We were at the pier around 4:30AM for our 3 1/2-hour ride to Calauit Island.The sea was calm in slumber as we sliced through it. Our only companion then was the sleepy moon above us, serving as our lone guide toward Calauit.
It drizzled for a while when we got there, but immediately dissipated by the time we hopped on the truck that would take us around the wildlife safari park.
Just a tidbit about the park: according to a writeup on the Inquirer back in 2011, none of the animals that were transferred to the island from Kenya back in the 1970s were endangered. The animals and the island has suffered through a lot since then, with only around a hundred left today. The park grounds are parched and nearly barren despite the forested parts, grasslands and mangrove swamps surrounding the 3,700-ha property. We saw (and were allowed to feed) giraffes, zebras, Calamian deer, porcupines, a crocodile, monitor lizard, wild boars, and a few species of birds. The island, according to our guide, is barely sustaining itself especially since it no longer enjoys the support of the private sector. I remember writing about this island years ago when our client, Bayer Philippines, was still one of the sponsors.
Getting out of the island for our next itinerary took longer than expected. Apparently, our truck stalled after it left us during the animal feeding time. Hunger, humidity and fatigue sapped our spirits away even as our guide tried her best to entertain us. By 11AM, a tottering old jeep “rescued” us back to our boat.
Black Island, Coral Garden and Gunboat Shipwreck
We had a hearty feast courtesy of one of our guides, Noy, who turned out to be a former chef at the Manila Hotel. We ate right in the boat, moored along the shore of Black Island. Needless to say, we hardly talked to each other while gobbling up the splendiferous lunch.
The Black Island’s beach side is lined with pristine white sand and surrounded by sparkling sea water. The name is probably derived from the mountain of black limestone standing guard over the entire island. Behind is the South China Sea. There was a cave beneath the black walls, but the entrance fee turned us off. We were, after all, not equipped to go inside a dark cave and the adults would rather play it safe for the young ones in the group. Okay, well, I think we were being cheap as well that time. Hehe.
After the swim, went to the Coral Garden of Lusong for some fish feeding, as well as to take a glimpse of the Japanese gunboat shipwreck. This boat, our guide said, sank in 1944.
I had wanted to take a closer look at the shipwreck, but I’m not a diver (much less a swimmer!) so I consoled myself with going around it in the safety of my life vest and goggles. This ship was apparently one of those that carried supplies for the Japanese army. Today, it’s covered with moss all over, much to the delight of its new residents (you know, Nemo and the gang).
We went back in time for dinner. Not for lack of any other options, but we really liked the food at Kookie Lodge so we went there for another night of luscious meals.