Details: Palawan, Philippines
So I cracked open another beer, resigned myself to my fate and gazed at the distant green islands in the mesmerizingly blue South China Sea that surrounded me. If I was about to be cannibalized by a horde of hungry tourists, this would be a pretty spectacular place to go.
On most trips, an announcement that the food had run out might provoke some concern. On Tao Philippines’ five-day boat trip from El Nido to Coron in the western Philippines, though, minor crises were just part of the fun.
So the next day, after the inevitable suggestions that we simply live on beer and rum for the rest of the trip, a French tourist threw a fishing line into the water and finally reeled in a tuna. Crouching on the deck of the boat, sunburned and glistening with sweat, we cut the fish into pieces and ate it raw with tiny calamansi limes. (It was — and I don’t say this lightly — one of the best meals of my life.)
Then we sailed to a tiny tropical island, hacked palm fronds and coconuts apart with machetes, and used the pieces to build a bonfire on the long white beach.
Okay, so it wasn’t quite “Lord of the Flies” or “Survivor.” But we were very far from Manhattan.
Of boats and bikinis
In recent years, travel bloggers have hailed Palawan Island in the western Philippines as Asia’s new “final frontier,” tempting tourists away from better-known destinations in Thailand and Bali. The island’s coastline, more than 1,242 miles,boasts some of the most beautiful white-sand beaches in the world. In fact, rumor has it that Alex Garland, author of “The Beach,” actually lived on Palawan while writing his best-selling novel about a group of tourists who discover the world’s most perfect secret cove.
But even more breathtaking than Palawan itself (if that’s possible) are the tiny, sparsely inhabited islands sprinkled across the South China Sea between Palawan and the northern island of Coron. And the only way to see those is by boat.
Tao Expeditions’ multi-day trips appeal to travelers who want to drop off the grid and indulge in a temporary Robinson Crusoe fantasy on remote tropical islands without a single resort or restaurant in sight. (“We do not guarantee that you will have a nice relaxing time. Barking dogs. Crowing Roosters. Mosquito bites. Jellyfish stings,” the Tao Web site declares. “We love it.”)
For five days, 12 other tourists and I, along with our guide and crew of three, would sail from island to island on a small outrigger boat, sleep on beaches, and buy our food from local fishermen and villages along the way. There would be no itinerary. There would be no WiFi. There would be no cellphone signal. Most alarmingly, there would be no Twitter.