What’s better than five days of lost beaches, incredible food and no phone signal? Not many things really, but when it is all done as part of a greater good, then it is something very special.
About the Tao Experience
It might be bad weather, it might be rough waves, limited privacy, barking Dogs, crowing roosters, mosquito bites, jellyfish stings, sunburns. But that is the nature of the Tao, the unexpected, the unknown, stepping outside your comfort zone, diving into the experience.
Extract from Tao’s website
With descriptions like that there is only one thing that needs to be said: weigh anchor and hoist the mizzen!
A day in Neverland
Days would start with a succulent breakfast followed by some snorkelling in surprisingly healthy corals with great numbers of tropical fish.
At times the waters were crowded by a million or so tiny little jelly fish. Annoying enough to put some people off, but not everyone. Difficult to resist an invitation like this:
There was even time to try our luck at fishing. Needless to say it was more of an excuse to have a beer on one of the best spots of the boat. And no, we did not catch a single thing.
Time for a bite
“Oh my god” – That was our chef’s description of its own food. Cheeky you may think, but he was only 19 years old and what came out of his small kitchen was quite simply some of tastiest food to be had in the Philippines. So yes, oh my god, all the way.
A different night every day
Certain things don’t change while on a boat. For instance, the sunsets. Yes, they are still gorgeous.
Towards the end of each day, our captain will choose an island and drop the anchor. There was never another boat on sight, sometimes we would find a pebble beach with a lust forest in the background, others, just beautiful white sand stretching for as far as the eye could reach.
The sleeping quarters were simple, blending with their surroundings perfectly well. A small bamboo hut with a thin mattress and a mosquito net is all you need for a good night sleep!
Remoteness does not necessarily mean quiet nights though. This being the Philippines, one of the camps boasted a karaoke machine – and yes, Bon Jovi and Aerosmith featured on the playlist, amongst other classics. Most of the times the night would finish on the beach, sharing stories while counting shooting stars. Sounds too idyllic – it was.
But there is something else
So that is Tao. Or that is what we thought Tao was, until the last day. Jack, one of the founders, show us around the camp and gave us an insight on what they have done in ten years in Palawan, starting from zero.
Being so remote they had to learn how to use local resources, like bamboo, to build everything, from houses to our own boat, Balatik, which took two years to complete.
They source all their food locally, mostly from their own farms and gardens. They had to understand their soil and the different seasons. After that, it was challenging but not impossible to undo years of human impact on the forest and go back to crops that flourish in tropical conditions without degrading the environment.
The local communities are deeply involved in everything Tao does, starting with the young ones.
Each one of the crew members come from the islands. They spend a year in Tao’s academy, where they learn a trait. Boat crew, chef, office administration, accounts, you name it. They get on and that shows every day.
They have also helped local women to create a Foundation, which provides different services to Tao. The projects are endless. As we said with our Volunteering placement at MCP, with projects like these, the Philippines has a great future.
What a place
Jack’s talk was one of the most memorable moments of the last few months – a master class on how to create a successful and sustainable business, on a rather remote location with a positive impact on not only the local communities but more importantly, the environment.
As much as we would have loved to stay and spend more time learning about the amazing job that Tao is doing in Palawan, once again, it was time to move on. Time to leave Asia behind and go back to the West. Except that we were heading further south!
Clean streets? Traffic lights? And everyone waits for the green man? Wait, did you just say $10 for a beer?