White Beach Boracay Island Philippines

This is my account of a recent holiday to the magnificent Boracay Island, Philippines.

I flew from Manila with Philippine Airlines A320 (you know the old bucket … the one you bounced your way on between Hawaiian Islands 20 year ago) and landed in about an hour on “the mainland” in a town called Caticlan.

The airstrip reminds me of those on the west coast of Queensland in such places as Weipa. Anyway we land and the aircraft taxis back down the strip away from what I will later learn is the terminal.

There is a bus waiting for us, we board and wait for the luggage to be loaded and locked under the bus. As we drive off we are following a jet and being followed by a prop- jet which I later learn is bound for El Nido (another of the amazing Philippine Island holiday destinations).  By now I am already in the tropical island mode as the heat, palm trees and ocean (as blue as) is in clear sight.

Caticlan Airport to Boracay

Caticlan Airport to Boracay

We turn off the taxi way and head off down a goat track of a road. The road is more pot hole than road but I don’t care. Motoring on we pass dozens of shops offering local stuff but finally we pull back onto airport property, BACK to the end of the strip where we had landed. We alight the bus. The Terminal is tiny. The heat hits me … happy days. I see guys carrying luggage to a wall behind which we are now standing and they put the bags on a carousel. At this point I can’t help but appreciate the job creation as we could have just as easily taken our own bag off the bus and been gone much soon.

With my backpack in place I walk outside to the awaiting hordes calling “taxi Sir” only to see my name on a piece of cardboard held by a well presented local lad. “Hello Sir. I am Rowga” I later work out that his name is Roger. I play along calling him Rowga and later this becomes a joke between us as he calls me Mork.

We walk to a van and he gets in but not as the driver. Rowga pays the driver. We drive all of 100 metres to another building, the purpose of which I am still unsure. Rowga pays the counter staff. We walk on through to the rear of the building onto a stony beach and wait for my “private speed boat”.  Ok, it was private and yes it is a boat. We head off as the second in charge fiddles with the plastic fuel tank, with the cap off and fuel sloshing about. Ahhhhh the smell of petrol fumes …

Caticlan to Boracay Island Boat Transfers

Caticlan to Boracay Island Boat Transfers

A short motor later and we are on the island at another terminal. Rowga pays the boat driver. It is at this point that I realise that Rowga is a bit of an entrepreneur as he tries to ferret me out of the area via a hole in a barb wired fence. Alas we are accosted by security. Rowga looks innocent. A wasn’t me kinda look. Now I like Rowga and we spend time during the week chatting but you should know that Rowga looks innocent in a goofy kinda way all the time. I secretly called him Gilligan if that paints the picture. Rowga pays the port tax. We are then looking for his car…..

Where is the car you ask? Well wouldn’t it be in the car park? LOL Alas no, Rowga has skimped on the parking fee and we set off up the street taking care not to stand on a chicken or get run over by a zillion 125cc “motor bikes”. Up ahead Rowga is happily (Open mouthed no sound coming out, Gilligan style) pointing to his “car”. Rowga drives a tricycle / 125cc motor bike. By now I am in my element as I do love the atmosphere and I slip right into it. As we head up the street we are about to be overtaken by another “car” so I use a -tshirt to wave the finish flag for them. They laugh. Probably at me rather than the antic.

Boracay Island Transfer with Rowga

Boracay Island Transfer with Rowga

A little further on, life still intact, I happen to mention to Rowga that I had an interest in visiting the Fish Market later in the week. Well this was very exciting news to Rowga and next thing you know we are off down a side street. Rowga pulls over, kinda, and jumps out. He grabs my backpack and it is all I can do to keep up as we are swallowed up by the local crowd buying fresh veg, freshish meat (I am not a fan of flies) and then to the pinnacle, the fish market. I am not interested in fish though and I head to the mud crabs and prawns. I buy far too much as Rowga promises that the chef at the hotel will cook it up for me.

 

Boracay Fish Market

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Shortly after the shopping expedition we arrive at the vine / tree lined and covered driveway to my piece of paradise. I did splash out a bit having booked 6 nights at the Mandala Spa and Villas. (Roughly A$200 a night) WOW. I was in Villa #10. There are 12 stand alone villas which are just stunning. Surrounded by rain forest they are timber floored, outdoor shower, aircon of course and some of the best (and best priced on the island) food. (Thank you Chef.)

