The Philippines, but specifically Palawan, was easily one of my favorite destinations in our travels of spring 2017. Its natural beauty and warm welcoming people made it a truly special place to visit. Palawan is gorgeous, green and lush with gorgeous beaches and incredible opportunities for snorkeling and exploring. While not nearly as developed as other parts of Asia, it is quickly changing so if you want to discover a paradise that is not covered in giant and expensive all inclusive resorts, go now. We spent a month on this gorgeous island and we stayed in some of my favorite guest houses ever.
After a mixed experience in Manila (poverty living cheak to jowl with extreme wealth) and a so-so experience in Puerto Princesa (dusty ugly town), we eventually made our way to Port Barton. It is a pretty isolated (and a world away from the bustle of El Nido) but it’s a neat and clean little beach town with lots of choices for places to stay and eat. The point for going to Port Barton was because this is where we would catch the boat that would take us to our first Philippine beach paradise, Thelma and Toby’s Camping Adventure.
We had heard very good things about this place before we booked, but we were not sure how long we should plan to stay, after all we would be camping and not in a hotel. We booked for 3 nights and fell so in love with this paradise that we ended up staying 2 more nights. Yeah, it’s that good.
We were picked up by our outrigger boat at approximately noon on our first day. We were picked up right on the main beach in Port Barton and the ride to the beach took about half an hour. After arriving on the beach, we were quickly brought to reception and shown to our tent. The tents are prospector style and are large enough to stand up in. They have a proper bed inside and out front there is a small living area, with chairs a table and a couple of hammocks. The tents are under a roofed area so you have double protection from the elements and are actually very comfortable.
It was lunch time, so we joined the other guests in the dining area and had some extremely tasty food. All meals, except for breakfast, are served buffet style in the dining room and all the guests eat together. While dining with strangers might not be your style, give it a chance. Very quickly we were welcomed by the other guests and quickly made friends that we had an amazing time with and even hung out with when we went to El Nido. Besides the natural beauty of this place, meeting people and making friends with people from all around the world was the best part. While we were there the guests came from Israel, Germany, England, Ireland, USA and us from Canada, and we would all get together at meal times to eat, talk and laugh.
It takes about 24 hours for you to adapt to the rhythm of this place; after that it soaks into you, you slow down and you never want to leave. There is no internet, no phone connection, no TV and (almost) nothing to do. You spend your days sunning, reading, swimming, snorkeling, walking the beach, paddle boarding and napping. It is bliss. Then, just as the day starts to end, you grab a chair and a drink and watch what we called “the sunset show”. For the next hour and a half you see the most spectacular sunset that you have ever seen. It is magic.
One activity that I can absolutely recommend, is to take a snorkeling trip with Jimmy the boatman. Jimmy will take you out on one of the outrigger boats for a half day. Jimmy knows when to leave in the morning and which snorkeling spots to see so that you are not there with hoards of other tourists. We swam with sea turtles, snorkeled a gorgeous coral reef and even saw dolphins swimming on our way back to the camp.
This is a very small guest house and a very special place. Thelma and Toby are married and this was their private camping spot for their family for many years. It is only after their children grew up that they started this business. It is intimate, personal and charming. It can only accommodate approximately 20 guests at a time, so it never feels over run. It feels like a desert island, but with everything you need to live comfortably.
It cost us 3200 Pesos ($94.00 Canadian) a day for 2 people, but this included the tent and breakfast, lunch and dinner. Booze and any snacks you have between meals is extra.
If you need luxury, this is not the place to go. Toilets are shared and squat style. Showers are bucket style and cold water. There is no air conditioning and power is only for a few hours each day and only in the evening via a generator. It is very simple living, but even for those who don’t enjoy traditional camping it is very worth giving it a chance. We loved our stay here and so did everyone who stayed at the same time, with many including ourselves extending our stay; so that is the best recommendation in itself.