Coron Ultimate Tour. The first time was in 2009, followed by 2012, and the third time when direct flights to Busuanga from Cebu have been brought back – 2017 (now). Why do this tour over and over and over again? Because it's beautiful.
The Coron Ultimate Tour visits Kayangan Lake, Twin Lagoon, Siete Pecados Marine Park, and one or two other spots (usually a beach for lunchtime) depending on the tour operator you have booked your tour with.
Kalachuchi Coral Eden
Twin Lagoon: On the other side
Siete Pecados Marine Park
What has changed over the years? The number of tourists!! It has definitely increased and I have noticed a good number of foreign tourists in this part of Palawan. (In Coron town, many hostels/guesthouses/pension houses and restaurants have also popped up.)
The path to Kayangan Lake is now made of concrete steps (it used to be just steps fashioned from rocks and soil). The viewdeck is still there but with a long tail of people queueing to have their photo taken. In Kayangan Lake itself, the boardwalk is longer, the lake still clear, but dotted with so many people forced to wear lifejackets (mandatory after two Czech tourists drowned while free diving in Kayangan Lake in March 2017) within the area allowed for swimming (no swimming beyond the roped area!).
The Twin Lagoon is still a fun place to swim as the area is wide. On one end is the sea where your boat can pick you up if you're too tired to go back to where you entered AND if you're willing to pay another fee! (Apparently you're only allowed to enter and exit where you had paid the entrance fee; in our case it was at the section where we either had to climb the steep wooden stairs or swim through the small opening to get to the other lagoon.)
Other than that, the water is still crystal clear and the spots still breathtaking (literally from all that swimming, and figuratively from its awesome beauty).
Private Tour or Join In Tour? Since we were just five in the group, a private tour (Php 2100 per person) would be more expensive than a join-in tour (Php 1500 per person). But still we opted for a private tour because we planned to leave early and go to Kayangan Lake first to avoid the crowds.
Would I recommend this tour operator? No. N–O, NO! We booked the tour a day prior and made a 50% downpayment. They told us pick up time would be from 8AM to 830AM. We were already waiting by 8AM (we wanted to start early). After sending some text messages and making some calls, the van arrived at 830AM. Fine, it was still within the time frame they had set. The van took us to the port (a 5-minute walk from where we were staying!) where, when the van driver finally found the right boatman, the boatman asked us for the itinerary. We didn't have it. It's the tour operator's responsibility to inform and hand over the itinerary to the boatman, not us. We boarded the boat and were made to wait because the tour operator still had not delivered the food for lunch and the snorkeling gear. 10 minutes of waiting...20...30...more text messages sent and calls made. When one of our friends have had enough, she took over the call and talked to the owner of Calamianes Expeditions and Ecotours. My friend's anger fired up when the owner herself did not sound concerned and gave a lame reason that they had so many guests to attend to. (If they could not handle many guests they could have just declined the day we made the booking and we could have just booked through another tour operator–there are so many in Coron.) Many tour boats have already left and we were still at the port simmering. We left the port at around 930AM, after an hour of waiting.
Again, N–O, NO! Here's another tour group (two days after us) that had a terrible experience with Calamianes Expeditions and Ecotours (when I checked their facebook page again, they had already disabled and deleted all reviews).
Do go on the Coron Ultimate Tour, just NOT with Calamianes Expeditions and Ecotours. N–O, NO!
A 45-minute tricycle ride (Php 800 for 5 pax, roundtrip, arranged through Kingfisher Park) from Coron Town and we found ourselves at the gate of Kingfisher Park, where Ale (short for Alejandro), the park ranger, welcomed us.
The small hut at the gate was lit by a single lightbulb and all the rest of the park was lit by moonlight. Even in the dark, we immediately knew we'd like this place. Or maybe it's our age and wanting to get away from crowds (we were the only guests at Kingfisher Park that night).
Blurry, blurry, starry, starry night. (Sorry, I had no tripod!)
Before starting the Starry Starry Night Tour (Php 300 per pax), the name of their one-hour firefly watching kayak tour, Ale took us to the boardwalk where we happily conversed in Visayan, telling us about himself and about the park, looking at constellations and trying out his newly installed constellation app. It was a good 15 minutes of free flowing conversation in our native tongues and staring at the moonlit surroundings before we had to go back to the shore to don lifevests, meet our guides, and start the tour.
Since none of us were experienced kayakers, we requested to have a guide per kayak. We were on three tandem kayaks and one three-seater kayak. And off we went gliding on the water with our guides doing all the paddling. Oh, what lazy bums we were! (If you'd like to paddle on your own, that is most welcome!)
Into the night we go
The guides shared bits and pieces about fireflies, taking us to trees where there were twinkling little fireflies. When my guide found out we were all Bisaya and when we all found out our guides (except for one) were Bisaya, that's when the serenity of the park was shattered. It was a big relief to speak in our own dialect! That's how the guides must have felt too for from then on they were on a roll with their jokes.
Don't know how to take photos of fireflies but, honest, there are fireflies in those trees!