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Violating Sanctions

An American Woman’s Listening Tour Through the Axis of Evil

Puerto Princesa Diving Something to Crow About

The Author By Kelly Hayes-Raitt | February 9th, 2008 | Comments 1 Comment »

Word got out: Every rooster in Puerto Princesa knows where I live and feels an obligation to greet me. Whoever said roosters “cock-a-doodle-do” romanticizes. They have a forlorn, throaty err-erer-er-EEEERRRRRRRR that is contagious to every other rooster like a gargling cough among phlegmy old ladies. And they feel the need to serenade me, continuously, from 4:00 in the morning.

Puerto Princesa is the main city in Palawan, an island group that stretches along the Philippine’s western border, and prides itself as the “green” state. Indeed, the city’s mayor, Edward Hagedorn, has won international recognition for attempting to instill a more ecological mindset.

Getting around Puerto Princesa is a breeze, if a smoggy one, that leaves a diesel taste in one’s mouth. Tricycles abound. These are motorcycles with roomy side metal carriages that form a cocoon overhead, cracked plexiglas windshields and open side doors to ease in-and-out jumping. The fare is fixed, depending on whether it’s a “short” (6 pesos) or a “long” ride (7 pesos). Sometimes, the driver will arbitrarily pick up a second passenger, squeezing him or her into the tight seat.

Whole families climb into the tricycles, with a second adult straddled on the motorcycle seat behind the driver, children sitting on the floor of the “cab,” teenagers hanging onto the top…They look like the old cartoon of the clowns spilling from the Volkswagen Bug.

Getting out of Puerto Princesa is another story altogether. The flight to Coron Town, the northernmost city in the island group with legendary wreck diving, leaves Mondays and Wednesdays, most weeks. The Super Ferry, which takes a non-super 12 hours, leaves Sundays, with several fares for food and non-food, air con and non-air-con. And the Negros Ferry leaves Saturdays, but not this Saturday.

So, if one arrives on the Tuesday flight from Manila with the hope of moving on to greener dive pastures in a day or two, as I did, one must think again.

Diving here, though, is, to use a phrase we divers hesitate to use, breathtaking. The reefs are healthy, underdived, teeming with all sorts of alien life-forms. In two dives today, I hovered two feet from a turtle resting on the reef, swam eyeball-to-eyeball with a cuttle fish that startled me as much as I did him (her?), spied on a sleeping octopus, lost count of the suspended lion fish, and gaped at a frogfish the size of a dinner plate camouflaged against bright lime green elephant ear coral. (Moana Hotel & Diving Center:

Settling in to Puerto Princesa has its further advantages: Food is a great bargain. Two hundred pesos (about $5) buys fresh tuna, steamed in tomatoes and other vegetables and served with garlic sauce or ground papaya. Or jumbo shrimp served with spinach and rice.

Or chicken, of which I’ve become uncommonly fond, in the hope I can reduce the rooster population.

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Category: , Philippines
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One Response to “Puerto Princesa Diving Something to Crow About”

  1. John Reinke Says:

    Don’t forget to try the worms that are found in mangrove trees!

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