El Nido is named after the swifts that live on the nearby cliffs, whose nests used to be harvested to make soups. Nowadays, however, it’s known as more of a tourist destination, with great scuba diving, beaches, and seascapes. And after suffering through the lack of electricity at Sabang, El Nido is a welcome change, having electricity from 2PM to 6AM – though many places also have backup generators.
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After having my fill of diving with the whale sharks at Oslob, I took a bus around the southern tip of Cebu island, to Moalboal, on the Western coast of Cebu island. Before coming to the Philippines, I had never even heard of Moalboal. While visiting Tops in Cebu City, I started talking with a random local Filipino while waiting to get dinner, and he mentioned that Moalboal has the best sunsets of Cebu, even better than those of Tops.
Doing some research, I found that Moalboal also has some great scuba diving, and so decided to pay it a visit for a day or two. But upon arriving and discovering the tranquility, the Fiesta, the scuba diving, I ended up staying here for an entire week, longer than anywhere else in the Philippines.
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My next destination was then Gili Trawangan, the largest and partiest of the Gili Islands, and a inevitable destination on the backpacker circuit in Indonesia. Thirty years ago it was a newly discovered gem, surrounded by with amazing beaches, scuba diving, snorkeling, and sunsets:
Nowadays, however, it is a major tourist destination and known as a “party” island among backpackers. And like the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia, the entire island was strictly for tourists. There was no local industry. Don’t get me wrong, the place was absolutely gorgeous – especially since there were cars or motorcycles on the entire island – but it was just filled to the brim with tourists.
(Photo taken early morning, while everyone else was still passed out drunk)
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After finally sating my appetite in Penang, I took an overnight bus and ferry to the Perhentian Islands, a pair of islands with amazing scuba diving off the coast of northeast Malaysia.
The Perhentian Islands are beautiful and relatively untouched by civilization, but very touristy. Whereas places like Koh Tao have a good mix of local industry and tourism, the Perhentian Islands have only tourism – and so everything is about 50% more expensive than it should be. Absolutely beautiful, though!
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Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to present: Jonathan Lee, the certified PADI advanced open water scuba diver!
Or I would, but unfortunately all the pictures from scuba diving are still being developed, so in this post, I’ll be doing a business analysis of Scuba Diving on Koh Tao.
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Koh Tao, or Turtle Island, is the scuba diving certification capital of Southeast Asia. Since the cost of getting a scuba diving certification here is 1/2 or even 1/3 the cost in Europe, many backpackers opt to pick up their certification here. I decided to do the same!
To get to here, from Bangkok I first took an overnight sleeper train (that arrived 3 hours behind schedule) to Chumphon, then a ferry from Chumphon to Koh Tao.
Approaching Koh Tao:
Continue reading Travelogue: Koh Tao →