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A bangka boat on the shore of a Philippines beach

The Philippines Intro - Gap 360's Katie Tells Us About Her Trip

By Katie Penberthy

Last updated: 7th April 2017

I took our Philippines Intro tour and had an unforgettable adventure! Here’s what I got up to on my travels:

Day 1 – Arrival

The airport pick-up was super easy. Joe, our fantastic guide, had messaged us ahead of time and told us exactly where to meet him once we had collected our luggage. After grabbing a bottle of water, we hopped in a taxi and headed to the Makati area of Manila.

The hostel was amazing – incredibly modern and clean. I was in a 4-bed ensuite dorm with lockers, individual charging points and a great bed! Way better than I was expecting! I met the rest of my group on the rooftop bar and took in the skyline views with a gin and tonic!

Best Bit: Meeting my other 15 group members!

Top Tip: Try to arrive as early in the day as possible so you can explore the crazy Filipino capital!

Day 2 – Head to Palawan

Travellers sitting in a pool with drinks

Today we flew to Palawan – voted one of the best islands in the world. Again I was amazed at the quality of the accommodation: twin ensuite rooms and an amazing restaurant and pool. We didn’t waste any time in ordering some cocktails and chilling by the pool!

After lunch, we visited Iwahig prison – a very unique experience, as most of the prisoners are free to roam in the vast prison grounds. We chatted with some of the prisoners and learned about their life and their rehabilitation, which included learning dance!

That night we had dinner as a group. The grilled fresh seafood was amazing! Then the group indulged in a bit of Asian karaoke – which seemed to go down well with the locals!

Best Bit: Playing flipcup around the pool with my group!

Top Tip: Try the local pork adobo dish. Incredibly delicious!

Day 3 – Underground River

Travellers in a boat

A 3-hour drive from the accommodation is the UNESCO world heritage sight of Underground River. We were provided with an audio guide and floated through this incredible network of caves. There are hundreds of bats living in the caves too, which were amazing to see (don’t worry, they don’t come too near the boats!).

After emerging into the sunshine from the caves, we headed to Port Barton, which was easily my favourite place on the trip!

There’s no fully built road to Port Barton so it was a bumpy journey (our driver described it as getting a free Filipino massage!) and it really felt like we were going on an adventure. Electricity is only available during the evenings in Port Barton so it’s an amazing contrast to busy city hubs like Manila!

After having some dinner, the group swam in the warm waters at the front of our hotel under the stars.

Best Bit: Seeing the sea light up with bioluminescent plankton at night. It looked like the sea was glowing in the dark – utterly amazing!

Top Tip: Relish the next few days without having your phone and enjoy the amazing untouched nature around you.

Day 4 – Island Exploration

A bangka boat on the shore of a Philippines beach

Today we explored the hundreds of islands around Port Barton by boat and stopped off at coral reefs for snorkelling. We even spotted some turtles and Nemos!

In the early afternoon, we pitched our tents on a gorgeous, uninhabited island for the night and had a few beers around the campfire while watching the sunset.

Best Bit: Watching the sunset from the beach – spectacular!

Top Tip: Don’t be worried about the camping. All tents, mattresses, sheets and pillows are provided and the tents are twin share so plenty of room!

Day 5 – School Visit and Waterfalls

Schoolkids and a teacher in a Philippines classroom

After waking up to glorious sunshine, we packed up and headed to a neighbouring island. We visited the local primary school and donated some much-needed stationary. After interacting with the kids and playing some games we headed off on a short trek to a waterfall. The cold fresh water was very invigorating and a nice break from the hot sun!

That afternoon we headed back to Port Barton for a final night before heading up north to El Nido.

Best Bit: Chatting with our boat captain about life in rural Philippines and learning about his country first hand.

Top Tip: Ask the local team to teach you a few words of the local language, Tagalog. Not the easiest of languages but worth it to surprise the school kids!

Day 6 – El Nido

The town of El Nido with water and rock formations in the distance

Today was the longest travel day, around 6 hours of driving, but it went by surprisingly quickly as we stopped off at some viewpoints on the way and spent the whole journey singing karaoke!

We went out for dinner as a group that evening and explored the many beachside cafes and bars (and took advantage of the two-for-one cocktails!).

Best Bit: The town of El Nido has a great laidback vibe, which our group really enjoyed

Top Tip: Ask the driver to tune into a local radio station for an eclectic mix of music styles, which can be both brilliant and baffling!

Day 7 – Island Exploring on the party boat

Another tour of the sea today! There were plenty of opportunities to snorkel as well as see starfish and turtles. The food provided by the boat staff was delicious and all the drinks were free – perfect! We loved our guide’s homemade cocktail – the Silky Special!

Best Bit: Kayaking the blue lagoon with two girls from my group. The waters really are that colourful in real life!

Top Tip: Although alcohol is free on the boat, don’t hit your drinking peak too early and miss the amazing island stops!

Day 8 – Cultural Day

Travellers browsing a market stall

Today, we met up with some locals and toured around their local market. We then enjoyed a cooking lesson where we made chicken adobo – a delicious local delicacy! We joined some fishing boats and tried to catch fish and also learned to climb up a towering coconut tree!

In the early afternoon, we headed to a tropical beach for a spot of ziplining! Sailing through the air between two paradise islands was definitely a highlight of the trip!

Best Bit: Learning some local kids games during our cultural experience. Lots of laughs were had watching my fellow group members and I attempt a skipping game and fail miserably!

Top Tip: Learn what the Filipino flag looks like, as you will be asked to draw what you think it is – none of us could remember!




Day 9 – Views and Massages

Travellers walking across a rope bridge

We enjoyed stunning panoramic views of El Nido during a canopy walk today. We had to scale rope ladders and scramble over rocks to reach the vista – lots of fun and definitely worth the effort for that view!

That evening we had a traditional massage in town, which eased our tired muscles after the trek this morning– what a great way to end the trip!

As we were all heading our separate ways we had a group meal that night and reminisced about our time in the Philippines. We all agreed what a fantastic, friendly, energetic country it is and how our guides Joe and Dusty were an amazing duo who really made the trip so easy and fun.

Best Bit: Stunning views on the canopy walk!

Top Tip: Make sure you’ve added your group on Facebook so you can keep in touch after the tour is over!

Day 10 – Homeward Bound

For me, this is the best tour I have ever done. I loved that we were able to explore an amazing part of the Philippines in depth, rather than spending time stuck on buses. The accommodation was amazing and the places we visited should be on everyone’s bucket list. I would recommend this trip and the Philippines to anyone!


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