At 4:00 am it is still dark in Manila when room service brings breakfast. Before leaving the hotel, I make sure the glossy photo folder holding vouchers for the weekend is in my carry-on. The driver uses a short cut, and I easily make the SeaAir flight to Palawan. From the window, I gaze at scattered small islands with radiant jewel-toned colors below in the Sulu Sea.Getting to Apulit Island in Taytay Bay off the northern shore of long, narrow Palawan is a surprising adventure. After a smooth descent, the plane bounces across puddles of rainwater on a rough dirt strip. Passengers for Manila wait in a three-sided shack beneath a crude “Departures” sign.
A Club Noah Isabelle jeep – with a padded shelf for a seat – transports guests andthe mounds of luggage to a jetty for the ride to Apulit Island.
The big bangka, a traditional boat with a wooden cabin and outriggers, chugs past mangroves on the Tamisan River.
While the bangka jounces across wavelets on Taytay Bay, I feel a welcome breeze. Upon arrival, all I want to do is fling open the door, let the breeze blow in, and sprawl on the bed of this water cabana.
For the next two days the boxy, thatched-roof bungalow on the bay is my personal playhouse. Below the floor, seawater laps and gurgles around a few sturdy posts.
From a deck chair I gaze at crinkly bands of water – mauve and turquoise – as they merge with the aqueous blues of Taytay Bay. Outside my front door rises a great, craggy cliff, sprouting with foliage, and topped with a plain white cross.
As I follow the guests’ walkway, I look down on pale fish moving past rocks on the sea floor. No surprise, since Club Noah Isabelle is an eco-lodge, and the area is a protected watershed.
Where the walkway meets beach, nylon flags—peach, yellow, green, and royal blue—sprout as if growing in sand. A paved pathway divides the swath of silky sand from the rugged mountain slope on the east.
Beyond the dining pavilion a stone staircase entices me up the hillside for a stunning view.
The peaked islands and karst sea stacks rise from glittery, dark water. Blue and cream bangkas glide toward the horizon, then turn into silhouettes.
Beyond the beach bar, past the two-story cabanas, I find the water sports facility. Snorkelers are adjusting masks, sucking on water bottles, looking for the odd stray swim fin.
A Club Noah wall chart helps identify the colorful fish I’ll soon see: a school of sergeant major damsels, and crescent and red-banded wrasses. Soon after pushing off from the pier I am snorkeling with the fish.
Golden sunlight makes a welcome alarm clock. Bamboo blinds splinter the early morning light rays. I find platters of fresh pineapple, papaya, strawberries, and cantaloupe on long tables and recognize corned beef and Spam. I have never had ampalaya (bitter melon) and egg, but give it a try and enjoy it.
Midday, small boats ferry visitors to a deserted beach where the chefs make a barbecue luncheon. Later, I shop for sunscreen – and pearls – in a tiny resort shop selling “essentials.”
Just before dinner, I relax over an icy drink at the beach bar. Some of the guests have been snorkeling near Isla Blanca; others tell tales of exploring Lapungaw Cave. It is a clear night, so the staff has moved dining tables onto a terrace.
The pink tablecloths, the winking candles, a walk down the beach, the starlit sky—all create a memorable evening.
If You Go