What to Expect – Tao Philippines

If you’re visiting the Philippines in search of the best beaches, colorful coral and torquoise water, you’ll probably be heading to El Nido or Coron in Palawan. Both are considered the best bases for island hopping in the region. There are set routes and tours leaving from each place, taking you to visit beautiful spots around the islands. The problem, though, is that you’ll be sharing these places with swarms of other tourists. So much for the deserted island vibes!

Floating in the crystal waters around one of the remote islands

That’s why I highly recommend traveling with Tao on one of their boating expeditions. This isn’t a sponsored post – I’m just a happy customer! You can choose an island stay, a 3 day boating trip, or a 5 day boating trip. The route connects El Nido and Coron and runs both directions. We did the 5 day trip from El Nido and we never saw another group at any of our stops!

Details:

  • Cost – about $550/person
  • Includes – everything but the alcohol and soft drinks!
  • Getting to El Nido – fly to Puerto Princesa and then take a bus or van to El Nido. Expect to pay 550 pesos for the 6 hour van ride. We booked ours in advance here.
  • Getting to Coron – fly to Busuanga (airport code USU) and then take a shared van (about a half hour) to Coron. Expect to pay about 50 pesos per person.
  • Book at Tao Philippines

What to expect:

The night before your departure you’ll meet with your leader and the others on your boat for a briefing. They’ll give you last minute details about your trip as well as a go/no-go for your date. Trips can and do get postponed due to weather. Make sure you give yourself a few days on either end of your trip to account for delays.

Our boat, a traditional Philippine paraw

The day you depart, you’ll meet at the pier in the town and hop on your boat. From there the itinerary is unwritten! Your leader will pick stops based on weather, crowds and other factors to ensure you have the best trip. You can take part in as much or as little as you wish. It’s truly your trip to make. Some people hopped in the water at each stop, some read books on the beach, some snorkeled, and some stayed on the boat to just admire the scenery.

Each boat has a maximum of 24 passengers accompanied by a crew of about 10. The boat is spacious, with places to sit in the shade or sun. Drinking water is available at all times.

They will feed you three meals and one or two snacks per day. The food is phenomenol, but be advised it’s a lot of seafood. We also picked up a freshly-slaughtered pig from a local village. It’s a confronting image to see the dead animal you’ll later eat, and it forces you to be mindful about where our food comes from (a good thing, in my opinion). According to their website, they can accommodate allergies, but will not change their recipes on preferences. There are plenty of veggie options, however. Be flexible and enjoy the locally-sourced dishes! I never disliked anything our team prepared.

Each night you’ll stay in campsites on various islands. Some will be deserted islands, some will be among local villages, some will have electricity, and none will have internet. You’re living the true island life! It’s so special to get to know your other passengers without the distractions of our phones. No one is Snapchatting or Instagraming. Everyone is present. You get to know people very well!

Our boat even had an adorable pirate dog who loved riding the kayak to the beaches!

Each camp had some kind of showering option (bucket showers or gravity-fed), but don’t expect hot water. You’ve been outside in the sun all day anyway so you’ll be fine with cooler water!

Each day you’ll visit snorkeling spots, remote islands, and beautiful beaches. Snorkeling masks are included, but not fins. Note that this is not a diving trip.

Some of the most colorful coral I’ve ever seen snorkeling

The packing list Tao sends you is spot on. You will definitely need a dry bag, and I recommend sunscreen, sea sickness meds, bug spray and itch cream as well. They’ll provide a mattress, pillow, sheets and mosquito net at each camp. We saw a few jellyfish so bring a rash guard if you have one for protection (recommended but not required).

Overall this was the highlight of our time in the Philippines. It’s a true adventure with the right mix of comfort and camping. It’s affordable and your money is going to a company that invests back into the local communities. You’ll learn all about their non-profit work during your trip, so you can feel good about supporting locals while swimming in the bluest water on earth!

Our private island the last night. Drone picture from Tim J. Bucci

Have you traveled with Tao or gone on sailing trips elsewhere in the world? Which trip did you do and what did you think? I definitely want to do something like this again so I’d love to hear from you!

Listen: Sarah discusses travel in the Philippines on World Nomads Podcast Episode 16 – Philippines

Read More: Village Life in the Philippines

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