Exploring Equator-Asia


The Borneo-Palawan cruise is designed to assist cruising yachts explore one of the most beautiful and relatively undeveloped areas of BIMP-EAGA - the west coast of the Palawan - with it's numerous islands, sheltered bays, beautiful anchorages and local communities.

This event starts from North-West Borneo, linking together three BIMP-EAGA nations - Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines.

The next Borneo-Palawan cruise season is scheduled to for December 2013 to February 2014.  

An early December start suits participants wishing to maximise their time in Palawan during the favourable NE Monsoon (dry season), with the opportunity to participate in Christmas/New Year celebrations in the Philippines.

A late January start suits those owners/crew who wish to fly home to the UK/Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand for the Christmas/New Year vacation period, returning to NW Borneo in mid/late January. Yachts can be left in marinas in Miri, Labuan or Kota Kinabalu, or anchored off the Royal Brunei Yacht Club in Brunei.

The Borneo-Palawan cruise groups will begin from Brunei, where pre-cruise briefings and co-ordination will occur. Yachts will gather off the Royal Brunei Yacht Club in the period before their cruise begins. Cruise groups can plan their programme and develop and initial route making convenient day hops between island and coastal anchorages along NW Borneo.

The passage across the Balabac Strait will bring yachts to the southern most islands of Palawan. From there, the journey is mostly short day trips from one bay to the next, heading north, along the west coast, to be opposite Puerto Princesa. From there north, the coast is composed of large protected bays and hundreds of islands.

The route ends in the Coron area.

This Sail BIMP-EAGA cruise will operate principally as a support net, with a few formal tours events and functions on route, but with assistance from BIMP-EAGA tour operators along the way, and special access to dive resorts and other marine based visitor facilities on the coast and nearby islands.

As with other Sail BIMP-EAGA cruises it is expected that yachts will form small, like-minded, cruising groups which operate loosely together, meeting occasionally at key islands and venues, where particular shore excursions, official events and formal requirements (eg CIQ) occur. 

The many small islands and bays that provide spectacular anchorages and access to local communities, markets and beaches, suit small groups of yachts. Therefore each Borneo-Palawan cruise group will be limited to approximately 6 yachts and 20 crew, in order to facilitate access to smaller venues, environmentally sensitive locations, and to avoid overwhelming shore facilities. Multiple cruise groups can embark, approximately two weeks apart. 

The preparation period anchored off Royal Brunei Yacht Club will give cruisers the opportunity to purchase less common imported food items from the well stocked supermarkets, and enjoy the hospitality, great food and functions at the Royal Brunei Yacht Club.  For those starting in January, the Christmas and New Year functions at RBYC are popular club events with great food.

A first stop in Labuan gives the opportunity to stock up on duty free items.

At key shore venues, shore activities and visits will be available with local tourism oriented businesses and local government, to highlight the particular area's attractions.  The local knowledge and experience of these contacts will be available to assist participants with information ranging from boat repairs, fuel supplies, CIQ formalities and great places to visit on route to the next key shore venue.

Timing of the Borneo-Palawan cruise is designed to integrate with:

1. Favourable sailing conditions and wind directions. The fresh NE Monsoon, blowing across the Sulu Sea to the east coast of Palawan, is often more easterly. This easterly breeze provides favourable sailing along the west coast of Palawan, in relatively flat seas, with a short fetch from the weather shore. Afternoon arrivals at a new anchorage are with the westerly sun from behind to help pick a way into the anchorage. Anchorages are against the protective weather shore.

The NE Monson is the dry season for Palawan. Afternoon breezes are commonly a reliable 15 to 20 kts, meaning more sailing and less motoring.

Along the NW coast of Borneo, the NE Monsoon bends to become a predominantly NW afternoon sea breeze of 12 to 18kts, from about 1200 to 2000 each day. Overnight, the normally light offshore breeze is supplemented by the dominant NE flow, to create some pre-dawn and early morning sailing in a steady 8 to 12kts, with minimal sea because of the nearby weather shore. 

In northern Borneo, the NE/NW Monsoon season is also known as the wet season. This is characterised by heavy rainfall from late afternoon and evening  storms, sometimes extending through the night, but normally clearing before  dawn, or early morning. Rainy days are not common.

2. Beautiful water clarity for sailing and diving. In northern Palawan, November to March is the best season for scuba diving on the numerous WW II wrecks. The same minimal coastal river runoff that gives good water clarity for diving, also creates a beautiful sea colour for sailing, and clear water visibility for selecting anchorages, snorkelling around the boat, swimming to shore etc.

