A BOAT TRIP TO THE CUYO ISLANDS
April 2010
     
The Flying Dragon, a private 36-foot catamaran, set sail from Coron, Palawan, on 18 April 2010 and took 11 hours on a southeasterly track to reach the Quiniluban Island group. The Quiniluban Group is part of the larger Cuyo Island Group, which is located in the northern Sulu Sea, about half way between El Nido in Palawan and Panay. Administratively, the islands are part of the province of Palawan and consist of three municipalities: Cuyo, Agutaya and Magsaysay.
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The Flying Dragon
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Map of the Cuyo Island Group showing our route
Quiniluban Islands. Quiniluban and the nearby islands are surrounded by a shallow reef extending miles into the sea. It is home of a large community of people whose main livelihood is seaweed farming. As it was not possible to find a safe anchorage for the night, we proceeded to anchor at Pamalican Island, about an hour away on the South West.
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Approach to the Quiniluban Islands from the North West. Tinituan Island in the foreground

Pamalican Island.  The island hosts the exclusive Amanpulo Resort, and prior arrangement with the management was required before being allowed to anchor and visit the island. As the wildlife is efficiently protected, the island is home of a rich bird life. For example, the Tabon Scrubfowl, which has become uncommon in most other islands in the country, is still abundant on Pamalican. After an overnight mooring and a short birdwatching trip around the island, we sailed to the Halog Islands in about 2 hours.

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Tabon Scrubfowl on Pamalican
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The beach on the North side of Pamalican
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The main beach at Pamalican

Halog Islands. The Halog Islands consist of a rocky islet and a large sand bar, and are marked as a bird sanctuary in some maps. They are located a short distance to the South East of Quiniluban. We spotted a group of 70 Back-naped Terns flying over the sand bar, an uncommon bird in the Philippines. As it was too windy to anchor for the night, we just passed by the island as close as possible, and proceeded to Dit Island, which we reached in about 3 hours.CuyoBlack-naped Terns on Halog Island
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Quiniluban Islands seen from the South on the way to Halog Islands
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Halog Islands: the sand bar and the rocky islet behind it
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Halog Islands with Quiniluban Island in the background
     
Dit Island. Dit is blessed with beautiful beaches and a small community of friendly Cebuano-speaking people whose main livelihood is seaweed farming and crushing of volcanic stones. We anchored overnight, and after a scenic hike along the western coast line, we sailed to nearby Agutaya Island in about 4 hours.
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Dit Island seen from the North, with Agutaya Island in the distance
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Bangka on Dit Island
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The view from the trail around the island
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Island Collared-Dove
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One of the beautiful beaches of Dit
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Volcanic boulders on the beach
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Sunset over Oco Island (left) and Manamoc island (right)

Agutaya Island. This is the second largest island of the Cuyo group after Cuyo Island itself. Agutaya is a municipality that includes Dit and the Quiniluban group. The island has three barrios of Agutayanon-speaking people, a 18th-century Spanish fort and church, a network of walking trails, and two cell sites. We walked across the island from Agutaya itself to the barrio of Villasol on the South coast. We then sailed South West to Paya Island in about 3 hours. 
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The old Spanish Fort in Agutaya
CuyoThe beach in front of the small barrio of Agutaya
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Nipa house and volcanic boulders on Agutaya
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Sweeping the road in Barrio Villasol
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Agutaya Island from the South


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Approach to Paya Island
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The small barrio on Paya Island
Paya Island. Paya Island is home of a small community of about 100 people living in a barrio of about 30 nipa houses. There is a strange feeling of isolation in this place. An old woman told us that we were the first visiting tourists ever on their island.Cuyo
Drying fish on Paya Island
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The friendly people of Paya
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Patunga Island (left), Pamitinan island (right) and Lubic Island (center) seen from Paya Island
     
Lubic Island. We sailed from Paya to Lubic, passing Patunga on our left and rocky Pamitinan on our right. Lubic, like Manamoc Island, is part of the municipality of Cuyo. There is a small barrio and large plantations of Kasoy trees (cashew nuts). We spotted interesting birds such as the uncommon migrant Oriental Cuckoo. We anchored overnight and the next day sailed North to Manamoc Island in about 5 hours.
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Pamitinan Island
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Lubic Island from the North East
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The landing on Lubic Island
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A street in Lubic
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Pink-necked Green-Pigeon
     
Manamoc Island. We unknowingly left the best for the end. Manamoc is the most beautiful of the islands we visited. A stunning white sand beach stretches from the entrance of a large shallow lagoon surrounded with mangrove to a sand bar jutting into the sea at the other end of the beach. Add a backdrop of coconut trees at the foot of rocky barren mountains, and a wide coral reef fronting the beach. Bird life is abundant, mostly water birds, including many migrants like the Terek Sandpiper. There is a small barrio on the other side of the lagoon, a lighthouse over the barrio, and a cell site on the highest point of the island. We took off from Manamoc at 9pm and sailed overnight with good wind to reach Coron at 8am the next day. 
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Approaching beautiful Manamoc island from the South
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Landing on Manamoc
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Dazzling white sand
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The sand bar at the end of the beach
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The only house on the beach
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Shady spot on the beach
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The stunning white sand beach of Manamoc
       
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Beautiful islands, friendly people, a permanent blue sky, perfect sunsets every day, interesting bird life, an unforgettable trip!

Christian Perez
Muntinlupa City