Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Dolphin Watching in Puerto Princesa

A spinner dolphin beside our bangka.
Click any photo to enlarge or start the|
Slide show.

Dolphin watching!

For years now, since moving to Puerto Princesa, Palawan, I have heard that the dolphin watching was quite an experience. We never went out on the bay until a few weeks ago when Dave bought his own bangka and parked it in Turtle Bay, just 1 km. in back of where we live.

When we first got here, everyone was going on and on about the Puerto Princesa Underground River. Which we have now seen thrice! It is truly amazing.

Yet for me, nothing compares to the feeling of  being surrounded by all these spinner dolphins, so close we could almost touch them.  The first time we went out, we came upon them within 15 minutes of setting out! Then my camera battery died!!!

(Since I posted this, I have been asked if you can swim with the dolphins. First, it's not allowed, and secondly, the boat is moving, so it's not possible to swim with them.  Once you spot the dolphins, one has to literally catch up to them in the bangka. Once they spot you, they will slow down and then swim along side the bangka. Then they will disappear again and surface somewhere else. Then you have to head out to them again. So it's sort of a gentle chase situation.)

The second time we brought a friend and her son, but the waves were pretty high and we only caught a glimpse of a large school in the distance before it was time to get back to shore.

This last time, the day before my 64th birthday, we went out and got to the spot at around 8am. Lo and behold, dolphins to the right, then to the left and pretty soon spinner dolphins were everywhere we looked!

I think it was the most amazing, wonderful and magical experience of my life and I will never forget this day with the dolphins.

We had several children with us and they screamed and cheered. The more they cheered, the more dolphins would appear and do their acrobatics! Apparently up to 200 individual dolphins can comprise one school!

These spinner dolphins swam around, under and beside our bangka! One could almost touch them. (Not allowed though.) Their only reward was our screams of absolute glee. Feeding the dolphins is not allowed.

This was taken Sept 7, 2012 - Shot with a GoPro Hero2 cam, in waterproof housing, hand held and basically point and shoot in almost any direction. They were ahead, beside, underneath, chasing and crisscrossing the bow of the boat as we moved. With the GoPro,  I had to be quick to get the action all around me. At one point I after I'd shot enough, I put the camera down so I could just inhale, and take in the experience. All the shots except the dolphin jumping we shot with 2 GoPro Hero cams. One in the water and one above.

Sept. 7, 2012

Sept.7, 2012 - shot with a GoPro Hero Camera in a waterproof housing.

Sept. 7, 2012 - A spinner dolphin spinning...imagine that!
Sept. 7, 2012 - Shot above water with a GoPro Hero Cam in a waterproof housing from the bow of the bangka.  This is a mother dolphin with her youngster!

Taken with a GoPro2 Hero cam mounted on a metal pipe and set to take shots every second the placed underwater as the dolphins neared.. It shows what we couldn't see from above, that there were even more dolphins than we thought. 

If you ever do see them on a tour, please don't feed the dolphins. We like our dolphins wild!

Ghostly image of the dolphins under the water beside our boat..

This is what it looked like when the dolphins would disappear from our view above board on the boat. This is what they did when out of sight; dive, dive, dive. Only to come back up a few meters away and then. This day there we at least 100 in this school of spinner dolphins. A GoPro Hero cam, set to go off every 1 second, attached to a metal pole beneath the water. We had to delete a lot of Dave's nose as he went to turn off the auto shoot.

Here we are with our crew in the back, after the experience heading back to Turtle Bay where we park our bangka. That's me in the hat and Dave in front of me.

This is an unfinished resort we see every time we go out on the boat across the cove in Turtle bay.
Our bangka, Laika, which Dave bought for us to be able to enjoy the waters around us and experience the sea creatures and clear waters in the area.
I read somewhere that the dolphin watching season begins here in June, but this was August when we first spotted them. We saw just as many again in early September as well.

 One has to be careful this time of year because the Habagat (southwesterly winds come up around 11 am).  There are tours you can buy at most of the tour guide agencies in town and they will have the schedule.

We are lucky we can go out anytime we want since we now have our own bangka. It's best to leave very early in the morning when the seas are calm.

Here are some other links about the spinner dolphins in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

Another blog about this experience:

A video on YouTube, not the greatest but it shows how clear the water is and how close the dolphins get.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Mangingisda Pier Across from Baywalk

An Off the beaten track eco adventure!

One of the ferry boats that cross the
Puerto Princesa bay to Mangingingisda pier.
From there you can take your motorbike to the
National Highway south. Most of the road is
 paved except for the the first 4 KMs from
the pier to the highway south.
While Irawan bridge is being repaired there is a balsa/raft for motorbikes to cross the river at Irawan.  You can go to the National Highway south to that route through muddy waters and roads, wait in line, then take the raft at Irawan which brings the motorbikes across. There is however, a less known alternative.

