Saturday, November 19, 2011

Boracay Weekend Escapade

It was a spontaneous trip to the famous island down south in Aklan. We booked a few weeks back before my friend's birthday where in she will celebrate her birthday in the beautiful island of Boracay.

It was my first time on this island even if I have travel most parts of the Philippines. My wanderlust to this place started when I was still in elementary when my aunt visited here and they went there. More than a decade after that, I finally got to step on the white sand beach that is famed all over the world.

Preview of the place we're going to. The white beach of Boracay

It is less than an hour plane ride from Manila to reach the province of Aklan. We booked for Kalibo Airport since the Caticlan flights were so expensive. From Kalibo, we had hired a van for PHP200 to go to Caticlan and the fee also included the short ferry ride going to the island. At the port, you need to pay around PHP125 for the Environmental Fee and Terminal Fee. Those are a lot to pay for considering I reside in this county. That was just too sad. From the port, we need to get to the hotel we were booked. We hired a tricycle for PHP100. We were asking them on how to get to that particular place and they were insisting we take the special trip. In the end, we agreed. Good thing, the driver was kind enough to really take us to the gates of the hotel. It was really sad that those people take advantage. Good way to promote tourism in your own country. Overall, here is our expense going to the island, minus the plane tickets and the expensive terminal fee in NAIA (yes, it is only in this country you pay for the terminal fee at airports and look at how disappointing they look like. Need I say more?):

Van and Boat from Caticlan to Boracay Island                        -    PHP200
Terminal Fee and Environmental Fee (PHP50 and PHP75)     -    PHP125
Tricycle ride from port                                                            -    PHP100

We checked in to our booked hotel, Escondido, which by the way, you can have a lot others to chose from. The main street has an array of selection from the most expensive to the most affordable. This have been the livelihood of the people here, either a place to stay, a bar for night life or some restaurant where people could dine in or some souvenir shop. The place is a bit crowded for me.

The sail boats on the waters

pretty white sand beach

We walked on the beach every afternoon and sure the sands were awesome. It was the finest sand I have ever seen and felt. These are perfect for sand castles which unfortunately, we haven't seen any on the shore. No one made one however, my friend told me that the last time she was there, there are a lot. The fine white sand is met up with turquoise waters. The waters are so clean and it was a pretty sight especially when the view meets the blue and white sky which is very much picture perfect. The waters had a lot of boats on it. Sail boats, yacht, island hopping boats and jet ski's. There are a lot of activities going on there and people will usually approach you and offer you with those activities (which are annoying, usually). The whole shoreline is lined with restaurants, shops, and hotels. It is pretty lively at night but it wasn't my kind of beach. I would rather be in a hidden beach with a bonfire as light. It was pretty noisy there and not at all relaxing during the night. They have a lot of parties and there are fire dancers all around. It was really festive and alive at night. It makes you wish you never get tired and just party with them all night.

Boracay is pretty busy at night

Array of restaurants and resorts along the beach

The activities you can have there are plenty. You can go para-sailing, sunset sailing, helmet diving or riding an ATV to tour around. You can also opt to go Island Hopping, when eventually you will just tour around the island. We opted to do the last option and our contact was Kuya Patrick. My friends met him when they were bumming around the beach. We texted him for the rates and he gave us PHP1000 for the five of us. We agreed and he said he'll add PHP50 each for the snorkeling gear to be rented. We agreed and the next morning, we all went to meet him. We paid PHP1200 since they said it included the insurance. Yes, they will tell you that. We felt a bit betrayed but still okay since it was a lean season price.

We started our tour on the shores with a big boat for the five of us. There are two boat mans that are with us. They asked us if we wanted to go to Crystal Cove but we refused because you need to pay PHP200 for just going there. It was quite expensive since you will just see shiny stones inside the cave island. It didn't interest us much also since we saw that the place is packed with tourists and we imagined being cramped with them inside a small hollow damp place. We just requested the boat mans to take us around the small island and see around the Crystal Cove.

