KEEP CALM & ENJOY BORACAY
Boracay is arguably the most well know beach resort of the Philippines. It is a tiny Island, just 6 Kilometres long and 750 metres wide at its narrowest point. It is well known for its white sand beaches and palm trees. It is an idyllic spot that has been attracting visitors for years, but has recently began to attract more and more tourists as more Filipinos can afford a visit and the international tourists hear about this great island getaway.
It is about 400 kilometres south of Manila, the easiest way to reach the island is by airplane. Boracay does not have an airport, however the neighbouring Island of Panay is home to two. Caticlan is the closest airport. It is small and large jets cannot land there, but it is by far the most convenient. Boracay is just a ten minute boat ride from the Jetty near the airport. The other Airport is Kalibo. It is larger and generally cheaper to fly to, but expect about a two hour bus ride to arrive at the jetty to take you to Boracay. Transfers from Kalibo can be organised at the airport and cost about 300 Pesos. ($7) CHECK OUT THE ARTICLE - HOW TO GET FROM CATICLAN AIRPORT TO BORACAY
Caticlan Airport runway is not that long – Only smaller planes can land there – thanks to http://www.philskies.net for this image
Try not to bring too much luggage as the boats that transfer people to the Island are quite small and bigger suitcases are placed on the roof. It is much easier to bring a backpack with a few supplies. Don’t bother bringing a jacket or jeans. Both will not be necessary as you will be on the beach most of the time (yes even at night).
The water is a beautiful colour
I have been to the Island a couple of times, and each time it is a welcome holiday from the smog and congestion that is Manila. Manila and Boracay are two extremes, and it is hard to believe that this natural wonderland is just an hour flight south of the capital. When I first arrived at Boracay I was in shock at just how picturesque it is. Every place you look is like a postcard, and unlike some destinations, reality is actually better than the photographs. The main beach stretches nearly the length of the island and is covered by white sand that is fluffy. The beach is jam packed with coconut trees and the sand gently meets the crystal water of the ocean and then slowly descends. When I went swimming there, it was possible to walk out nearly 50 meters and still touch the bottom. Boracay has a tropical climate and as such is perfect for swimming or water sports. I usually don’t like the water too much, but in Bora (as the locals call it) it is hard to get out. Even as the sun is setting many people are still frolicking in the temperate waters.
The main beach is split into three ‘stations’ which are basically names set up for the boats to differentiate the areas where they can and can’t go. Station 2 is right in the middle of all the action and home to D’Mall, which is a series of tracks leading from the beach to the road and houses a variety of shops. There is only one main road going through the island so it is hard to get lost. If you stay at Station 1, 2 or 3, generally the shops, bars and nightclubs are with-in walking distance of the hotel. If you have a bit too much to drink and don’t feel like walking, it is easy to get a lift in motorised tricycle for a fraction of a dollar.
You can do as much or as little as you want here, and the island caters to all budgets. When we were feeling adventurous we tried helmet diving. For only a few hundred Pesos, we were whisked away a few hundred metres off shore where we put our helmets on. We were connected to the boat via a long tube. It was 6 or 7 metres from the ocean floor to the boat where oxygen is pumped down. It can get quite nerve-racking to begin with because if the helmet is not kept level, water will enter, surrounding the head and I had urge to try to swim the surface on a few occasions. In reality there is nothing to worry about though, because as the helmet fills with oxygen again, it pushes the water out. This experience gave us a fantastic look at the sea bed, coral and tropical fish. The guide gave us some food to feed the fish as he took some photographs for us.
99 Swimming with the fishes – see
Other activities that are on offer include, sail boating, jet skiing, para sailing, snorkeling, kite surfing and ATV adventures, however my favourite would have to be Island hopping. For less than $25 we were taken around the surrounding Islands of Boracay. We snorkeled, visited rock caves, given a buffet lunch (beer included), then off to a secluded beach to wrap up the day. There were about twenty of us in an outrigger boat and was great value.
The feeling was perfection when you witness a sunset on Boracay
Once the sun goes down the fun really begins. Being such a small island with such a big beach, most of the nights activities revolve around the side of the beach. There are a multitude of bars to visit, catering to your mood. There are busy bars on the beach with hippies and dreads sitting on homemade wooden stools drinking cheap beer. There are also more upmarket establishments catering to families or newlyweds with chairs and tables designed to soak in the ambiance.
All of these bars are on the side of the beach overlooking the water. Later in the night the night clubs come alive. Towards Station 1 is where most of them are located. Up a few bamboo stairs from the sand and we were immersed in the sound of thumping speakers and revelers dancing the night away. We visited one of clubs on the island and they have a promotion where if you buy 15 cocktails and are still standing you get a free T-Shirt, all for $30. A lot of backpackers in this place had just completed the challenge and started a conga line. The free-flowing drinks made for a great atmosphere.
I have been to Boracay a number of times and each time is different. There has been a lot of progress, both good and bad over the years. The Island experience can be as laid back or as adventurous as you desire, but a balance is always best in my opinion. Remember to keep calm and enjoy Boracay.