Minutes after finishing a fantastic prawn breakfast, we jumped into a tricycle for the three minute ride to the Coron town market, behind which was a small pier for bancas. We had earlier arranged to rent a banca for our use over the next two days and it was waiting for us there. We headed to Coron Island (Higantes to locals), an imposing mass of uneven rounded peaks that from afar looked like some impenetrable jungle covered South Pacific destination William Bligh might have come across. The quick 20+ minute journey on calm waters was refreshing. Closer in, it became apparent that this island was actually made up of jagged and extremely sharp limestone and that trees and shrubs were growing out of little crevices or pockets of soil, and also, instead of one big lump of rock which is the impression one gets from afar, there are lots of hidden coves, beaches, lagoons, etc.
Coron island is actually now considered the ancestral domain of the Tagbanua tribe of people, whose ancestors, according to some assertions, may have occupied the island for over 3,000 years!!! Where they live on this beautiful, but rather inhospitable landscape is beyond me. Apparently there are many caves on the island and some of these caves are used as burial groundsâ€¦ I didnâ€™t get enough of a historical tour to understand if one had to find your own cave or â€œapartmentâ€ then when you had passed on if they would move you to burial caves or you would just hang out forever in your caveâ€¦ But that is being flip. Letâ€™s just say I was totally fascinated by the fact that the indigenous tribe had been here for possibly 30 centuries! Today, the island is being administered by the Tagbanuans and any revenue from tourists goes to the upkeep of the tourist destinations. I think we had to pay P150 or P200 each to see the sights. Our first stop was a small cove and beach which served as the entrance point to Kayangan Lake, or sometimes referred to as the Blue Lagoon.
From sea level, one has to climb 150+ steps in a steep and highly vertical ascent. There are branch railings to help you steady yourself but it is an arduous climb for the couch potato. I managed the climb with just two short pauses to turn around and take some photos of the crystal clear blue waters from the approach to the beach. If you arenâ€™t keen on heights, donâ€™t look back down where you came from. Just when you think you have made it to a â€œpeak,â€ you have to descend steeply on the other side to get to the lake. It seemed like most folks could manage this climb but I have to say a bunch of extremely FIT looking tourists just minutes ahead of us had one of their group slip and take a NASTY fall, grazing her leg in a big way. So be careful. Kayangan lake itself is spectacular. Reaching it after the climb, one is instantly ready to strip off your clothes and dive into the clearest water I have seen in a freshwater Philippine lake. Actually, the water tasted a bit salty so I am not sure if it had seawater in it or if the concentration of minerals from thousands of years of evaporation gave the water a different taste.
Depending on the lighting, parts of the lake are STUNNINGLY BLUE, almost identical to the saltwater blue on the other side of the climb, hence the term blue lagoon, I suppose. There are also a LOT of fish in the lake, that I think, were also BLUE in color. I suppose the thing to do is bring a kayak with you and head a little further into the lake but we were on express tour mode so we stayed for a while to enjoy the water and take a photo or two then decided to head back to the banca and have our adobo pack lunch before heading onto to other sights on the island. Kayangan lake was utterly beautiful; definitely worth the climb and if you somehow happen to get it all to yourself (off-season or off-hours, less tourists), consider yourself extremely lucky.
From Kayangan Lake we passed by Barracuda Lake (very jagged rocks on a short climb) but noticed a lot of other bancas waiting so we skipped that and headed to the twin lagoons, a beautiful protected cove where one has to literally swim under some rocks to get to the second lagoon. The tide was extremely high so bringing a camera to the other lagoon was impossible but nevertheless the natural beauty of the place, jagged limestone cliffs, crystal clear water in several hues of blue, the greenery were all awe inspiring. Frankly, my photos donâ€™t do the place justice, but let your imagination run all the way to the right and you havenâ€™t reached reality yet. These are the kinds of settings that inspire you to consider that we are so privileged as a nation to have these natural wonders, and yet so utterly irresponsible and stupid not to collectively manage our own affairs in a manner that allows us to preserve many of these sites and to make it possible for the majority of our citizens and their descendants after, to see and appreciate them.