In February 2016 I went out of my comfort zone, off the grid and back to the basics with Tao Philippines.
Tao Philippines is a tour operating company established by a couple of local Philippine boat owners on the island Palawan. The philosophy behind Tao Philippines was to organise an immersive off-the-beaten-track experience for international travellers as a way of fundraising to regenerate local communities following the devastation of Typhoon Yolanda in 2013. Since then, Tao Philippines have continued to run an ethical business with a focus and commitment on assisting the growth and development of their local communities.
Tao, meaning “family” in Filipino, is what you will discover on this adventure through remote villages and deserted tropical oasis’s. The tour guides are young, friendly locals who embrace each traveller with a warm hospitality. They are ready to exchange stories and share this experience with you.
There are a few different experience options to choose from – I chose the 5 day 4 night ‘Tao Experience’ which I would definitely recommend over the shorter trips. It was the perfect amount of time to really integrate into the program, bond with the tour guides and get a feel for island living. The whole experience was out of this world. It’s really hard to explain the feeling of peace, serenity and freedom that comes with switching off from the rest of the world, and living a lifestyle of basic necessity (even if it was just for a few days).
We travelled by day on a small 15 person ‘Bangka’ boat that consisted of a seating and ‘chill out’ area, a small kitchen and toilet. Throughout the day we would stop to swim amongst the coral reefs, help the chefs cooking in the kitchen, fish from the back of the boat, or relax with a book under the shade canopy.
By night, we would dock the boat at one of the coastal villages where we would sleep under the stars in stilted bamboo huts with mosquito nets.
These villages had very little electricity (a bulb to light the main hut and a bulb near the bathroom/shower area), and next to no technology. The ‘showers’ usually consisted of large buckets of cold, fresh water pumped from the village well. Some villages had toilets installed for visitors and used a basic bucket flush system, but some villages were without so you had to make do in nature (au naturale!)
Each day we feasted on typical Philippine cuisine – pancakes, fruit, rice, fresh seafood, vegetable curries, meat curries, cookies and coconuts. The food was always fresh and typically sourced from the local villages. One of the nights we had a pork curry (our guides paid for a freshly killed pig – you could hear the pig across the entire village, screaming as its throat was cut and bled out for our dinner that evening). Before you get all weirded out by this, no I couldn’t eat it after I had seen and heard the pig murdered. This was also one of the turning points in my choice to become a vegetarian. I’ll never forget the sound of that poor pig screeching for its life. But again, this is island life, and with Tao you get the full experience whether you like it or not!
Below are some of the few photos I took throughout the adventure. Without Wifi and reception, I chose to stay off my phone and really disconnect from the world. This included taking a break from documenting and photographing parts of the experience. I’m sure there’s now plenty of photos circulating the internet, but I experienced this before Instagram became big and hashtags were a ‘thing’.
Read more about Tao Philippines on their website: https://www.taophilippines.com