Weather : Mostly sunny with some cloud cover and occasional showers
Wind : 5-15 knots
After a day at sea we reached Appari, our last stop in the Phillipines. After we were cleared to enter we boarded our Zodiacs and were taken ashore via the estuary that led us through the town common. Waiting at the other end was a very big surprise for all of us. Most of the people of Appari had taken the day off work or school and were waiting to greet us. It was truly an amazing reception with the local people treating us to one of the warmest welcomes I have ever received in my life.
Once we were all ashore the locals gave us an official welcome and Greg from the expedition team was given the keys to the city, truly a lucky man! A band played for us after this and then we were treated to a dance from the Aramang Festival which celebrates the harvest of prawns/shrimp from the ocean. The bright pink outfits the children playing the parts of the prawns were wearing were amazing and they were quickly chased by the fisherman hoping to land a bountiful harvest.
Once all the celebrations were finished we boarded our local buses to go on tour. 7 of us went to the Callao Caves to see wonderful examples of how these underground limestone formations have been created over the millennia. It seemed the locals still hadn’t shown us the extent of their welcome as at a toilet stop on the way to the caves a full orchestra regaled us as we left the bus. On to the caves we were treated to the “Cathedral Cave” system with amazing stalactites and draperies as well as a section that had been modified to allow for church pews and an alter. Malcolm found some cave dwelling fruit bats which was a great addition to our wildlife spotting for the cruise. Most fruit bats dwell in trees rather than caves. After the caves had been explored and we had sampled some of the local cuisine it was time to head back to the landing site for our Zodiac ride back to Silver Discoverer.
For those going out to the Cape Engano Lighthouse we boarded our buses and made our way to Santa Ana. Here we boarded the local outrigger boats and cruised across to Palaui Island. Once we were onshore at Palaui Island we made our way up to some shade and were greeted by our lighthouse guides. It was about a 30 minute walk up the track to the lighthouse with breathtaking views of the surrounds. At the top we saw what was left of the old lighthouse that had been standing since 1892. Still structurally sound but not in working order we were able to traverse the steps and access great views from the top of the lighthouse. From the top of the hill we could walk around and get 360 degree views of the surrounds showing us beautiful views of other islands, some of which had active volcanos.
On return to the beach some of us cooled off in the crystal clear waters before we boarded our local boats again and headed back into Santa Ana. From here a few of us headed straight back to Aparri while the rest of us headed to Anguib Beach for a relaxing dip as the sun slowly made its way down. Local treats like sticky rice and cooked bananas were handed out for us all to enjoy. It was then time to make our way back to Aparri as well.
For everyone returning to Aparri to board Zodiacs, if the welcome wasn’t amazing enough perhaps the farewell may have even pipped it. A choir sang to us as the huge crowd that had remained to see us off all shook our hands and personally thanked us for visiting. As our Zodiacs departed we were treated to a fireworks spectacular in our honour and crowds of people lining the banks to say goodbye. It was very humbling to be involved in such a wonderful reception and farewell and we all were truly treated to the amazing hospitality of the wonderful people of the Phillipines.