Options after the Borneo-Palawan cruise finish in Coron:

1. Yachts looking for maintenance works. The Philippines has a variety of low-cost boat maintenance options, some with a combination of skilled local staff and western management.  Key areas for haul-out and maintenance services are Subic Bay and Cebu.

Subic Bay has facilities previously developed for the large USA military presence, and staff with trade skills also developed for that past requirement. Cruising yachts report the standard of workmanship and skills with materials such as fibreglass, epoxy, aluminium etc are very good. Some major repair and rebuilt works have been done for cruising yachts. The yard areas, cranes, hard standing etc are apparently impressive.

Cebu has some long-standing yacht maintenance and construction operations which utilise the traditional craftmanship and creativity of the Philippines. Numerous cruising yachts have used these facilities for haul-outs, antifouling, repainting and other works.

A number of yacht clubs and marina/resort facilities also have haulout and maintenance capabilities. These include Manilla Yacht Club and Maya Maya Yacht Club.

2. For yachts planning to spend more time cruising the Philippines.
The Philippines has an amazing diversity of lifestyles, cultures, traditions, topography and events. The creativity, flair for dance, music and song, and the desire to have fun and party, generates a long list of festivals, street parades, musical events and more. 

Some cruising yachts have ventured into the Philippines and never left!  Others spend a SW monsoon season cruising the highlights of the southern Philippines, and some stay for a couple of seasons, mixing shore travel, sailing, boat-works and periods back home in Europe, North America or Australia/NZ.

After arriving in Coron area, further Philippines cruising options include:

1. To cruise to Puerto Galera (see Puerto Galera Yacht Club ), and from there to Cebu region, returning to Sandakan or the east coast of Palawan before making their passage down the west coasts of Borneo, to Singapore, Peninsula Malaysia and Thailand.

2. Some yachts have sailed from Puerto Galera through the islands of Mindanao to General Santos and Davao prior to making passages back to Australia or New Zealand around the top of Iranian Jaya and PNG to the Solomons. 

3. Others have returned across the Sulu Sea to Sandakan, taking time to explore places such as the Kinabattangan River and islands of Semporna (great diving) then into Indonesia at Tarakan to start journey via Manado to Saumlaki and then to Gove - or direct to Torres Strait -  as a return route to Australia and New Zealand.

4. A cruise from northern Borneo south down the  west coast of Sulawesi - during the last of the NE Monsoon season - has been used to reach marinas in Bali or Lombok, to make preparations for an Indian Ocean crossing.  With the shift away from the Red Sea route, to Indian Ocean crossings and rounding South Africa, marinas in Bali or Lonbok make attractive preparation points before departing to Cocos-Keeling (for a route with Mauritius/Reunion stops, then to Richards Bay) or Chagos (for a Madagascar cruise to Richards Bay) in the favourable, May to October, Indian Ocean crossing season.


1. Equator Asia is the tourism destination brand name adopted by the BIMP-EAGA Tourism Cluster (BETC) following extensive work on the part of two key BIMP-EAGA supports - the Asian Development Bank and GTZ - and subsequent market research by BETC members.

2. The NE Monsoon season in the Philippines is their dry season. Water visibility is at its best so this is the most popular time for scuba diving and other water sports in sheltered areas.  It has not been the popular yacht cruising period in the southern Philippines because of choppy conditions in the Sulu Sea and surrounding islands. But it has become the preferred season to travel the attractive west coast of Palawan; mostly day hopping between comfortable anchorages.

3. The SW Monsoon period is the main cruising season in the southern Philippines. It is referred to as their wet season, and is also the Tropical Storm season. A number of Tropical Storms can be expected to start in the NW Pacific, north of Irian Jaya/PNG each season. Some of these can track west to cross the Philippines, or run parallel with the eastern coastline of the Philippines. While a considerable part of the southern Philippines cruising area is south of 10d N - the theoretical southerly limit of Tropical Storm activity - there will still be significant wind changes in these areas if a TS approaches or crosses the Philippines.

North of 10d N - in the popular cruising areas around Mindoro, Panay and Negros - it's possible to have a TS tracking through these areas. Cruisers need to keep a close watch on potential TS s activity and act accordingly. As can be expected in an island nation with so much commercial marine traffic, the Philippines has established many facilities to shelter boats during TS activity, along with advanced weather warning systems.

Please return here to get further details
as the cruise schedule develops.

If you would like to add your contact details to our database to be updated with rally information, please email us for inquiries ....

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