For my 32nd birthday, my husband and I decided to fly to Coron, Palawan (airport code: USU/ Busuanga) with my niece and her friends. We were all together when we chanced upon an airline sale and decided to just book it even though I was pregnant.
We were supposed to join them for five whole days just re-exploring the islands near Coron town (this trip was our 3rd time in Coron), but a few weeks before our trip, I learned from THIS page that there have been dugong sightings everyday!
Dugongs (also known as seacow/ baboy-dagat) are mammals found in the shallow coastal and island waters of the tropics and sub-tropics in the Indo-Pacific region, from East Africa to the Soloman Islands and Vanuatu. They are often mistaken as manatees but manatees are different species. They are from the same order, though (order: Sirenia). In the Philippines, it’s quite rare to see them most especially because they were hunted in the 90’s. We once saw them from a boat in Mati, Davao Oriental, but we were not able to swim with them. I only saw their tails! It has always been part of my Philippine bucketlist to swim with these beautiful creatures! More information on dugongs HERE.
So when I found out that there were sightings of a pregnant dugong, a mom and calf, and just regular adult dugongs everyday the weeks before we arrived Coron, I made sure to book at a resort that was most convenient for dugong-watching.
There are very few resorts (only 3, I believe) that are convenient for dugong-watching because its location is on the other end of Coron Town (which is the more common jumpoff point for island hopping activities)! Of the three, EL RIO Y MAR is the best in terms of facilities and convenience. After all, the dive center that does the trips for Dugong Watching is stationed there.
Since this was our last big trip before I pop, we splurged a little and made it our BABYMOON (our honeymoon before the baby arrives!)
We ended up booking two nights in El Rio Y Mar (how to book at the end of this post).
Admittedly, their beach is so-so, especially for Coron. We did not swim in their beach. But here are the things we absolutely loved in this resort:
- The new diving pool! Super fun to just swim and hang out there!
- The activities – before we arrived, there was a storm that broke the satellite across the island, so we barely had signal and internet connection. However, we were constantly entertained! We did a little of kayaking and more of paddle boarding (it wasn’t as easy doing it on my 6th month, but it was still a lot of fun!)! My husband snorkeled along the house reef, while I watched the sunset. And then at night, we would play table tennis or board games. All these at no extra cost. They offer massages and spa treatments, too (they even have a floating cottage where you can do these), but unfortunately, they have nothing to offer for pregnant women, so we skipped this part!
- Their nooks for R&R – the native hammocks and native lounge chairs were used in heavy rotation!
- The boat ride going to the resort. It’s a peaceful ride through mangroves and seas. We were even able to spot Palawan wild birds like White-Browed shama and Stork-Billed Kingfisher while cruising the mangroves.
- Their room – comfortable bed and huge bathroom!
- Their food – for an island resort, their prices are not bad at all. AND they have good food!
- The staff – very friendly and hospitable! They even gave me a birthday cake, whee!!
The day after we arrived, we left for dugong-watching! This tour has a minimum of 4 persons. This number is what would determine if a tour pushes thru or not. We paid PHP 3500/person to go to several feeding grounds of dugongs along the Busuanga Coast (about 2 hours away from the resort). This only includes snorkeling with the dugongs and does not include lunch so we had to order food from the resort the night before. My husband also opted to pay more for (1) round of scuba diving. Since I was pregnant, I couldn’t join their dive.
I really loved the boat we used, though! I love dive boats in general, because they’re huge and has amenities like a toilet, an area for coffee/tea, and huge benches where I can comfortably sleep. But I really loved how this boat had a mattress that I could put on the nets of the boat for resting.
We were lucky to have spotted the dugongs! We did not see the pregnant dugong nor the mom and calf, but we saw 3 or 4 adult dugongs! It really was surreal seeing them underwater! They’re so beautiful!!! No wonder they are also sometimes called sirena (mermaid) or lady of the sea!
I was so thankful to be snorkeling with a Filipino boatman/dive guide (they really are hospitable – trust me, we’ve gone diving abroad!). I was so spoiled because I was pregnant! Since the activity required long swims (I mean, we were going after the dugongs – from a safe distance!), he was pulling me to help me move faster!
I already forgot the names of the islands we went to, but while my husband and the rest of the crew were diving, I was left alone on board with the captain and one more staff. And though I was missing out on the dive, I had the best surprise of my life: I had about 20 sightings of pawikans (sea turtles)!! They are my favorite sighting underwater! Whenever we scuba dive, they’re the creatures that excite me the most! So imagine my happiness seeing about 20 of them from the boat! I have never seen that many in an hour!
After 2 nights, we went to Coron Town (other side of El Rio Y Mar) to meet my niece and her friends. We slept with them for the next 2 nights and went for a day of island hopping with them! We revisited some of the usual spots: Barracuda Lake (this is one of the best dive spots in Coron!), Skeleton Wreck, and Twin Lagoon. We left late that day so we were not able to cover much, but we had so much fun snorkeling and kayaking! I must say though, my tummy was already making it a bit hard for me to kayak! But I couldn’t help it! The waters were calling! 😛
We went home with jellyfish and insect bites, but honestly, we’re so used to not having perfect skin in exchange of these experiences!
Someday, we’d love to go into the wild and look for dugongs again, with our son in tow.
Philippines, you never cease to amaze us!
- You can book El Rio Y Mar or other resorts in Coron through our travel agency. Email us for packages at Travel@OurRestlessFeet.com. You can visit our website (it’s not that updated though).
- You can also book it through Agoda. Click THIS to book (just change the date).
- All photos above are our photos (my husband and I) except for the photo of the dugong, which is from HERE. You can also check them out for Dugong updates!