We woke early on the 23rd of January 2018. It was my 46th birthday. Surely that’s a mistake, I still feel around 35ish. To distract me from calculating 2018-1972 over and over again we had booked an island hopping tour. This little gem of a tour promised a trifecta of goodies. It would whisk us over to Pescadore Island for amazing coral, then slice our way through the waves to find turtles and mosey on up the shore to see if the thousands of sardines were up for a play.

First we had to catch breakfast. This proved to be more elusive than we had anticipated. After waiting a full hour we eventually gobbled down our omelettes and just as we finished the boat arrived to pick us up.

Yet again minimal communications from all involved but somehow it always seems to work out. I guess when people do this all the time they don’t appreciate that newbies need an explanation of logistics so they know what to expect.

We waded out to the cute little green and white Bangka boat and climbed aboard. The skipper pulled hard on his starter motor and an almighty racket thundered into being. Awesome, the engine had no cover. Emily and I waved at each other and mouthed “See you when we get there” as no chat was possible over the din.

We could see Pescadore island about 3km straight out to sea but the boat headed along the shoreline. Again, no comms, so Emily and I shrugged our shoulders and wondered where the hell these guys were taking us. As it turns out every boat going to Pescadore Island must first head to MoalBoal dock, the skipper and I then scrambled over sea urchins, walk the 500m to the tourist office to fill in a piece of paper with your name and residency. Oh and pay 100 peso each. You gotta love the red tape. I’m sure it is useful to someone.

We scramble back on the boat and the skipper fires up the torture machine and points her bow at Pescadore Island. We hoped it would be worth it. I am happy to report it was totally worth it. Once moored, the skipper killed the engine and the peaceful sound of lapping waves soothed our ringing ears. Diving into the pristine azure waters for the first time to be greeted by colourful coral and a myriad of beautiful fish. We both love snorkelling especially with so much to see. Floating around, controlling your breathing and taking it all in it is almost like meditation. Or what I imagine meditation to be like. After 30 minutes of swimming amongst the coral gardens we reluctantly head back to the boat for goal number 2: Turtle spotting

As it happens the boat took us almost right back to where we started. The skipper told us to wait on the boat he will find turtles. No sooner had he dived in he had spotted one and told us to jump in quick. Sure enough as we entered the water a turtle was swimming by. He had been asleep on the coral but was now heading out to sea. We followed and filmed for a while even diving down to get a closer look.

What a treat. Goal 2: tick. This birthday was tuning out to be a cracker.

After seeing a few other turtles including one massive one we decided enough was enough let’s go for the sardine run.

This was only a short hop up the coast right off Panagsama beach, literally 30m from the shoreline. At this distance the coral dropped off sharply into the big blue. Jumping off the boat we were greeted by a shoal of thousands of sardines.

I have never experienced that many fish so close before. It was mesmerising. Such a unique experience we both felt very privileged and lucky.

The sardines would be disturbed by the slightest of movements and change direction on mass. Seeing their scales reflect the sunlight and dazzle us was just incredible.

That afternoon we had to transfer to the Blue orchid resort which was further up the coast on white beach. We forgot to negotiate the trike fair and got a little stung on the fee but what the heck it was my birthday so not worth arguing and spoiling the good vibe. The Blue Orchid was amazing. Right on the water, beautiful pool and tasty signature Blue Orchid Beeze cocktails. Unbeknown to me Emily had arranged a romantic dinner by the sea.

Complete with birthday cake.

Very grateful. Thank you Emily for making it a very special day. That will be hard to top.

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