Tao expedition was the best part about my whole trip to Philippines. Even as i am putting down my experience in words, it’s bringing a smile to my face.
Tao expedition is more than just an organisation which will arrange an expedition, they work with a purpose for a cause and build a connect with people. It really changes the whole experience. You get a chance to live the life of an islander, away from whole world with almost no internet. You can read more about Tao at this link.
I came across Tao expedition as i was searching for which tours should i be doing in El Nido. there are around 4-5 tours recommended and all need to be booked separately. As i was searching, the name of Tao popped up, well it was my lucky day. I did some research on it and that was it, i knew i wanted to go for 5 day Tao expedition which involved first 3 days of travelling in boat, hopping islands and 2 days of staying at Tao Farm in El Nido and Coron.
5 day Tao expeditions run from Coron to El Nido and vice versa, so whole planning was dependent on which tour i booked. I was keen on booking Coron to El Nido around Christmas as there are more flights to Coron from Manila but i guess it was booked, so went for El Nido to Coron. The challenge here is that only Air Swift flies to El Nido, another option is to go to Puerto Princesa from Manila and then take a gruelling ride to El Nido which i didn’t wanted. So i went for Air Swift.
When you book the expedition, a confirmation mail will be sent with all details. All meals are covered, drinks, any purchases or services like massage at Tao Farm are payable and at beginning of trip you are provided with cashless wallet [you can tie it on wrist during the trip]. recommended amount for wallet is $100 but i would say go for $150 if you are a beer guzzler. Few mandatory items during the trip are reef shoes or aqua shoes, torch, mosquito repellant cream, towel, non plastic water bottle and a dry bag. They do provide snorkels but if you have your own then bring them. Also do keep some cash in your bags in order to pay gratuities to crew in the end.
I was all set for my expedition but nothing in my life goes without adventure even the start of expedition ;). So i got a message from Tao that a storm is approaching Coron and coast guard has not given a go ahead, so expedition cannot start and we have 2 options, take refund or accept a change in plan where we will stay at tao farm at beginning of trip and wait for storm to subside and then start our trip. And if storm doesn’t subside then continue to stay at farm for all days. Having come so far, nobody wanted refund, so we decided to give our luck a go and it turned out to be a good decision…luck favours brave !!
On Day 1 we were supposed to head to Tao Farm in El Nido but before that we were taken to an island to spend sometime and wasn’t it gorgeous (see the pic above)….this was the same island where we would be staying for our first night when expedition begins. They were just giving us a flavour of it 😉
Tao farm in El Nido provides a lot of island life with mix of amenities needed for a good stay, limited electricity, shower, washrooms. There is no electricity in night so one must carry a torch.
El Nido farm has 2 kitchens, so if you are spending 2 days then your group will get one day at each kitchen.
Having spent 2 days at farm, we got the good news, storm had subsided and coast guard had given a green signal for expedition bringing smiles on every face.
Boat is anchored at some distance from shore at all places and you either need to swim to shore or take a Kayak ride. I don’t know swimming so always took Kayak or swam with help of life jacket.
First day of expedition, we headed to a nearby island where we were going to stay overnight. Blue green waters and a secluded island, journey started on a great note.
One can easily spend many more days on island. However you are living life of an islander and you don’t have luxuries like running water or shower there 🙂 , so use them judiciously.
We continued our journey next day, hopping islands, snorkelling, sun bathing and away from the world and internet.
Expedition continued on the 3rd day again as we got use to beautiful islands, blue green waters, soft sand and lovely breeze. There are lots of stop points on each day where can go for snorkelling and view lovely coral reefs. This was my first experience with snorkelling and it was quite scary initially as water kept going into my mouth and the snorkel but Tao boys were always around on Kayak to assure your safety. Once you get comfortable with snorkelling then you truly enjoy the view of coral reefs. Another option for non swimmers on Tao expedition is that you can wear a life jacket and hold onto Kayak from behind and they will take you around the corals. Some of the corals during stop overs wee breathtaking.
On 3rd day of expedition we headed towards Coron and travelled through open sea waters, there were some rough waters in between but it was lovely. Tao boys also caught fish on the way and served sashimi to everyone. It was my first time eating sashimi.
Third day was more about travel to Coron, we did had a small stopover but due to heavy current, non swimmers stayed on boat :). Once we reached Tao farm in Coron, it was more about packing and socialising as we prepared to leave next day.
Tao farm in Coron is like an advanced Tao farm, much much better facilities than any other place during the trip.
Once you reach Coron, you would have already have a new set of friends and its time to party and look back at all the good time you had during the trip.
This was surely one of the best experiences i have ever had and i would highly recommend this trip to everyone !!