Ten years ago, I organized a workshop together with other lead agencies for certain government officials and staff held in Boracay Island, Philippines. The said workshop was all expenses paid, including first class accommodation and lodging, partly funded under a USAID grant for four days and three nights. It was specifically held at Club Panoly, an exclusive beach resort in the said island, about 15-minute tricycle drive from the island's commercial center or the so-called "d' mall" of the main long white beach, as popularly known today.
Despite it being an official trip, the organizers reserved a half day tour to scan the place which provided the participants the chance to briefly visit nearby virgin islands showcasing enchanting caves and nature exploration. As Club Panoly is located on the other side of the island and the fact that we were there on official weekdays, it seemed we owned the resort as we were away from the maddening crowds of the main long beach. The amenities of the resort was at that time at par with other world top notch beach resorts. Rooms were first class and an outside private pool with jacuzzis were inviting. There were sports related areas, spas, food and bar drinks. During that time, the main long white beach was relatively not yet fully developed. As a matter of fact, there were only a few hostel establishments and cottages, and the commercial areas were done under a makeshift native “nipa” huts from palm tree leaves. But my stay in the island was limited not being able to savor the beauty and freshness of the environment, leaving the place with a sigh in frustration and with my footprints on the powdery white sand gradually being washed away by the serene blue green waters!
(Note: Photos are exclusively for www.myusefultips.com use, hence not for public consumption)
Last week, a great opportunity knocked on the door. It was an invitation to spend a 4 days/3 nights stay in the main long beach of the Boracay Island. I thought it would be a sweet reunion with the beautiful island after a decade, although not in the same exact location. I had no idea what was in store and how the tour package would be. But learning from the CNN news that Boracay has just been chosen and named as the world's best island getaway by Travel and Leisure, I became very excited about it! Boracay occupied the top in the list, followed by Bali in Indonesia, the Galapagos Islands, and Maui (see below).
Travel + Leisure's top 10 island destinations in 2012:
1. Boracay, Philippines – 93.10
2. Bali – 90.41
3. Galapagos – 89.55
4. Maui – 89.53
5. Great Barrier Reef Islands, Australia – 89.28
6. Santorini, Greece – 89.20
7. Kauai – 89.09
8. Big Island, Hawaii – 87-95
9. Sicily, Italy – 87.8
10. Vancouver Island, British Columbia – 87-48
The first day was indeed filled with crazy incidents, fun and surprises from the very start of my second journey to the Boracay island! Check what happened.
Firstly, we were actually stocked inside the plane parked in the runway for more than two hours ! Okay great, the passengers of PR 24_ were asked to board the plane as scheduled but only to be told after 30 minutes of waiting while on our respective seats with belts already bucked safely on our waists, that the plane could not leave as the international airport in Kalibo, Aklan was experiencing a so-called air traffic congestion! The good pilot announced that he had to wait for further instructions from the airport's air traffic controller. Wow, air traffic? It may sound absurd , right? I was not too convinced of the reasons given us behind the flight delay. Air traffic could more likely happen in a very busy air transport hub such as the JFK Airport in NYC or even the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila. But not Kalibo! Anyhow, we waited and waited until finally the plane left after more than 2 hours of delay from the flight schedule. Thankfully, the plane reached the Kalibo International Airport safe and sound but with the observation that the said airport was not quite busy after all! If I were invited to a speaking engagement in Boracay or if I were a businessman wanting to get that lucrative business deal, everything would have been screwed up due to the flight delay. Good, I was going there this time merely for pleasure! Nevertheless whatever the reason was, I would like to credit the pilot's efficiency and apologetic manner of comforting the passengers and compensating for the delayed hours by shortening the plane's travel hours to only 38 minutes, compared to the normal 45 minute ride. Oh, and for the airline too! The jumbo jet departed even at no full capacity. I noticed that we were only few passengers in the said flight. Wow, that was incredible! A round of applause for that!
However, the 38 minutes actual air travel time took us more than two hours in effect to reach the destination due to the delay in the plane's take off, just couldn't bear it! The said airline's compensatory action did not resolve the flight delay issues, not at all!
Secondly, the van that transported us to Caticlan for another two hours patiently waited for the plane's arrival despite the delay. That was another surprise! But we had to share the van with a couple of passengers who likewise made similar transfer arrangements.
The 2-hour trip to Caticlan was smooth with the lush greenery and tropical plants in full bloom as if welcoming me for the second time.
Caticlan's jetty port terminal seemed to have been well developed compared to my first step on the town's sea port.
The hotel staff and driver warmly welcomed us and carried our luggage to the motorboat which was already waiting for us to transport to the Boracay island.
It was like my own humble boat as we were the only passengers,. It was so comfortable compared to other motor boats where passenger seats have to be filled up before the boat leaves.
As a matter of fact, the boat's poor tired crew were even confident to take a nap while cruising the harbor!
The 15 minute motor boat ride was splendid! Nature spoke to me and I was filled with gratefulness.
I should say, the transfer fees paid for under the package tour worked so right! As they say, it really pays to pay for comfort and convenience! Ton of thanks!
Finally, we've reached the Boracay Island with some rain showers but it didn't spoil our first night. Immediately, we went out to explore the place and I was just so amazed of the throngs of tourists in the area mostly Asians (Koreans, Taiwanese, Chinese and Japanese), Europeans and Americans, despite the fact that it was no longer the summer months in a tropical place like Boracay. The island's commercial center where shopping and dining areas are situated appeared to have already been explored by all kinds of inhabitants. Name it and I thought every race in the world is being represented. You get to see various kinds of relaxation services too and everything you tried is always for a fee but very affordable. Apart from finding quality handicrafts in the island (e.g. handmade bags and jewelry made of shells, abaca, pearls), you can also try getting a henna tattoo or a beautiful hand painted shirt.
There are also expert massage treatments, bars, internet cafes and other beach activities (e.g. scuba diving, snorkeling, sail and banana boating, kite boarding, jet ski, windsurfing, among others). In fact, a man offered us for a boat ride to other nearby islands for only $25 bucks for a group of 5 (after applying my price negotiation prowess!). Awesome!
Since it was late in the evening already, I had to call it a day and take a rest for the next exciting adventures, the remaining days of my getaway!
See you guys on my next blog, more about Boracay!