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  • Writer's pictureMaureen Pfaff

Philippines Island hopping on Christmas - Typhoon Edition

Updated: Jun 12, 2020

With almost 8,000 islands, what better way to see the Philippines than island hopping your way around from one to the next, whilst eating freshly caught food, with a group of like minded people? That's exactly what we had planned minus the typhoon... Trip Plan here.


If you want an easy weekend trip, the Philippines are not the place. Even from Singapore the Philippines are a pain to fly to. You’ll always need at least two flights if not a boat or land transfer on top of that. Unless you want to stay in the capital, Manila, then it's a straightforward journey, but a very different city trip. Obviously we wanted to get to the best beaches, with our first stop being El Nido on the island Palawan.

After a night in Manila, we were off to El Nido on the first morning flight. Other than the capital most of the other airports in the Philippines can only be reached by national airlines, and are usually serviced by the tiniest planes. It's great fun, but something to consider if you are not into flying.

Arriving in El Nido was an experience. The small airport with its single gate was just the beginning. I loved the tuk tuks that were waiting for us outside the airport to take us into the city centre!

Onto the boat

After a day in El Nido exploring the city centre and the beach, we registered with Tao Experiences. Tao means 'human' in Filipino, and is an incredible local organization run by people who are from the islands they took us too. During the registration we met all the other people we would be spending the next five days with. A total of twenty people with five additional crew and we were all ready for adventures. Our boat left the next morning.

The group of people we got to know during the next few days was amazing. From the moment we stepped foot on the boat our group felt like a family. There were people from all over the world and we ended up having the funniest evenings playing dobble, cards and werewolves on the most remote islands.

The daily routine

We spent the days moving from island to island, and from one snorkeling site to the next. On each island we would either play some volleyball, sunbathe, hike or go swimming. Sometimes when it got way too hot, we would take the volleyball into the water and play whilst throwing ourselves into the waves. It was the most blissful feeling to be on these isolated islands, far from civilisation.

On some of the islands we were able to visit the local villages and meet our crew’s families. It was a truly lovely experience. During one of those visits we were shown the school that all the kids would congregate at every morning. It consisted of a room with a black board and a wooden bench in it. You can see it in the photo on the left, the kids were so proud to show it to us.

After playing with the local kids and buying some snacks we kayaked back to the boat and went off to our next destination. Forever pushing on and exploring Palawan.


Tao experiences had a whole route mapped out for us, which you can see here on the right. We started in El Nido (bottom) and made it all the way to Coron (top right) whilst stopping on different small islands every night. These islands had accommodation camps set up for us.

In the afternoon of each day we would make slowly head to the next island after a full day of snorkeling our way through different dive sites. Once we arrived at the new island for the night, things would get busy. Our necessities needed to be taken to land, and we had to set up our bungalows. These bungalows were simple, but super comfortable. Made out of wood and fitted with mosquito nets, it was the most beautiful thing to essentially sleep outside and wake up to sunrise in the morning. Sometimes we would even set an alarm to get up before sunrise and watch it on the beach. There was one night when we had three little birds who slept in the bungalow with us even!

The food

I was quite worried about the food to be honest, as we would be on a boat for five days, and I don’t eat seafood. My expectation was that I’d be not eating much during that time and had brought ample snacks. However, I ended up not eating any of them! The food was some of the best I had ever eaten before. It was freshly prepared every day. For breakfast this included banana pancakes, eggs, toast and fruit. For lunch and dinner we had fresh veggies, meat and yes, a lot of seafood. The crew fished fresh squid from the back of the boat, which my friends called the best seafood they have ever had.

We also had fresh meat though. To explain how fresh the meat was, let me tell you that on one of our island visits we bought a living pig. Now, this might put some people off, but that pig definitely had one of the best lives ever, running around on a desolate Filipino island. The pig was then roasted on one of the islands for five hours and became our Christmas Eve dinner.

During dinner some of the local women came to perform Christmas songs with their kids. Hearing them sing ‘O Holy Night’ brought tears to my eyes. It felt so surreal to be on a tropical island with 25 people in 30°C and listen to Filipinos singing Christmas Carols whilst eating roasted pork.

The Typhoon

Half way through our trip and on Christmas Eve when we were staying on a beautiful island (where else), we heard from our crew through their satellite telephone that a typhoon had hit the Philippines. It was heading straight towards us. Typhoon 'Phanfone', called 'Ursula' locally, upgraded from a tropical storm, and turned into a full-blown typhoon. Fun times! That meant we were stuck on that island, without any form of communication (i.e. sadly no Merry Christmas messages to our family). On top of that the island was surrounded by box jellyfish, which were apparently also seeking refuge within the protected area we were in. That meant no swimming either, as these box jellyfish produce extremely potent venom. We decided to go hiking instead, and had the leftover pork from our Christmas dinner, served on banana leaves (as you can see in the photo above).

We were mostly protected by the islands from the worst of the typhoon and only experienced a huge amount of rain and wind for a couple of days. Once this had passed, we were ready to move on and departed to our final destination before arriving in Coron.

The final days

The camp we spent the last couple of days at couldn’t have been more dreamy. Crystal blue waters, perfect weather, and kayaking & beach volleyball to our hearts content. On top of that we had masseuses on the island and indulged in cocktails and amazing food.

Last but not least we went on a beautiful hike to one of the view points. It took us to the other side and opened up a view over some of the other beaches there were. We were truly in the middle of nowhere with no civilisation in sight.

Back at the camp, we packed up and made our way back to the boat and made our way to our final destination Coron. Saying goodbye to the group and the crew was really hard. It had been one of the best Christmases we had ever had (most of us the first time away from home), despite typhoon, and we had all become a family during this time.

“Life happens whilst you are busy making other plans”
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