BORACAY ISLAND, PHILIPPINES
Words and photos Kelly Tang
I’m one of those people that listen to a song for the first time and sometimes don’t get it. If I listen to it a few more times it grows on me and I soon realise how great the song really is. This falls into other categories of my life such as travel. On occasions I’ve arrived at a destination only to have been disappointed at how much I dislike it, only to reassess a day or two later and utterly fall in love with the place.
This happened recently on a trip to Boracay Island in the Philippines. This island is nominated regularly in the top islands to visit in the world. Well that rating in the first hour of my arrival wouldn’t have made the top 100 as we were herded around like cattle on arrival.
From the terminal we were taken to a minivan for a short drive to a marina where we were put into holding pens until we were corralled onto a ferry for a short twenty-minute cruise to Boracay Island. Then if that wasn’t frustrating enough we then had to bide our time after disembarking in extreme heat till a tuk tuk was arranged to take us to our hotel.
(Some of the more up-market hotels offer a service where they seamlessly pick you up from the airport and your journey is a pleasurable experience compared to the average tourist).
While I’m on a rant you also have to pay three separate fees for the privilege of this discomfort and they are: a landing fee, transport from the airport to the marina fee and then a fee for the transport to your hotel. A one off payment for all these of 400 Pesos ($10AUS) can be paid on the plane. It is advisable to do this as it alleviates the inconvenience of making three separate payments.
After settling in to my beachfront hotel I walked the thirty metres to the beach and was only accosted with offers of a massage and a island hopping sailing tour half a dozen times. There was however a saving grace, the sand was as white as per the brochure and diving into the aqua sparkling ocean bought respite.
If I had to describe my first impressions of Boracay it would be a combination of Paddy Markets meets Pitt Street. The crowds of tourists were enormous.
I was overwhelmed by the crowds but as the warm afternoon lingered a kaleidoscope of colours started filling the sky. Mixed in with the many sailing boats near the shore ensured Boracay was now beginning to resemble the paradise I was promised. The first sunset I witnessed was as stunning as I’ve ever seen.
The main beach (named white beach for obvious reasons) is where you will spend most of your time and there is so much going on here: watching competition frisbee football, walking, sailing, swimming and sunbaking.
The night was an eye opener as there is immense competition for your patronage. The choice of where to eat and what bar to drink at is enormous as most hotels set up eating areas on the beach outside their properties. There is just so much happening and the air is abuzz with live music and DJ’s playing their thumping music. It’s crowded, but the longer you’re there the more normal it becomes and its not long before you get into the island groove and the crowds soon become part of the scenery and appear quite normal.
The main beach is divided into three stations: Number One station is the place to stay as it is where the majority of bars restaurants and cafes are. Stations two and three are all very well positioned just slightly further away from the action. There is a huge array of accommodation available in Boracay catering for all budgets.
I stayed on Boracay Island for four nights and the longer I stayed the more I started to love the place. There is so much to do and one thing I would advise anyone who visits the Island is to hire a boat and do a tour of the island. As crowded as the main beach is the other side of the island is the exact opposite. There are glorious palm fringed beaches and this is an ideal place to spend some time if crowds are not your thing.
First impressions were that I would never come back. After four days, I didn’t want to leave!
THINGS TO DO:
1. Island Hopping
Hire a boat for a half-day tour around the island’s many beaches including Puka Beach, Crocodile Beach, and Tambisaan Beach. Tours usually include lunch!
2. Scuba diving
There are over 15 dive sites around Boracay. A good mix of corals, underwater tunnels, caves, and other interesting spots!
Speedboat off Bulabog Beach and then soar high above the island! Get a fantastic view while you’re at it.
4. Paraw sailing
Sailing old school! A paraw is an outrigger boat with two sails. Get onboard, control it and let the wind take you to the best sites and sights around the island. Best done during sunset.
5. Standup Paddling
You don’t need to be a skilled surfer to maneuver a standup paddleboard. “White Beach’s placid and shallow waters on a fine day make this activity perfect for beginners.”
6. Cliff Diving
Ariel’s Point has five cliff diving platforms and is a favourite for the adventurous. The highest at 13 metres and the lower ones are at 7, 6, 5 and 3 metres
7. ATV Ride
Drive to the island’s highest peak, Mt. Luho, great fun
8. Food Trip:
Great variety of food available especially the seafood
9. Sunset watching;
Some of the greatest sunsets I’ve seen
How to get there and accommodation information:
The Travel Café Bondi
02 9130 1345