May 6-12, 2018: We were excited when our niece, Nadya, who was volunteering in Bali, decided she’d stop in the Philippines for a week on her way back to Canada. We dithered on whether to hang in El Nido until she arrived or chill in Port Barton instead. The scenic beauty of El Nido is unbeatable, but Port Barton won from a logistical standpoint as it’s much closer to the airport in Puerto Princesa, cutting travel time each way from eight hours down to three.
While Chris and Nukaat stayed put on MOKEN, I went to Puerto to meet Nadya’s flight, which was, not surprisingly, late arriving from Manila. We spent the evening in town hanging out with Richard and checking out a couple of his favourite spots, notably Captain Ribs.
The next morning, we caught an early bus to Port Barton and introduced Nadya to life on board MOKEN. It was a relaxing day, involving swims off the boat, sundowners on the beach at the Happy Bar and way too much pizza in town at Gorgonzola where we plotted our activities for the next few days.
Up early and after coffee, Nadya went for a couple of try dives with Martyn at Aquaholics dive centre. We were hoping he’d get her hooked on diving, and it worked. Afterwards, she signed up to complete her open water certification.
We celebrated that evening with sundowners at Happy Bar, followed by dinner at Mojitos. This was turning out to be our favourite evening combination during our time in Port Barton.
The following day was all about dive theory. After breakfast at the funky Moon Café on the beach, we headed back to MOKEN so Nadya could complete her dive course bookwork and watch a bunch of dive videos on board.
Later on, we suggested a break and took her exploring by dinghy. We went swimming at Starfish Island, headed into the mangroves, and topped it off by snorkeling at White Beach. We tried to enjoy a cold beer on the beach, but a horde of sand fleas chased us into the water. That evening involved (you guessed it) sundowners at Happy Bar, but we mixed it up a little and went for dinner at Olive Crib for a change, where we met up with fellow cruisers, Brian and Joven (Stella), Jens and Ai Ai (Wayra), and Sie (Freebird).
Nadya set off in the morning to complete the final dives of her course. After a huge downpour in the afternoon, we all decided it would be a good idea to take Nukaat for his first ever dinghy ride and first trip to the beach. We popped him into a beach bag for the ride in the dinghy. He was wide eyed and terrified, but luckily stayed put as we putt-putted slowly over to Starfish Island, a little sandy atoll about 30 feet across. Nukaat was not impressed when we let him roam free and he headed straight back to the dinghy of all places. After a couple more enforced explorations, he finally jumped back in the beach bag and sat there for the duration. I expect the big open sky and lack of places to hide had him feeling a bit too exposed. We were soon joined by Ian and Marilyn (Songlines) and Sie for sundowners, then headed to The Reef for burgers in celebration of Marilyn’s birthday.
For Nadya’s last day in Port Barton, we booked an island hopping tour together with Sie, Ian and Marilyn. Our guide, Jhun, loaded us and our gear into his banca and we set off to our first snorkel stop at Twin Reefs. Next up, there was snorkeling with turtles near German Island in a downpour followed by a grilled lunch on a private beach. The afternoon included more snorkeling in a marine sanctuary near Wilson Head, a break at Double Island to check out an exposed sandbar and one final snorkel stop at Fantastic Reef.
After all that, Nadya still had to write the final exam for her dive course. She passed and became the latest in our family to get certified. We celebrated with sundowners at the Happy Bar and dinner at Yoske’s to wind up Nadya’s visit with us.
In the morning, we took Nadya into town to catch her van to the airport in Puerto Princesa. She was a great and very easy going boat guest and it was sad to send her off. Of course, she’s welcome back anytime.
Next up we take our first look at Kota Kinabalu and Borneo. Stay tuned.