Coron is a town in Busuanga, which is the largest island in the Northern Palawan area and is in itself a mini-archipelago. Coron is also the name of the island across the channel from the town, an island with prehistoric vibes. Only small, light turbo-prop planes can land on the airstrip in a small valley located in the middle of Busuanga.
One lands, it appears, in the middle of a cattle ranch, apparently the biggest in this part of the country as I was told. Our adventure began immediately after we stepped out of the “terminal”, basically a modest little shelter from the elements. Riding a jeepney to the harbor town of Coron, we passed tropical jungle scenery along a winding road through hilly terrain.
After about an hour of rustic views along the undulating unpaved road, we reached Coron. Towns like this are always quaint to us city-dwellers, meaning that it is small enough to not have traffic snarls. The smell of fish and the sea permeated the air and the ubiquitous Styrofoam containers of freshly caught and iced marine creatures were everywhere as we headed for the pier – being loaded into vans, on the back of small trucks, carried by lean sinewy men and being stuffed into passenger tricycles (a 2-3 person transport carriage with a small motorcycle attached to it). While in-town accommodations were definitely more budget-friendly, our companions opted for a less ‘fishy’ option.
Our resort accommodation was in offshore Uson Island, a mere 5 minutes away by boat from the Coron pier. We were pleased with our island lodgings on Uson for the next 3 days – no phones, no TV, no chattering radio, no karaoke (heaven!). As we put our cellphones away into the deep recesses of our bags, we were informed that the wireless Internet room was available for email. Well, not quite Robinson Crusoe… but close enough.
Our agenda was simple and straightforward – hop as many islands as we could (we were told there were more 4 dozen in the vicinity, most with white-sand beaches), see Culion, the former island leper colony now a museum and historical landmark, see the World War II battleship wrecks, snorkel the fabulous coral gardens, soak in the very relaxing hot springs of Maquinit and see the Jurassic-looking island of Coron (across the channel from Coron town) with its majestic limestone spires, ancient Kayangan Lake and its Twin Lagoons.
After a filling seafood lunch, we headed for Coron Island’s Kayangan Lake. As we approached the opening to the inner lagoon with its towering limestone cliffs, everyone was quiet and obviously dumbstruck at the prehistoric-looking scenery. From the lagoon, we could see the trail leading up the side of a cliff to the lake about 400 feet above us.
Halfway up the trail is a ledge where you can rest and marvel at the awesome view of the turquoise lagoon below and the limestone skyscrapers surrounding it with glimpses of Busuanga across the channel. Kayangan Lake is clear and totally swimmable at just the right temperature. If you swim out a few hundred yards past the first bend, it gets a little eerie as it is very quiet and primordial; you almost expect to see pterodactyls swooping down from the cliffs above.
Coron Island’s west side is one giant limestone wall about 10 miles long facing the open sea. Cruising along it on the outrigger, I got the sense of the remoteness and the solitude of this place. About 20 minutes of cruising and we hit Banol Beach, a small cove with creamy white sand – a cool spot perfect for a dip. Afterwards, we cruised for only about 15 minutes to reach Skeleton Beach.
Here, we put on or snorkels to marvel at the sight of a sunken Japanese battleship lying in the shallow waters. There were other beautiful underwater sights as well – a coral garden teeming with marine life. The afternoon wore on and we had to head back to Coron town for our sunset hour soak at Maquinit Hot Springs. We were told that it was just too hot to go there any other time of the day.