Finding the perfect boat
I was leaning towards Islands Banca Cruises just to lessen the headache as it seemed like they would arrange everything for guests. The pictures on their website promised a whole day of pampering and fun. But after inquiring through email and receiving their package quotations (as seen below), we immediately scrapped Islands Banca from our choices. What I got from the quotation: You rent our awesome, fully-equipped boat and crew but you pay for all entrance, dock and environmental fees and you do the registration. Their own words: "you would need to remit directly to the destination's representatives." Nu-uh. Totally beats the purpose of getting a tour operator's services, in my opinion.
Package 2: Pro - a chance to visit the majestic Vanishing Island. Con - too expensive for a tour around three nearby islands.
Package 3: Pro - visit all popular sites in Talicud island, which is a better option for snorkeling. Con - most expensive of the three packages.
We ultimately decided to go for package 3 as we felt that it offered the best value for our money. There are more sites included in this package and we'd have the speedboat all to ourselves. Read: no need to "socialize" with strangers! (I'm no fun :c) Besides, the difference between packages 2 and 3 is only P500.
An Adventure In Itself
Talicud's Coral Garden is stunning. We didn't bring an underwater camera so I can't really show you its beauty. The corals are healthy, varied and unique. And you know what adds to the charm of the place? It looks untouched - no signages and no people who charge miscellaneous fees. It's just there for everyone to see and appreciate.
Anyway, enough of political correctness and more of Talicud's awesomeness (hey, it ryhmes! :)) Our next stop was Isla Cristina, which isn't really an island so I don't know why they call it an 'isla.' It's somewhere in the southwestern part of Talicud and wasn't part of our original itinerary but we were glad that we stopped by this place. It has the clearest, bluest waters I have ever seen in my life - no joke! And if you love Patrick Starr, Isla Cristina is perfect for you as it's home to countless of big starfish.
This spot is not really good for snorkeling because what you will only see are big starfish and the white seabed. But the calm and clear water more than makes up for it! <3
Isla Reta 2
Wishing Island is an islet near Malipano Island and Pearl Farm. I don't think that this place is good for snorkeling because there are a lot, and I mean a LOT, of sea urchins surrounding the island. I think Wishing Island used to be a popular tourist spot because there's a broken man-made slide but I don't know what happened. The crew members were as clueless as we were. My verdict: if you value your life too much and don't want to be stung my sea urchins living in a relatively lackluster underwater area, you can skip Wishing Island.