BEACHFUN in the Philippines
by Irene C. Posted on July 1, 2012, Sunday
USING generous amounts of sunblock, and putting on a swimsuit with a shirt cover-up,
I hit the beautiful Boracay Beach in the Philippines.
With a towel, a wide brimmed hat, lots of water — not forgetting bottles of sunblocks — in my bag, I joined the group for a day of fun on the beach.
Lucky for me, during my trip, the sun mostly hid behind the clouds, not surprisingly since it was the start of the monsoon (early June) in the Philippines.
Despite the sudden showers, the weather was fine on the whole – so there was less chance of me turning lobster red at the end of the day.
That’s probably why there are many Koreans on the beach at this time of the year since the weather is not too hot.
As it was the end of the school holidays in the Philippines, most parents took the opportunity to spend quality time with their children there before classes resumed.
Most flights are full. The alternative route is to fly to Clark, then Kalibo to get to Boracay.
From Kalibo airport, visitors have to take a bus to Caticlan jetty port, one to one and a half hours away.
At the jetty, visitors have to pay for a boat ride plus an environment fee of P125 or around RM9 per person.
The ride takes 15 to 20 minutes and the boat or bangka itself is unique as it has bamboo balancers called kawangan on both sides. These contraptions are also found on smaller boats to prevent tipping.
Entrance fee to the island is P200 per person or around RM15.
Once on the beach, visitors face an onslaught from locals, mostly children, carrying small plastic baskets, containing a selection of seashells jewelry.
They would approach visitors and offer them a free gift. The catch is as you are leaving, they will bug you to buy something as you have accepted their free gift.
It’s a common sight but just be polite and decline the free offer unless you really want the gift.
But beware — once you have bought something, other sellers would try to get your attention and you’d end up with too many souvenirs to take home. But if you declined, they would call you something (presumably nasty) in tagalog.
Despite the slight annoyance, the island has much to offer in terms of fun activities from sunrise to sundown and beyond.
One of the activities recommended is island hopping, especially to Crystal Cove. To get there, you need to go to the secondary Bulabog Beach — opened from June to Sept due to the monsoon season — rather than the beach front.
The island — formerly known as Tiguatian Island – has a private beach recently opened to the public. It is called Crystal Cove because of the crystal stone found in Cave 1. There is another cavern called Cave 2.
To enter the cave, visitors have to walk down a spiral staircase which is pretty tight fit. Inside, the crystal formation is found on a rock — and opens up to the sea. As a safety measure, ropes are tied to visitors going for a dip in the sea.
Curious fishes swim close to greet visitors and are quite ticklish if they happened to brush your feet!
The water is quite shallow for a five-foot tall person but children may need a guiding hand or floats.
The island has various attractions all within walking distance, and many resting or photo-taking spots, featuring castles, hand shaped seats, a mini bird park, two caves and a beach area.
The mini bird park is actually the remnant of a mini zoo and among its occupants is the Philippine Eagle which looked rather miserable in the enclosure due to an earlier shower.
For diving enthusiasts, there are several diving spots around the area like Crocodile Island which is the best in Boracay.
Non-divers can opt for snorkelling or helmet diving. A walk on the beach is also an option if you don’t feel like getting wet.
The sand here is coarse compared to the powdery fine stuff at Boracay itself due to bits and pieces of corals washing up the beach.
Snorkelling is fun if you have good eyesight or are wearing contact lens.
You can see all the fabulous aquatic animals like seahorse, colourful fishes, beautiful corals and the occasional seasnake.
They would gather closer if you have stale bread to offer and may be tempted to eat out of your hands.
Large seashells and starfishes are in abundance as the law prevents tourists from taking them out of the ocean.
We were lucky as our skipper managed to scoop up a baby seahorse for us to see. Astonishingly, it swims like an eel with fins instead of
bouncing upwards with its tail coiling as depicted in many cartoon shows.
The starfish we took onboard for photo-taking looked like something from the pre-historic era as it had black bumps on orange background.
Apart from that, watching the seaweeds sway with the currents in crystal clear and clean seawater was also therapeutic.
Enjoying a refreshing break for the hectic daily city life, one can be forgiven for losing track of time watching frolicking fishes.
After swimming in the sea and feeling thirsty or hot, we called a floating trader plying the sea with offerings of ice-cream kept in cooler box or fresh coconuts to our boat.
This is a common sight at snorkelling and diving spots.
These traders braved the hot sun to bring us something cool — for a price of course.
Hunger jolted us from our reverie and we headed onshore for a seafood lunch.
Though mostly boiled and lightly seasoned, the food was fresh, very tasty and naturally sweet.
Clam soup whetted our appetite for boiled crabs and oysters.
These items come with spicy dipping sauce for more taste. Other items are grilled chicken drumstick skewers and sweet sour prawn.
Dessert is a selection of fresh fruits, including the signature Philippine mangoes.
Luscious ripe mangoes are found in abundance in the Philippines.
These fruits are their main produce and quite cheap.
After a brief rest, we went back to Boracay Island for a short sidetrip to the Everland Aviary Farm to have a look at exotic birds like diamond doves, African love birds, peacocks, peasants, parakeets. Monkeys and butterflies could also be seen in their cages.
The monkeys were a bit tricky and we were cautioned to be careful while taking photos as they might stick their arm out lightning fast and grab the camera.
Back on the beach, we spent sometime watching the sunset. Although not much could be seen due to a cloudy twilight sky, the nice ocean breeze blowing across our face and mussing our hair was a good consolation.
Several children were seen making sand arts and even offered to take photos of us with our cameras for a small tip.
Many stalls were selling beachwear, slippers, shell-based handicrafts, customised keychains and souvenirs, personalised name pendants, bracelets, and earrings from fine wires. There were also temporary tattooing and even hair-braiding stalls.
Other businesses included seafood stalls, drinks stalls, bars and sales of an traditional exotic dish called balut — which is fertilised duck egg eaten with spicy sauce.
The thought of eating an egg with a fully formed duckling in it is a turn-off for many and can vie for a spot on the Fear Factor.
The hair-braiding service is quite cheap at P200 (RM15) for a full head, medium length hair.
Customers can choose from hundreds of designs and colourful rubber bands.
It is also very fast as a single braid takes less than 20 seconds to complete.
Dinner on the beach was fun with a live band and fire dance on the menu as well.
The fire dancers gyrated to thumping songs and swinging ignited balls of fire on chains like gymnasts. It was exciting to watch.
While we were enjoying the evening, the sky suddenly opened up. Without warning, Typhoon Mawar or known locally as Ando, came a’calling.
Amidst the rain and strong wind, we made a dash for cover. Despite the inconvenience, a sprint to our hotel was a good workout to balance our heavy meal with.
That was how our day at Boracay ended.