Whether you are a tourist or local, the nice alternatives are the ferry bangkas heading out every hour and a half or so from Baywalk fisherman's pier (or Puerto Fishport), to Mangingisda Pier. It's 35.00 php for people and same for your motorbike one way and only takes 35 to 40 minutes depending on which ferry you get. Our daughter is 4 years old and her fare was 10.00 Pesos. Just ask any trike driver to take you to the fishport and they know where that is.

From the Pier you take the road to the National Highway. If you turn left you can tour the southern part of Palawan or head back to Puerto through several tree covered lanes. The Crocodile farm and Irawan Eco park Zip lines are just near the area before the bridge or raft going back to town. You can tour those then go ahead take the raft just one way to town.

Sleepy little Port of Mangingisda. Nothing to do there but you can swim with the locals off
the pier. The waters are green like El Nido in the summer months.
For tourists, it's a nice local eco-adventure. The waters at the pier are clean enough to swim, which we often do. The local kids will even do somersaults for you if you point a camera in their direction. There are a couple little Sari Sari stores to buy BananaQs, bottled water and soft drinks, even hard boiled eggs. You will need to bring your own towels and everything else. This is a totally local adventure with NO stars! No services like showers etc.  We enjoy it since we only live about 12 minutes away, on our semi sustainable farm, off the paved part of the road.

This is in the summer. The water is shallow near the mangroves and the water is warmer as well, for the cold blooded like me. It's at the very tip of Mangingisda Pier.
Mangingisda pier is a really nice place to set sunset photos. Especially if there are a few clouds in the sky!

One of the ferry boats that will go to the Fish Port at Baywalk, downtown Puerto Princesa at sunset at Mangingisda Pier.

Ferry bangka approaching the Mangingisda pier. It's just passing a charter boat called M/YSakura. If you call in advance, and have a larger budget, you can hire it to take you on a tour of the waters here. They have a list of day tours to Turtle Bay or Dolphin watching and seasonally, swim with the whale sharks.
If you wanted to take a ride around the barangay in our electric trike, the caretaker knows how to get in touch with us.  If we are free and not too busy, we would be more than happy to tour you around in it.
Our electric passenger trike. Not for hire but
would be happy to give you a free ride if we
are aren't too busy!

If you are not inclined to dive off the pier at Mangingisda, and want more privacy, ask the local trike driver to take you to Puting Buhangin beach which is also on the Mangingisda peninsula. Remember, these places are for those seeking gentle adventures and again, there are no services there at all. Just a quiet small cove with white sands and clean water. Only the locals know about this place so far. We go there a lot in summer.

Puting Buhangin Beach (White Sand Beach) in Mangingisda is a local resident favorite. But there are no services so bring everything you think you will need.

Buting Buhanging beach in Mangingisda has white sands and clear water. It's a local favorite and yet undiscovered by most tourists
If you do have a motorbike or your own vehicle and have braved the funky bridge at Irawan, you can travel an hour and a half south of here to Narra, where there is a really lovely resort called Crystal Paradise Resort and Spa.  It has private villas, regular rooms, restaurant, massage, pool and other such amenities to try. Hot water for showers, airconditioned rooms and satellite TV as well. They do have their own website at:

Crystal Paradise Resort and Spa in Narra, southern Palawan. A very quiet and tranquil place. This is Villa number 1, I believe. It has a bedroom loft upstairs with two or three beds aside from
the master bedroom downstairs.
I know that one of the primary reasons people come to Puerto Princesa, is to tour the Underground River. But the southern part of Palawan has so many other off the beaten track things do do as well.

For instance, if you head back to Puerto Princesa to the National Highway from Mangingisda pier, you will come across a sign to Napsan. It's on the left pointing to a large graded dirt road. If you go down that road (on a dirt bike or sturdy vehicle) there are pristine forests, rivers and waterfalls to be discovered, and at the end of that road there is Napsan Beach (where we haven't been yet). Before that, approximately 33 KMS from the National highway is one of our favorite haunts called Salakot Waterfalls.
Salakot waterfalls. Your own private Eden. Bring anything you will need as there are no services whatsoever! Make sure to bring plastic bags to haul your trash out with so you can
leave it as clean or cleaner than how you found it. Summer is the best time to go as the road is very muddy in the rainy season. We have gone in November, but the waters are not as clear, but still ok to swim in, though perhaps a little muddy.
Here are some scenes from around this area for your enjoyment:

Inside Turtle Bay:
A cool looking jelly fish with tiny fish swimming with it in Turtle Bay

The ubiquitous mangroves which are so prevalent here in Puerto Princesa and protect our shores and many other species of marine animals.

This is a resort they are building inside Turtle Bay. I can't wait till it is open. I hope they have a restaurant there one of these days!

View of Thumb Peak from the bay

 A cool fiddler crab on the muddy shore of one of the coves inside Turtle Bay

This looks like a nice little beach for a picnic inside Turtle Bay. We will go there when the weather gets better!
Clear waters around the bend from Mangingisda Pier and heading towards Turtle Bay.