It’s 4.30 in the afternoon and the Perth sun has well and truly retreated behind a blanket of sad, grey clouds.
As I prepare to board my AirAsia flight to KLIA2, I’m a mix of both excitement and concern. I’ve had two reactions when I’ve discussed my final holiday destination of Boracay, Philippines, with friends and colleagues. Firstly, “where is that?” and, the more concerning of the two, “it’s not what it used to be”. As I now sit down to reflect on my trip, I can see that I needn’t have worried.
The 12-hour lay over at Kuala Lumpur, was a great opportunity to test out the Tune Hotel, before continuing onwards to Kalibo International Airport. After touch down, a scenic, winding bus route and short boat ride, I was checking into the impressive Henann Regency Resort and Spa and being handed welcome drinks. As grand as the resort appears, it cannot hold a candle to Mother Nature herself – stepping out onto Whitebeach, my eyes could have popped out of my head.
The sky, painted in vivid hues of reds and orange, casts it’s warm light over the palm tree lined coast of Station 2. Like ants, beach goers pass, chattering and laughing as they make their way along the restaurants and stalls. Colourful sailboats dance along the horizon, silhouetted in the dusk light. Trees, strung with lights, frame the various postcard perfect, outdoor seating areas. I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived in Boracay, but I didn’t fathom it being so beautiful.
Station 2 in Boracay is a hive of activity, music and light. Live singers belting out acoustic ballads and speakers blaring out dance beats somehow don’t compete against each other. Rather, the sounds seamlessly transition as you explore the stalls, read restaurant menus and pass fire-dancers, activities promotional guys and salesmen offering you sunglasses and fedora hats in every colour imaginable.
Ice filled display cabinets are piled high with every, and any, seafood your heart could possibly desire. The fresh lobsters, crabs, squid and various types of shimmering fish are all generous in size, and calling out to be picked by diners. Filipinos are renowned for being accommodating as reflected in the restaurant scene. Boracay caters to a wide range of tourists, offering a variety of cuisines, from Korean to Japanese, Mexican to Western.
Needless to say, it’s the Filipino cuisine that shines brightest, which was particularly important for me given the limited options for it back home. Tito’s Resto and Grill, Hoy Panga! and Paraiso Grill all come heavily recommended by me, each offering some mouth watering, Pinoy options. The distinctive flavours of Filipino food were all showcased here, featuring the obligatory ingredients of vinegar, garlic and calamansi, elevating the food to a cut above the rest.
I’m here to confirm that evening scenery of Boracay delivers the same impact in the light of a brand new day. Wonderfully crafted sandcastles decorate the beach and the music is replaced with the gentle lapping of the water and the chugging sounds of boats filled with excited sightseers, boarded for a day of exploration. After taking the obligatory selfies from the parasol-shaded comfort of a beach lounge chair, it was my turn to explore beyond Whitebeach itself.
Booking an Island Hopping tour through the hotel, I found myself on a puttering ferry, resembling a packet of orange highlighters in our life vests. Our guide navigated our multicultural group over to Crocodile Island (assuring us that the namesake came from the island’s shape and not it’s native wildlife) for a spot of scuba diving.
From there, we made our way to Crystal Cove Island, an explorers oasis with nature lined footpaths spanning the island, providing spectacular views of the ocean and perched perfectly to catch that unmistakable sea air. After our catered, Filipino lunch we moved on to our final destination at Puka Beach where I found myself drinking from a coconut, observing the ice cream vendors patrol the beach offering their goods to beach-goers, despite the biting sun.
The rest of our days on Boracay were filled with other activities and exhibitions, each showcasing a unique and beautiful aspect of the Island and it’s surrounds. When in Boracay, opt to buggy drive up to Mt. Luho, puttering up the winding slopes to the picturesque peak, overlooking the island. The Sunset Sailing activity is another must-try. I don’t think I have ever felt more relaxed and free as I was gently bobbing along the water, seemingly sailing directly into the sunset.
For an off-island experience, book yourself on the Hacienda Maria Tour. Sure, it’s a bumpy off-roading experience to get to your destination, but as a reward for your motion sickness, you will be treated with cave tours, waterfall base swimming and a rather unique Hot Pot Jacuzzi experience in which you share the experience of a lobster being cooked in hot water – believe me, this in actuality is a lot more relaxing than it sounds. Soak up this Eden of green, where the towering green palm trees contrast against clear blue skies before you head back.
Boracay has far exceeded my expectations. The scenery, people and cuisine have all filled me with pride as an Australian-Filipino. Now that I am back at home in Perth, the days may be dark and the cold rain may be relentless but at least I have my Boracay memories and photographs to keep me warm.