It’s not the first time I’ve been to the Philippines, but it is the first time leaving our home there and exploring the islands. Things have been pretty rushed. I’ve generally been off from work just after the start of November, but planning this trip has taken up all my time since then. Basically, it’s been like a full time job – and now I see why travel agents are still employed. I couldn’t have done any of this without the support of my family. Not just the ones in the Philippines, whom I’ll be seeing face-to-face in a week, but the ones here, too. And then there’s a really good friend of mine who’s lending me her fancy hiking backpack, which potentially saves me $200!
We’re flying out in a week and going to:
- Visit family in the Manila area for a little over a day. Get SIM cards and all set up with Philippine Pesos.
- Fly out to Palawan, take a loooong 6hr bus ride north to El Nido….where we stay for 3 nights and enjoy white sand beaches! It’s supposed to be quite a laid back area, and less commercialized. I’m hoping for some amazing snorkeling and island hopping. I am worried that since we have to buy transportation on the spot, we may get ripped off or miss the bus or something like that. I hate not having reservations! It gives me room to worry and fantasize about worst case scenarios!
- Another 6 hour bus drive back south to Puerto Princesa, where we stay 2 nights. In the daytime, we explore Honda Bay (more snorkeling and island hopping). I hear this may not be as awesome as El Nido….but my cousin thinks it’ll be good, and I’m willing to try it out. There’s also the Underground River, which looks cool but I’m also wary because I’ve heard it’s a tourist trap. At the very least, I get to say I’ve done it all! I bet the bitter reviews I read were just written by princesses. We shall see in just over a week.
- Finally, we head to Boracay! The famed white sand beaches. My sister’s friends will be there to hang out with, drink with, do…I don’t know what. 4 nights of relaxation. We have the wedding to enjoy, and then a hectic journey back to Manila. We unfortunately have to take the long way home…another long bus ride to a ferry to a different airport, and then flight.
I’m not looking forward to all the traveling between islands…it’s quite hectic. We have to fly back to Manila between each island. And I’m not looking forward to the mosquitos, the 90% humidity, spider bites (I got some last time), pushy vendors, and possible scammers. I AM extremely, extremely excited for the beaches, turquoise blue water, <$10 USD full-body massages, fresh from the coconut juice, fresh EVERYTHING food….Great food is my main memory of the Philippines, and I’m really looking forward to eating everything. I’m generously estimating that it’ll cost me $600 USD to take care of my sister, my cousin, and myself once we’re there. That’s our food, transportation, our tours, one of the hotels that’s cash only…I’ve also planned for the massages :) Souvenirs may bump up the price a bit more, but this is one of those times the currency exchange works well in my favor. Two hotels were paid for in full by using airline miles, so that saved us maybe $300 right there.
Camera Gear in a Tropical Climate
But to be completely honest, I am spending spending a decent amount of money for “gear”. It’s because I’ve made things more complicated than it should be, by deigning to bring my DSLR along. We’re in a humid country and island hopping, so I have to take precautions against water damage, as that could lead to fungus. I’ve got a Canon T2i and the body is not weatherproof….but seems like that shouldn’t be an issue with my set up, unless I change lenses outdoors. But I’m just bringing one lens – my 24mm f/1.4 L lens II.
- A couple Sea to Summit Dry Lite Towels, XS and Small. One is going around my DSLR, while the larger one is for myself to dry off with. They’re not big enough to wrap around your torso, but I’m not going to be bathing in public any time soon :)
- A couple Sea to Summit eVac Dry Sacks, 13L and 8L. Got them a little larger than what I think I need, because you can always roll them smaller! One is for my camera, the other is for wet clothing that I may need to pack, a.k.a. my “just in case” dry bag. These things were pricier than I would like to have paid, but I also don’t want to take much risk with my camera. Message board users have informed me that stuffing my DSLR into a dry bag, with the camera wrapped in camp towels, is a good idea for the tropics. More reliable than a ziploc bag, to say the least. The reviews on Sea to Summit are amazing.
- A couple metal boxes of Silica Gel, 40g each. Have you ever noticed those little white packets of beads in new purses, shoes, and clothing you take out of shipping boxes? That’s basically these things. Message boards suggested keeping 1 or 2 of these Silica Gel boxes in my camera’s dry bag, to soak up any moisture that gets trapped in there. They turn from orange to green when they get saturated with water; you then bake it in the oven to dry them up again for re-use. I’m glad these things were so cheap!
All together, the stuff I listed above was roughly $91 after tax. Still on the pricey side…maybe I could have found better deals…but I felt pressed for time. At the very least, I can re-use all of it for any future trips. I contemplated getting a waterproof point and shoot, such as the Canon Powershot D20, but that would run me over $250, plus tax. I’m also borrowing my boss’ GoPro Hero3, which already has some waterproof housing over it. I’m going to take it snorkeling and see if I can get some decent footage! I’ve been snorkeling in Puerto Gallera before, and the Philippines has some of the best coral life I’ve ever seen.
I’ve still got a lot of things to prepare and pack. Here’s hoping all goes well with no regrets.