Franki goes to… The Philippines & Indonesia
Senior Consultant, Franki Crosse, is currently on a five month sabbatical from Oasis HR. In this blog series titled ‘Franki goes to…’ we follow her travels around the world and keep up to speed with what she’s been up to on her adventure!
||5000 miles later, I’m writing this as we drive through pouring rain on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. It’s a pretty big contrast to Indonesia and the Philippines, that’s for sure!
|We started our fourth month of travels flying into Manila, Philippines and on to the island of Palawan. It was strange arriving into such a busy tourist destination after being the only westerners for a fair bit of the time to this point although it was quite nice to be whisked up in it all and have to organise ourselves a little less! We were lucky enough to meet a couple of super friendly Filipinos who became our unofficial tour guides as we explored the incredible beaches of Northern Palawan and ticked off all the top Instagram destinations like kayaking through the turquoise waters of the El Nido lagoons which are just as unreal in real life!
Port Barton was our next stop and a complete contrast to El Nido with much more of a backpacker vibe. We spent a few great days chilling on the beaches and returning to nature with electricity for a couple of hours a day making air con non existent in our beach shack!
From there we flew across to Legazpi, an area less on the tourist map and with a very different feel! We landed on a tiny runway with an amazing view of Mt. Mayon Volcano at sunset, known for its picture perfect primary school drawing cone shape! We explored the area and ate plenty of our new found favourite snack – Atchara which is pickled papaya and it’s so good! A lovely lady made us some extra to take home which we then had confiscated at the airport due to its apparent corrosive nature…maybe a lucky save there!
From there we headed down to Donsol for the real reason for our trip to this area – whale sharks or Butandings as they are locally known! The moment you arrive you instantly pick up the excitement everyone’s sharing for these majestic gentle giants. They are a cornerstone of life in the area which is known for it’s ethical and eco-friendly approach to sharing the waters with these creatures; it draws those who share in this as a priority and are keen to work towards their preservation.
The adrenaline we felt as we set out on the tiny bunka boat is one of the most palpable to date! Sightings of course aren’t guaranteed and no one really knew what to expect so we were just chatting with one another. 10 minutes later, our whale spotter and guide made the signal for everyone to get ready – they’d spotted one!! On the snorkels and flippers went as we all then sat in silence with nervous anticipation! The guide then gives a final reminder not to touch the whales and shouts jump. The currents are strong out in the open ocean and the boat is still moving at quite a speed making even the best swimmers feel like they’re still learning how to keep their head out! Couple this with cold and heavily green water given the plankton content (which is what draws the whale sharks) a few seconds of confusion ensues before the guide shouts to put your head under and there it is – it’s like a space ship looming out of the darkness and it is HUGE! They look so calm and serene but with just one flick of their tail they are crazily speedy and so we were swimming at full pace to try and stay within view as they fed. It was such an exhilarating experience to share the sea with these gentle giants and took a good day and a few happy hour 75p lagers to settle over!
||From the Philippines we headed across to Bali and had an amazing few days exploring Ubud and Amed, a little coastal fishing village with a huge volcano at the end of it. We treated ourselves to our first snazzy vegan food experience, fully immersing ourselves in the Balinese health vibe which fueled us to escape from the super curious monkeys at Monkey Forest! From there we got a boat across to Gili T and Gili Air. Both islands were such relaxing places to travel and we found some really cool hostels where I became pretty fond of living in a bamboo hut with outside showers!
|The next part of our trip was one of the ones which had been at the top of our list for a long time and it did not disappoint! We jumped on a little prop plane to Flores and the port town of Labuan Bajo, the gateway to Komodo National Park. It was time to get brave and go in search of these insanely huge lizards! They are one of those creatures that are famous and feared in equal measures and definitely demand some respect! The days begin early, sailing out to the park in the dark and with a couple of incredible stops en route, one of my favourite being the view from Padar Island.
We then went on the hike to find some lizards and it was an experience to say the least with rangers holding big sticks as supposedly reassuring protection! We came very close to a huge male who walked calmly down the path past us as we all jumped into the bushes. Seeing them so close was awesome and allowed for some great shots for those not shaking too much!
We then went out on a scuba boat to experience some of the world famous marine life in the area; it turns out the insane creatures aren’t just on the land! I thought our experiences had been pretty epic so far but this day topped them all. It was like swimming in the most incredible aquarium with fish of all colours, shapes and sizes and plenty of huge turtles! We then sailed on to Manta Point, and as the name might suggest the excitement levels were pretty high! It’s a drift dive area and the currents are some of the strongest in the world so jumping in to snorkel means you’re quickly whisked away and before we knew it there was just the two of us in the water with no boats or land in sight (and no mantas either) so it was a little eery! Things then piqued as one of our boat hands picked us up in a tiny boat and took us close to where he’d seen some mantas and so in we jumped and it was CRAZY! We had 15 huge mantas feeding around us and circling in the current as the cleaner fish did their job. It was a totally out of this world experience and one I’ll never forget!
And so before we knew it, and exhausted after all the excitement, we were getting set to fly to Hong Kong to try and get a visa for the final part of our Asian adventure – China!