring all our gear to the docks but we had a slight medical emergency. One of Drew’s sister’s friends had a heart condition and was having trouble due to her own foolish actions.

The water was so calm!

Adios, beach!

It was only a few miles’ hike to where we needed to go.

Our camp opted to hike to the docks.

It was so pretty! :D The pictures don’t do Catalina Island justice.

After resting all day yesterday, it was nice to be active.

Woohoo!

It was cool in the breeze.

We had no map and only a general idea of where we were supposed to be headed. I think the instructions were “stay left” if there would be a fork in the road or such.

We came across some signs that were not particularly helpful haha. Nature, that way?

We also passed through an area where Boy Scouts go.

Santa Catalina is part of the Channel Islands! It was interesting looking at the map from Santa Barbara to San Diego and all the different islands. Most of our camp were from Santa Monica.

Yo ho yo ho! A pirate’s life for me! :D

It was like walking through a ghost town of empty buildings and structures.

Imir and Danny. We made it to the dock!

The yacht was waiting. After loading up everything, we departed. On the deck, it was a wet, splash-filled ride back back to the mainland. :)