Somewhere for Holy Week: top 5 short breaks

What do you feel like doing this Holy Week—a trek to an active volcano or a tour of the country's gorgeous beaches? We have the pick of five adventure tours for 2016, from P560 (US$11)

By Monica De Leon

1 El NIDO'S TOUR C SNORKEL TOUR 
P1,400 per person plus P13,366 roundtrip air fare

Matinloc Island, part of El Nido Boutique and Art Cafe's Tour C Snorkel Tour

You just have to take one look at this photo of El Nido's huge expanse of sky and sea, the glassy waters so clear you could see through it, to convince you to book a tour of this paradise island. Long time El Nido tour operator, El Nido Boutique and Artcafe, offers what it calls Tour C, its big snorkel tour that takes you to Matinloc Island, the longest island in El Nido, where the Secret Beach, a hidden pocket of white sand beach, can be found. Tour stops include Tapuitan Island, the Matinloc Shrine, Hidden beach, Helicopter Island and the 100-meter-long Kulasa Beach, a fine white-sand beach cove. Tour price includes barbecue lunch at the beach.

Book your tours with El Nido Boutique and Artcafe. Tours are from 9am to 4pm. Air Swift flies from Manila to El Nido. 

Paradise found: El Nido's Entalula Beach. Photo by Jocas See

2 SANGAT ISLAND CORAL GARDEN AND WW11 SHIPWRECK TOUR 
P950 per person plus P9,653 roundtrip air fare

Sangat Island: Coconut trees and crystal clear waters. Photo by Tootoots Leyesa

Sangat Island Coral Garden & WWII Shipwreck Tour takes you around the islands and Busuanga and Coron in Palawan, home to 24 sunken ships bombed during World War II. One of the sunken ships in the area surrounding Sangat Island, about 2km off the coast of Busuanga, is the 35-meter long Tangat Gunboat, still intact but now covered by vibrant corals and fishes. Tangat Gunboat is in the shallow water close to Sangat, with water depth at a minimum of three feet to a maximum of 19 feet. Another stop in the tour is the Coral Garden, a marine sanctuary found between Sangat Island Resort and the hot springs. It has reefs with vertical drop offs, small caves, with the water's depth from one meter to 25 meters. Other tour stops are Decalve Reef and the Ruyukan Mangrove Channel. Visits to Sangat Hot Springs depend on the tidal condition.

Kayaking around Sangat Island. Photo by Tootoots Leyesa

The tour takes the whole day, starting at 8:30am and ending at 4:30pm. The package includes guided tour, lunch, entrance fee, boat transfers and life vest. Pay P150 if you’d like to rent snorkeling gear.The tour has a minimum of six people per group. Book ahead but expect to get a tour confirmation a day before your desired tour schedule unless you’re part of a party of six already. You can also ask the tour operator for a private, customised tour. Book at Calamianes Expeditions. Book your flight with Skyjet Airlines or Cebu Pacific Air. Roundtrip Manila to Coron airfare is about P9,653 on the Hopper app. Download Hopper to check the best air fares.

3 CORON ISLAND ULTIMATE TOUR 
P650 per person plus P6,000 roundtrip air fare

Snorkeling in Calamian in Palawan. Photo by Christian Sangoyo

Calamianes Expeditions Travel & Tours offers a tour of Coron, north of Palawan, including a hike to Kayangan Lake, a lake within mountain walls; swimming and snorkeling at Twin Peaks Reef, a beautiful snorkeling spot; and more snorkeling at Calachuchi Coral Garden, a large coral jutting out of the water, teeming with marine life; a stop at Hidden Lagoon, a pristine lagoon with tranquil waters and limestone formations. Lunch is a seafood picnic at Isla Bulungan, also known as Expedition Island, notable for its white sand beach. After lunch, tbere's swimming and snorkeling at Coron Youth Club Island, followed by a sunset cruise back to town. The tour takes the whole day, starting at 8:30am and ending at 4:30pm. The group meets at the Calamian Expeditions Travel & Tours’ office in the main town.