Crystal Cove

Guest area on the island

The Crystal Cove is a small island near the main island of Boracay. This attraction features the crystals in cave underneath it. They collect PHP200 for each guest and you can go around the island take photos and see the pretty crystals around. You need to go down most of the time since the crystals are located there. It is usually cramped with guests and I see that you'll have difficulty having a good spot there. We opted to just to go around and there you will see blocked portions since the boat can really go through there and you can now marvel at the crystals, but since they wanted some livelihood from our natural wonders, you now have to pay a price just to see it. I just hope they take care of the place with the money they collect.

We went around the island next and saw the port where we rode the ferry. It was just a short distance from the beach area and near it is the snorkeling area. The boat stopped in the middle and we soon dived in. There are a lot of fish under and they come to us with the bread we bough for PHP20. I held most of them while feeding. It was feeding frenzy down there and it was fun. It was just quite disappointing that when you observe the coral reef they live in, it was really not in good shape. There are dead corals around and everything under is not that so alive. It seems that the place was not taken care of despite the PHP20 snorkeling fee they use to charge people there. It was quite sad seeing this and comparing to the other well preserved marine sanctuaries I have ever seen. I just hope they take more care of it since it is their livelihood there.

After our snorkeling,which was cut short because they say we need to go to other places, we all went back the boat and soon we are heading to Puka Beach.

items for sale at Puka Island
 Puka Beach is on the other part of the island. The sands here are not as fine as the one we have on the other side but the beach is equally pretty. There are no restaurants there only people selling different bead works and people enjoying the beach. We wanted so bad to dip in the water if not for the scorching sun that indicates it was near noon.

Rosaries made from different stones

Snake bones bracelet

There are a lot of vendors there. After talking to one, we were soon swarmed with a lot of them. They sell rosaries with beads from different minerals around the islands. They also sell bracelets from snake bones. It was quite weird and nice and overpriced. All we did at that place is hang out on the shade and buy some stuff with the vendors and then off we went again at the boat.

Children cliff diving

It was time to return now but we are still touring the island. It was an array of amazing resorts in our view. Most are private and some are the most expensive you could imagine. I wanted to be at those places honestly because there are no restaurants at the shore and it seems peaceful staying there.

One of the pretty resorts in the island

We returned to shore shortly and we gave the boatman a tip for bringing us back safe. We returned to our rooms and rested, getting ready to enjoy the rest of the beach.

All in all, here is the price we paid for that Island Hopping trip, divided by the five of us:

Boat and 'insuarnce'                               -     PHP1200
Bread for fish feeding                               -     PHP20
Rented Snorkeling Gear (PHP50 each)    -     PHP200
Snorkeling Fee (PHP20 each)                 -     PHP100
Tip for the boat man                                -     PHP50
*Crystal Cove Fee (we didn't avail)         -    (PHP200 each)

Another thing you shouldn't miss on the island is the sunset. Although we were not lucky enough to see it, it was still nice to have a glimpse of it. It was quite cloudy when we were there, and there are hints of rain and so it was quite sad we didn't have that romantic beautiful sunset.

Attempt at a good shot of sunset

Mornings there are also nice. There are few people on the beach and the restaurants are closed. It is peaceful and calm. Perfect to just walk and enjoy the light breeze of the sea. Sunrise is on the other part of the island so you just can see the rays of light slowly lighting up the sky.

Rays of sun rise. Good Morning Boracay!

It was nice staying at Boracay. It was a good escape from the monotonous work weeks I had. It was just so commercialized but you can still enjoy everything with a set of good old friends. I was just glad I get to cross out that island in my list of to go to places in the Philippines. Maybe I'll be back since I'm itching to try out para-sailing, where you'd had to pay PHP2500 for a 15 minute ride. I'll just have to save up for that. For now, I can say that I have enjoyed the sands and waters of the famed island of Boracay.

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