Roughly 4-5 hours from Manila lies Fortune Island, a semi-isolated-used-to-be-super-private island off Nasugbu, Batangas. They say this is as close to Greek’s ancient ruins as could be possible, with the clear blue waters as your backdrop! Who would have thought that the typhoon destruction to an uber exclusive island paradise would result to a steadily becoming popular destination for beach bums and island campers? Known for its picturesque rows of Athens-like pillars and half-destroyed half-gorgeous statues, Fortune Island gives each traveler a nice reward for climbing atop the stairway-lined hill that leads to it’s “viewpoint ruins” and, as my friends saw and experienced, cliffs and caves. To reach Fortune Island, take the San Agustin Bus line at Coastal Mall in Pasay, going to Nasugbu (3-4 hours, PhP 200-220 AC (about $5), PhP 130-150 (about $3.5) non-AC). From there, take a 15-minute tricycle ride to Fortune Resort Dive Center (pre-booking necessary with caretakers Mang Dante 09394895292 or Chris 09087225628 is necessary) which is the jump-off point to Fortune Island. The 45-minute 10 pax-max boat ride costs around PhP 6000/$135, plus PhP 400/$9 island entry fee (overnight price, negotiable; day trip is cheaper). With upper limit calculations, that’s about PhP 1250/$28. Add in food, booze and other expenses, a beach camping (yep, no rooms) weekend at Fortune Island would be about PhP 1700/$38 which, I must say, is quite cheap to “experience” Greece and of course, enjoy the Philippines’ endless summer with the company of family and friends under the sun and stars. [Special thanks to Hazelle for organizing this CouchSurfing trip back in May and providing all these info I’ve already forgotten.]
Who would’ve thought that a mere 2, ok, 2.5 hours public transport commute from Manila, you can already enjoy an awesome waterfalls retreat, more so that of Daranak Falls?! It was a fine Saturday morning when we trooped to Daranak Falls for a fun day trip. Armed with nothing but knowledge from other blogger’s post and personally, some worries from colleague-resident’s caution that Daranak Falls is no longer as clean and beautiful as it was before, we braved the zigzaggy road with nice mountain landscape (Sierra Madre?) scenes of Rizal and were not disappointed with what waited for us. The Daranak Falls was super impressive that day — full of water and full of life, from the people swimming and from the nature that’s inviting. For a moment, I stood in awe at the wonder before our eyes then, took a deep breath as I jumped from the small cliff into it’s cold waters. The swimming pool of Daranak Falls was not super clear that day but still, it kept us treading and playing in its waters for a while — even challenging ourselves to climb further up where the water falls and to take a plunge once more!
While I’m on a 15-minute break (which I’m not sure I can afford given my day’s to do list) after an official errand and enjoying an expensive coffee for the sake of a planner I don’t even use, I figured now’s as good a time as any to write about the Taal Volcano lakeception! Believed to be the smallest volcano in the world, Taal Volcano is one of the most popular natural wonders in the Philippines, with it’s craters being a lake within a lake within a lake. As a traveler, I’ve always had the image of Taal Volcano as in the picture-perfect crater cone you always see in Tagaytay, a popular highland tourist destination 2 hours or less south of Manila. The thing is, the “crater” we see is apparently nothing but a “dead” big mound of land. The actual crater, shown in this photo, is located in the island at the back (if your viewpoint is from Tagaytay) of the big mound. After a 20-25 minute outrigger boat ride (PhP 1500/5pax, PhP 500 for guide which I think you can skip) from the mainland jump off point and a 1.5 hour easy trek (PhP 50 or 100(?)/pax entry; normally it’s an hour only but we walked leisurely, taking photos now and then), we finally reached the crater. I’ve never been on a volcano before so I didn’t really know what to expect other than that of the photos. And nope, I was not disappointed! The Taal Volcano crater was calm and peaceful, the opposite of the exhilarating and adrenaline-pumping feeling you get when you stand near the edge of the “red lava” area (additional PhP 50)! If you have even just a spare day and especially if you’re with friends, you should totally do the Taal Volcano trek — it was really cool and awesome! 🙂
As part of my great East Indian journey where I saw my first snow-capped mountain in Darjeeling and learned more about colonial India in Kolkata two years ago while volunteering in India, I paid my VSO batchmate co-volunteer Sue a visit at her placement area in Puri, Odisha.
Over the weekend, I had a really fun, active and amazing beach camping trip with fellow CouchSurfers and friends at Grande Island in Pagbilao, Quezon. We played Frisbeach (frisbee at the beach), Tug of War and Takeshi bang bang! Add drinking brandy under the stars, eating smores and Banana de Hanne (chocolate-stuffed char-grilled bananas), playing with magical luminous planktons, and the pleasure of CouchSurfers’ company — yep, an awesome 27th Frisbeach Weekend indeed! Home to the so-called Puting Buhangin (translation: white sand), the Grande Island also has the Kwebang Lampas as it’s main attraction. Kweba means “cave” and Lampas (with the meaning earlier debated in the group) in this case means “through” — you can enter the cave from the main beach on one end and then come out on the other end of the beach. We only went to the cave at low tide so no swimming through for us! We were so enamored (big word! haha) with the beauty of Puting Buhangin –sand so white, sky so blue and water so clear — that we only checked out Kwebang Lampas the morning before we departed!
How to get there: The area where we stayed is not the easiest to reach, especially on public transport. We left the Jam Bus Terminal in Buendia at about 3am (fare P210), arrived at Lucena Grand Terminal at about 7am, had breakfast and then got on a rented jeepney to Pagbilao to do our supplies shopping. From there, we proceeded to Brgy, Ibabang Polo (fare if total commute: P20 (?) to Pagbilao, P35, for Ibabang Polo and 50-100 for tricycle) as our final land transport stop. Towards the end of the Pagbilao Power Station, a coal-fired thermal power plant, we took a short banca (outrigger boat) ride to Grande Island (P185, including camping fee). From this point, and carrying all the supplies, the 18 weekend campers set on foot for about 10 minutes (seemed like forever!) navigating through some kind of forest trail. It was almost 10 or later I think when we finally reached the “entrance gate” of Grande Island. Give or take our stops, that’s about 5-6 hours of travel! But again, the charm and pull of Puting Buhangin and Kwebang Lampas more than compensated for it!