The package includes guided tour, lunch, entrance fee, boat transfers and life vest. Pay P150 (about US $3) if you’d like to rent snorkeling gear. The tour requires a minimum of six people per group. Book ahead, but expect to get a tour confirmation a day before your desired tour schedule unless you’re part of a party of six already. Book the tour with Calamianes Expeditions Travel & Tours. To get to Coron from Manila, book Skyjet Airlines or Cebu Pacific Air.  Roundtrip Manila to Coron airfare is about P6,000 on the Hopper app.

4 CORREGIDOR HISTORICAL WALKING TOUR 
P1,800 per person plus P1,400 ferry transfers

Tour of the mile-ling barracks at Topside, Corregidor. Photo by Bernard Supetran
 

This walking tour of Corregidor Island, off Bataan, takes you to historic World War II landmarks on the island. Corregidor was once a fortress where Filipinos, alongside the Americans, fought bravely against the Japanese during the war. In 1941, under the military command of General Douglas McArthur, Corregidor became the Allied Forces’ headquarters and seat of the Philippine Commonwealth government. The tour focuses on attractions at the Topside, the island’s biggest area that faces the West Philippine Sea, and includes stops at the Japanese Tunnel, the Pacific, which bears The Pacific War Memorial, the Spanish Lighthouse, built in 1896 to warn against approaching galleons or enemies during the Spanish colonial era, and the Battery Way, a sequence of four 12-inch mortars built to defend Manila Bay. The tour, which starts at 9:30am, takes about four hours. If you want to stay longer on the island and make a day of it, you can watch the Lights and Sound Show at Malinta Tunnel (additional P200 per person) and take a zipline ride at The Rocket (P100 per person). Buffet lunch at Corregidor Inn’s La Playa Inn is not part of the package cost but can be included by booking ahead and paying extra (P480 per person on weekdays; P520 per person on weekends).  


Zipline ride in Corregidor. Photo by Bernard Supetran

Book the Corregidor Historical Walking tour with Sun CruisesTo get to the ferry terminal for your ride to Corregidor, go to Esplanade Seaside Terminal at SM Mall of Asia in Pasay and take the Corregidor-bound ferry. If you book the walking tour, ferry transfers are already included in the package cost. But if you want to explore the island on your own, pay P1,400 for roundtrip ferry transfers on a weekday, and P1,500 on a weekend. Ferry fare rates include entrance fee to the island. 

5 TAAL VOLCANO'S REGULAR TOURIST TRAIL  
P2,800 fee per boat for up to five people or P560 per person

Pinched from @laurengcornbeef on Instagram

Taal Yacht Club’s Regular Tourist Trail is a day tour of the famous Taal Volcano, the second most active volcano in the Philippines located in the province of Batangas, south of Manila. The tour takes you by boat from the main yacht club to Taal Island, from where you start your guided 45-minute to one-hour trek to the crater of the volcano. You can get to the crater on horseback (P500 fee), which cuts travel time by about 10 to 20 minutes. Your guide will ensure you steer past some steam vents of the active volcano. At the rim of Taal, you’ll get a peek at what’s inside the crater, which is an inner lake, with another island inside it. 

On top of the package fee and the optional horse rental fee, you will also have to pay P100 tourism fee, and P50 boat landing fee. Book a tour at www.tlyc.com. To get to Taal Yacht Club, take a Nasugbu or Balayan, Batangas bound bus from the Buendia Terminal in Pasay City. These buses pass by Tagaytay City. Fare is about P80 per person. In Tagaytay, take a jeepney or a tricyle to Talisay. Taal Lake Yacht Club is on the west side of the Talisay proper, in the North Shore of Taal Lake. 

Note: Rates for all tours mentioned in this story may change any day so please check with the tour organizers and operators for updated rates.

Published February 2016

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