They say you won’t have seen Coron if you haven’t explored its lakes and lagoons that are draped by towering jungle-fringed karsts. Boating languidly here is one of the most surreal travel experiences in the Philippines. It will render you speechless and breathless.
Kayangan Lake is part of the ancestral domain of the Coron Tagbanua
On a recent visit to Coron Island – part of Calamian Island in MIMAROPA, Philippines – I availed of the tour package offered by Gamat Travel and Tours. Tour rates in Coron start at Php 650 (USD 16) to Php 2,500 (USD 59) per person (private tours are more expensive) depending on the islands, beaches, lakes and dive/snorkeling sites that you wish to visit. It could go higher if hotels and airport transfers are included. And one of the most sought-after tours here is the visit to Kayangan Lake.
Outrigger boats take tourists to Kayangan Lake
“There are 13 lakes in Coron Island, but only 2 have been opened to the public – Kayangan Lake and Barracuda Lake,” explained Ronald Abelian, a Tagbanua supervisor manning the latter. “We haven’t even seen most of them, because prayers and rituals are needed before entering those lakes as they are sacred places where spirits reside,” Edgar, another Tagbanua, added.
The lakes strewn around the island are part of the ancestral domain owned by the Coron Tagbanuas – the indigenous people of the island who are descendants of some of the oldest people in the Philippines. In 1998, the Tagbanuas of Coron Island were awarded Certificate of Ancestral Domain Claim (CADC) No. 134, covering 22,248 hectares of land and sea. This gave them the authority to manage and preserve the marine and land resources, and the right to regulate the entry of migrant settlers and organizations into the domain. Such power is vital for the Tagbanua community to protect their land from exploitation and destruction caused by outsiders.
The posterboy of Coron Island
Just a few minutes away from Coron town, our outrigger boat approached the gorgeous entrance to Kayangan Lake – an excellent testament to how beautiful our country is. Here, limestone karts surround cobalt and seafoam green waters that blend beautifully. The Tagbanua people guarding Kayangan welcomed us warmly when our boat docked. A massive map beside the stairs shows and informs tourists the paradisaical topography of Coron Island. An entrance fee of Php 200 per person that goes to the Tagbanua community is required.
A quick uphill trek led me to the spot with the iconic view of Kayangan Cove – the one you usually see in promotional Coron tourism ads. Getting the ‘I was here’ photo in this view deck is perhaps on every tourist’s bucket-list. From here, another trek downhill took me to the seafoam green water of Kayangan Lake clad by limestone hills.
Enjoy a refreshing dip in a dream-like scenery
“Kayangan in the language of the Tagbanua people means “entrance”. It is the gateway to the other lakes here in Coron Island,” explained my guide Kuya Roger, an immigrant who hails from Mindoro province.
Kayangan Lake’s sheer beauty is jaw-dropping. Tourists usually cavort here for hours and leap into its deep clear water - dubbed as one of the cleanest in the country. I snorkeled here and saw vast limestone karts submerged in the water leading to a cave. Not much can be seen beneath, save for a few small friendly fishes that have been accustomed to the presence of humans.
Free diving in the crystal clear water of Kayangan Lake
True enough, taking a dip in Kayangan Lake is a must-try when visiting Coron. I just hope that despite the influx of tourists to this gorgeous lake, it will retain its beauty. And may the Tagbanua community truly benefit from the money pouring in from tourism. “We’re okay, there are issues that you may hear from outsiders, but our community is doing good,” assured Abelian.
How to get there:
Philippine Airlines has flights to Busuanga from Manila. At Busuanga Airport, take a van bound for Coron town, fare is Php 150.
For Coron Tours, contact:
Gamat Travel and Tours
Tour rates: Php 650 to Php 2,500 per person
Mobile: 0999 9936 639
Facebook: gamattours / gammattravelandtours
Gael Hilotin is the blogger behind The Pinay Solo Backpacker