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mikewright

The Tao Experience – Three-day Cruise Coron to El Nido by Banca

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mikewright

Recently took a leisurely three-day trip with Tao Philippines from Coron, Busuanga to El Nido, Palawan with family and friends.  All agreed this trip was the highlight of their holiday. Not bad when you consider that the age range in our group was from 21 to 72! Can’t see any reports about Tao on this forum to date, so am providing some information

The Tao Experience

The trip is by large banca boat, leaving Coron early on Day 1 and arriving El Nido late afternoon Day 3, sailing via Culion and Linapacan Islands . There is a crew of ten, consisting of the captain, expedition leader, guide, mechanic, chef, sous-chef, barman, two general hands and Betty the dog.  The boat travels from island to island, stopping at various reefs for snorkelling, kayaking and swimming. Usually we were the only boat at each site.  The itinerary varies depending on weather and currents, and on whether you are doing the three or five-day trip. Tao has various camp bases set up on different islands, and you sleep on an island at night.

Our itinerary:

Itinerary.jpg.db953c48987207a882f1106f2f3db21c.jpg

The Crew

The crew – fantastic, mostly from the area, ex-fishermen, an ex-smuggler(?), local islanders trained as guides and cooks. Great sense of humour, they all without fail looked after us well.

The Passengers

The boat takes a maximum of 24 passengers each trip. Sounds crowded, but wasn’t, as the boat has an upper deck and people can spread out. Ages varied from 20 to 72. Great group of people, everyone got on well together.

P

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Food and Drinks

Meals during the day were cooked and eaten on board. The crew bought seafood directly from the islanders, so there were plenty of seafood dishes – fish steaks from Spanish Mackerel, whole fish, prawns, squid dishes, shellfish, kinilaw, etc. Also had sashimi after a crew member caught a good-sized tuna from a troll-line, and sea urchins at the request of a passenger.

There were plenty of fresh vegetables served as well. Interesting vegetarian hamburger with “meat” patty made from shredded banana. The evening meal was prepared and served on the island, with whole lechon cooked one evening.

Water, tea and coffee and snacks provided, as well as a rather potent rum-based “jungle juice” at night.  Beers and spirits could be purchased on the boat or on the island.

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Activities

Snorkelling, swimming, wandering around the islands, kayaking, beach volley ball, fishing. At one stage we were going caving but the ocean swell made it too dangerous to swim into the cave entrance. Crew were happy to show passengers how to prepare and cook the local dishes, and make shell bracelets.

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Accommodation

Amenities on the islands were basic but adequate. Unheated freshwater showers, clean sit-down toilets flushed with buckets of water. Native-style huts on the beach, all with mattress, sheets and mosquito netting. There was no electricity at the first camp; in the second camp, each hut had electricity with power points for lighting and recharging batteries.  There is no wifi or mobile reception on the islands.

The camp on night 1 was near a village, where people could get a massage if they wished.

A beach hut and community hall in background:

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Toilets and showers:

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Both camps have a large communal hall area, for eating drinking and socialising. The second night there was karaoke as electricity was available.

Caveat

This trip is not for those who need their creature comforts! Outdoor showers without hot water, non-flush toilets, no wifi or phone access and limited electricity, no air-con! Also, the floors of the boat can get slippery at times from all the swimmers, so could be dangerous for someone unsteady on their feet.

We had perfect weather the whole way, but that’s not guaranteed for everyone!

Cost

We travelled in High Season, the cost was USD$405. This includes food, accommodation, snacks, tea, coffee, water, use of mask and snorkel.

Summary

Nine out of ten stars! Really great experience, would do it again. The Tao Experience gets fantastic reviews on TripAdvisor, and in our experience the trip more than lived up to those reviews.

Food 1.jpg

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mikewright

The boat itself:

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Boat.jpg.ce16d3cd0f90dd8dbb590bebfe24b6c3.jpg

 

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newtocebu

Awesome report mate, many thanks for sharing

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RR3

Great report. great trip. Ofcourse Tao sails the other way also.

Only I had difficult to communicate with them cause they never reply...

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Dafey

Great report Mike

What was your camera? Awesome shots underwater!

Was there anywhere to charge a phone on your overnights?

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SkyMan

Don't let my wife see this!!!   $405 for the group, right?  I'll have to see if I can find some friends.

My bucket list overflowing already....

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Chris24

Thanks Mike!   I just added this trip to my own bucket list as well.  Sounds like great times off the beaten path. 

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mikewright
1 hour ago, RR3 said:

Only I had difficult to communicate with them cause they never reply...

Seems to be a common problem, particularly if trying to contact them by phone. I did all communication via their website's email, always received a response. 

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mikewright
2 hours ago, Dafey said:

Great report Mike

What was your camera? Awesome shots underwater!

Was there anywhere to charge a phone on your overnights?

Camera is a little Nikon Coolpix W300, straps to the wrist and is good to 30 metres.

You can charge phones and camera batteries on the boat itself, but not at the first campsite we stayed. Second campsite, no problem.

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mikewright
2 hours ago, RR3 said:

 

Only I had difficult to communicate with them cause they never reply...

This is possibly why.  From an email they sent me.

Quote

CONTACT NUMBER FOR EMERGENCIES  IMPORTANT:

Tao’s contact number is for emergencies and urgent enquiries only. The contact number can be found on our website under Contacts and Bookings (Emergency Contacts). DO NOT use our emergency number for general enquiries. We only reply to regular enquiries thru email.
 
 

 

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mikewright
1 hour ago, SkyMan said:

Don't let my wife see this!!!   $405 for the group, right?  I'll have to see if I can find some friends.

My bucket list overflowing already....

I wish! I priced a private trip for the five of us, from memory it was about USD$3,000 in total.

Tao is probably the most expensive of the groups which do this trip, but it has a good reputation and IMO was good value for money.

Tao has been known to give a good discount if you turn up to their office the day before departure and there are still places available. :wink:

 

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SkyMan
7 minutes ago, mikewright said:

I wish! I priced a private trip for the five of us, from memory it was about USD$3,000 in total.

Tao is probably the most expensive of the groups which do this trip, but it has a good reputation and IMO was good value for money.

Tao has been known to give a good discount if you turn up to their office the day before departure and there are still places available. :wink:

 

Maybe I'll look for rich friends then.  Hahahaha.  A friend of mine (with wife daughter parents) flew to Thailand and went to a travel agency and booked a month long tour for about $1000ea including travel and accommodations, some tours and some of the hotels included breakfast.  I might cross that one of first.  I'll keep this one in mind though.

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cookie47

Nice report, thanks. You'd find me at the back of the boat fishing, got to love it..... 

The problem is that my bucket list is getting bigger, but I'm getting older :shocked:

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SkyMan
On 2/6/2020 at 10:11 AM, mikewright said:

I wish! I priced a private trip for the five of us, from memory it was about USD$3,000 in total.

Tao is probably the most expensive of the groups which do this trip, but it has a good reputation and IMO was good value for money.

Tao has been known to give a good discount if you turn up to their office the day before departure and there are still places available. :wink:

 

I wonder if one could just hire their own banka, bring food,  go and stay at the same places for substantially cheaper?  It's nice having everything set up in advance like this and no worries but for some the cost may be out of reach.  Just an option.

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mikewright

http://www.islandhoppinginthephilippines.com

This group may be able to arrange what you want.

Edited by mikewright

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