May 2016. I have seen a Video of Tao Philippines looking for explorers. The whole thing made me really excited and worried at the same time. I started checking Tao Philippines Website and saw their disclaimer which made me more excited. It says:
“Warning: This journey is not for everyone!
It might be bad weather, it might be rough waves, limited privacy, barking Dogs, crowing roosters, mosquito bites, jellyfish stings, sunburns. But that is the nature of the Tao, the unexpected, the unknown, stepping outside your comfort zone, diving into the experience. We love it, but we understand that this is not everyone’s idea of a holiday.
Before applying to take part in this experience you must understand that what Tao offers is not a tour or a hotel. We do not guarantee that you will have a nice relaxing time. In fact, we do not guarantee anything. You have to go with the flow and ultimately you are the deciding factor in the experience you have with Tao. This is a sociable trip for sociable people. You have to know that we only offer 50% of the experience, we offer the tools and framework for you to discover for yourself the true island culture of this remote tropical archipelago, the other 50% comes from you, your enthusiasm, your adventurous spirit, your conversation, YOU are the deciding factor.
…DO YOU STILL WANT TO JOIN THE EXPEDITION?”
A season of survivor was running through my mind. This must be REALLY GOOD! So I decided to do it.
The 5-day expedition costs around 500USD excluding plane tickets and hotels before and after the expedition. It’s a bit pricey but I’m telling you, It’s worth every penny!!! I made a reservation and paid 50% down payment through PayPal. By the way, I chose the ‘Open Group Expedition’. I booked a one-way ticket from Manila to Coron then another ticket from El Nido to Manila. The expedition will start from Coron and will end in El Nido. There’s also an expedition from El Nido to Coron which I heard is equally wonderful. I also booked a hotel in Coron because you have to attend a briefing at 5PM the day before the expedition starts. Then a hotel in El Nido because the expedition will end at around 6PM so I thought I would need some really good rest and shower after 5 days of sailing.
June 11, 2016, I have landed in Coron. I was a bit excited because at 5PM of that day, it’s the briefing and I will finally meet other explorers, people who I will spend the next 5 days with.
It’s 5PM. I went to the Tao Office and there I paid the remaining 50% and headed upstairs. I finally met the other explorers. We introduced each other and the Tao Staff had given us the DOs and DONTs during the trip. There will be 23 explorers! After the briefing, they made us drink what they call ‘JUNGLE JUICE’! It’s Rum mixed with pineapple!!! AND IT’S REALLY GOOD!!!
I got up early the next day. IT’S EXPEDITION DAY!!!! I checked out the hotel and headed to the Port. We boarded, had some safety checking with the Coast Guard then started sailing.
We have snorkelled massive coral reefs, dived in ship wrecks, and saw some sea turtles and huge jelly fish along the way!!! Too bad I didn’t have a GoPro! I’ll make sure I have it next time I do this trip!
Each night we would dock to a different island to spend the night. Each island has its own uniqueness. We slept in nipa huts. Since there’s NO electricity, obviously there’s NO air-conditioning unit, NO electric fan and NO WiFi, too. Gas lamps are the only source of light. WE WERE BACK TO BASIC; pretty much. No flush in the toilets and you only have like half a bucket of water for shower since the water is limited. Everyone has his own mosquito net because there will be hundreds of mosquitoes that will want to suck your blood like a vampire. LOL
TIP: Don’t forget to bring mosquito repellent and a flash light.
Every night you get to talk to people you haven’t met before and share some thoughts about life. We played games and that’s when I realized that technology isn’t really the best thing that happened in our lives. Technology has actually taken off some of the best things we used to have.
“Some people are so busy making a living that they forget to make a life. Don’t be one of them.”
We went to another island to pick some mangoes and bought some freshwater CRABS for our lunch the next day. WOOHOO!!
We have a chef on board. He cooked the best food that I have ever tasted. I’m not even exaggerating! Everything was fresh. And the rest of the CREW are the most enthusiastic people you’ll ever meet. Especially our Captain JIMBOY! He decides which route to take and when to dock. Whenever it’s dinner/lunch time, he would always shout ‘ATTAAACKKKK!!!’.
We also have a puppy on board. His name is LAYAG which means ‘to sail’ in English. LAYAG is the better swimmer than any of us!!!
Few days after, we went to Tao main camp to get some water that we need for few more days of sailing. There we also had a group shower with water taken from a deep well. They also made us use soap made from coconut. It took us back in time. I suddenly missed those days when life was so simple. I kinda wished I could turn back the time.
We continued sailing with loads of BEER and some more JUNGLE JUICE. We tried catching some fish using the typical Philippine fishing rod and hook. We caught a few. We weren’t that bad at fishing, you know!
We have spent most of our days snorkelling, chatting and eating while being surrounded by remote islands of the Philippines. Then at night we talk about where we’ve been and where some of us will go next.
We stopped by an island to buy a pig. You heard it right!! A live pig. The crew went to the shore using a kayak and came back with a live pig. The captain said that we will have a roasted pig for dinner on the next island. We roasted the poor pig for like 4 to 5 hours and it was a piece of heaven!!! We have finally eaten meat after 4 days of eating fish and veggies. The feeling was beyond amazing! It was like the happiest day of my life! LOL
I would say that our group has a really good diversity. BEST group of people I have ever shared the MOST LIFE CHANGING EXPERIENCE with.
It’s the fifth day and the expedition is almost over. We are approaching the port of El Nido. It was mixed feeling. I was happy that I could finally sleep like a baby and can have a proper shower but sad that the most AMAZING TRIP of my life is about to end. I will miss all my co-explorers and the crew. And of course LAYAG, the pup. Those five days made me appreciate all the simple things in life and made me realize that you need to DISCONNECT from the online world to CONNECT with real people.
I flew to Palawan ALONE and there I met what I call friends now.
If you ask me if I would do this this trip again, I’d say yes in a heartbeat.