Diving and snorkeling in Puerto Princesa, Palawan aren't something I would expect when we went there for 6 days and 6 nights. Prior to visiting Puerto Princesa Underground River (my second time so not that excited anymore), we dropped by to Isla Felomina, a newly - opened diving site within the premises of the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park. Since we aren't divers nor have the attire and gears we decided beforehand to go snorkeling instead. I swear I have been to many beautiful beaches of the Philippines but mainly for swimming purposes, the view or to catch the sunset only. I said to myself if it's just a knee or waist deep where I'm going to snorkel, I'd rather stay in one corner. I had really no intention to swim that time either because I misunderstood the itinerary. I am actually forever thankful to my fellow couple bloggers Aci and Oscar for lending me a rush guard and shorts so i can enjoy my stay in this beach paradise.
We arrived around 10 in the morning which was pretty early. We were welcomed by 5 locals from Barangay Panggangan. Isla Felomina is rather an islet that is half the size of SM Megamall, one of the biggest malls in the country. With its size no one lives there for good. The nearest inhabitants to this island which is just about 20 minutes by boat away is from Barangay Panggangan. We can even see from Isla Felomina the shore and the line of coconut trees there. Isla Felomina is isn't owned by a private or foreign firm, it is run by locals of Barangay Panggangan. These 3 women and 2 men who welcomed us are volunteer and members of Nagkakaisang Samahan ng Isla Felomina Diving Site, a group composed of 35+ individuals headed by Gary Bacolod. He is the President and a Park Ranger in the Underground River. He was so accommodating from picking us to dropping us off.
There were food prepared to us - steamed rice, fried fish and fresh buko juice right from coconut shells. I regret not taking photos of the food, I totally forgot and was super hungry that time. One of the woman I chatted said, they wished we could have told them minimum of 2 days for them to be able to prepare more food like grilled seafood and some local desserts. I was actually the last person to swim and snorkel. It's only when Chris, a fellow blogger just came back to the shore and looked extremely satisfied that I decided to join the group.
The BIG Confession
Again, I have not snorkeled ever in my life. It was my first time to wear a snorkeling gear on my head. With the help of Evo, a Palawan local and fellow blogger who organized this trip he taught me how to breath through my mouth. And boy, they were laughing at me because for 20 minutes, I can't still do it. They said it was just like doing a blow job. Well to me, I would agree - blow jobbing is much easier than trying to be alive while your sucking the mouthpiece of this gear. I tried and almost gave up but with Evo's patience, I slowly was able to breathe. I can swim a little but with the help of my life jacket tied around me and the ropes that guide you of the different levels of the waters deepness, I soon found myself completely mesmerized with what I saw under!
I couldn't forget the different colors and sizes of fishes I have seen. The corals are large, purely white and not bleached yet. Most of all, we were snorkeling on a 10 - foot deep water or more! How I wish I have a GoPro to take photos of what I witnessed. No! I prefer this way. I have all the time to let myself be happy of the sight than missing the happiness by completely preoccupied of taking photos. I leave it all to your imagination so you'll have the reason to come here soon.
How to get to Isla Felomina
You'll take a 1 - hour boat ride from Sabang Wharf, same jumpoff point to reach the Palawan Underground River. It costs Php 3000 to hire a boat with capacity of 10 persons or more for one day.
Isla Felomina's entrance fee and food
Entrance fee is Php 160. If you want food, you add Php 200 inclusive of lunch and merienda. It also comes with fresh coconut shells.
This diving site in Puerto Princesa just opened to the public last March 16, 2016. It only means one thing, this place is like a virgin so when you come there please take good care of the surroundings.
Other things you can do in Isla Felomina
Rock climbing and reach the viewing deck on top of the island for a 20 - minute trail
This group of locals are currently supported by Puerto Princesa Subterranean National Park. They're working on to get a financial support from UNDP as per Kuya Gary so they can prepare all the necessary things needed for a diving site to run properly. So far, you'll need to bring your own diving or snorkeling gear. It would be better if they have it for rent there.
Every day, 5 locals go on rotation to man the island from 8am to 4pm or depending on the agreed time. They have no salary for the efforts and time they commit since this endeavor just started. I think the biggest help that the local tourism of Puerto Princesa can do for the Isla Felomina locals is to urge local tour operators to develop a tour package to all those going to Underground River to add this in the itinerary. I promise it's definitely worth it!
Contact numbers and persons to Isla Felomina Diving Site
Brgy Captain Hipolito Lebios - 09502972477
Rosslyn Cayao - 0907569173