January 21-28, 2014: Our next destination after pulling up anchor near Calauit Island was just a few hours south along the western coast of Busuanga Island. Along the way as we passed between innumerable small islands, we spotted several small fishing villages and dozens of tiny bancas with solo fishermen, countless strings of floats that signal the presence of pearl farms and one massive new resort that had taken over an entire island (and looked more than a little out of place). I suppose there was one good thing about the resort, which we learned later. They had installed a massive cell tower on the island. It wasn’t pretty to look at, but it was the only signal along this coast and provided cellular service to the people of the area.
The day was partly cloudy, the temperature was warm but not too hot, the breeze felt good and we’d left behind the ocean swells when we entered into the islands. If you squinted just right, you could almost imagine being back home in British Columbia on a perfect summer day and boating amongst the Gulf Islands. At least until you spotted a banca.
We arrived at the Busuanga Yacht Club [add website link] just after lunch and selected one of their empty moorings in the bay. It’s a very sheltered spot although we had recently met another yachtie whose boat was dragged clear across the bay still attached to the mooring when Typhoon Yolanda screamed through here last November. At least we didn’t have any bad weather on the horizon.
After checking in and finding the resort associated with the yacht club, Puerto del Sol, rather empty, we went to find out more about diving on the rest of the WWII Japanese wrecks situated in the area. That was one of the main reasons we wanted to come back to this area. Although we intended to stay for just a couple of days, we ended up staying a week and logging 10 dives. More on the diving in a separate post coming soon.
Our dive guide for much of our stay was a lovely Filipina named Elsie. She helps out at D’ Divers [add web link] when they are extra busy. Since their two regular guides were busy with a large group of Russian divers, the rest of us (Chris and Sandra and an American named Bruce), dove with Elsie. I think the four of us had a lot more fun than the Russians did. I don’t think any of them ever smiled.
One of our dive day excursions took us to Black Island, known on the chart as Malajon Island. We had passed it on our way south. It was probably actually closer to Calauit Island than to the yacht club, so we ended up retracing a lot of our journey down…albeit much faster this time around on the dive boat. Between dives we swam to the island and explored a couple of caves and checked out the massive erosion to the beach, yet another legacy of Typhoon Yolanda. The only thing keeping the remaining sand in place were intertwined roots of the coconut palms lining the beach. It appears that much of the sand between the sea and the palms had been washed away and now lay over much of the coral reef. And much of the coral had been broken up and lay in bits littering the beach. Things were not as they should be.
On another day between dives, we managed to get our dive banca wedged onto the house reef just off Sangat Island. I guess we’d cut the turn into the channel a little too sharp and the prop stuck fast. The tide was pretty low after all. While Chris took a turn trying to push us off the reef using a long bamboo pole, the rest of us (Elsie, Bruce, the boatman and I) were in the water up to our waists pushing as small waves lifted the boat slightly. We eventually managed to get the hull off the reef and laughed that we’d prevented yet another wreck dive site.
Elsie had recommended we try the lobster curry at a little place in the town of Concepcion nearby. So one day we trekked over to Ann & Mike’s restaurant to give it a try. She was right. It was excellent. It was here where we met an oddly cute little puppy named Binga. Just three and a half months old, she has enormously big ears, is very long and low and has a spotty short-haired coat. Bruce wanted nothing more than for Chris and I to adopt her and take her with us back to MOKEN. I have to admit it was tempting but what would we do with a dog? I’m pretty sure Nukaat would not have been impressed.
Après diving, we spent our evenings at Puerto del Sol, Ann and Mike’s, another resort in the bay called Al Faro or occasionally dining aboard MOKEN. Even Elsie invited us up to enjoy the sunset views from Elsie’s Kitchen one evening. She’s hoping to open a small restaurant there soon. There were a couple of other options that we didn’t try, including a super high end new resort called Busuanga Bay Lodge and an African themed restaurant. One was not our style and we weren’t sure if the other one was officially open yet. About five years back, there was nothing in this bay. Things are obviously changing quickly.