The staff at Mandala Spa and Villas are to be commended for being ever present but not seen if that makes sense. Rowga called me shortly after I had unpacked to inform me that the chef would prepare my 3 mud crabs and 12 king prawns (shrimps to the Americanised locals) in chilli and garlic. This was to be my most luxurious dinner of the trip and why not have it on the first night in paradise.

The chef, who’s name I regret I didn’t get after I thanked him, did a superb job with just the right amount of red chilli and masses of fresh garlic. Savouring every mouth-full was a sheer delight and somehow after an hour or so I had managed to eat it all. Woooowww it was superb. I added to the pleasure by washing it all done with a bottle of champagne. I slept well that night. My only regret as to the meal is that I can’t share a photo as the presentation was superb.

Mandala Spa & Villas Boracay Island Philipines

Mandala Spa & Villas Boracay Island Philipines

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The next morning I awoke at 6.30am, as I did everyday for the week. The sun was already well up into the sky and I felt the beach calling me. Now here is my only issue with staying at Mandala Villas. The trade off for the rain forest and peace is that you are 750 metres from the beach. Now this doesn’t sound much and it isn’t if it was a flat walk and you only did it once.  More on this later.

So off I head to the beach via the secret short cut. As I arrive at the beach I am 100% gobsmacked. Never before in my life have I seen such a stunningly awe inspiring vision as I stood frozen in happiness gazing upon White Beach Boracay Island.

White Beach Boracay Island Phillipines

White Beach Boracay Island Phillippines

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I kid you not. I have been to a lot of beaches in my life. Heck I live on the Gold Coast Australia, surf holiday capital. The vision I see is made up of two shades of crystal clear water, soft white sand (much like the Gold Coast) home made boats bobbing in the water awaiting the days tourist trade, the palm trees, the light breeze caressing palm fronds, the white puffy clouds doted over a brilliantly clear royal blue sky, and then I am nearly run over by a bicycle, so I get onto the beach proper.

White Beach is Boracays tourist attraction bar none. If you ask a local, the beach is split up into three sections, Station 1, Station 2 and Station 3. These unsigned “stations” are presumably the boat stations as they tend to have boarding from the beach in clusters. I was at the southern end of White Beach at theoretically, Station 3. So what does a guy boy with all the time in the world? Walk the length of the beach of course.

I head off up the beach, thongs in hand. Now remember that it is about 6.45am if that by now. It is hot. It is sweaty work but I am determined to reach the other end. Why? I had read a review in which a couple said that they had walked the length of White Beach and back each day for 10 days and I had accepted the challenge, albeit without their knowledge or care.

White Beach Boracay Island Phillipines

White Beach Boracay Island Phillippines

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It is about 4K up that beach and 4K back and 1.5k to and from the hotel. What with a side trip to find that same fish market again after getting lost (all part of the journey), the iPhone tells me that I walked 13.8 kilometres and some 19000 steps that day. I had set the bench mark and continued that trend for the week.

Boracay Island Walking Distance

Boracay Island Walking Distance

At the far northern end of White Beach Boracay, the alleged expensive end of the Island, although I didn’t see any evidence of that, maybe that’s the point, I came across a beach front bar that was open so I ordered a Mango Shake (110 pesos or about A$2.50). This became part of my ritual, I needed the rest anyway and it was refreshing to say the least.

At this said bar, I befriended a couple of local lads. They asked my name and for reason unbeknown to me I replied with “Superman”. I asked one of them their name and he instantly replied “Batman”. His mate paused for a bit and announced that he was “Wonder Women”. We all burst out laughing. I stopped in each day to enjoy a Mango Shake with Batman and Wonder Women, much to their delight displayed by the big smiles.

One afternoon I had noticed a lot more cloud build up that usual. I took to the water again for the umpteenth time that day and waited. The palm trees started to blow as an Easterly picked up. The cloud suddenly went black and down it came. The rain bucketed down. A tropic rain storm. I stayed in the water but most ran for shelter. Were they trying not to get wet? The air cooled. The head massage started. The rain drops smashed into the ocean hitting with such force that they bounced up again to form aqua explanation marks before becoming one with the ocean. The rain was dancing. It was a special moment.

As you have probably experienced before on Islands and tourist attractions such as Boracay, you will find a zillion people trying to sell their stuff. Everything from henna tattoos to hair braids to bike rides and of course all of the water sports. To be honest the hawkers aren’t really that bad. Not like in Thailand. As I walked the beach I was usually thongs in hand, so I took it upon myself to see if I could sell the thongs. As the days passed I came across the same guys and they started to ask me for a better price for my thongs. The game worked and they had a laugh too.

As for the masseuses, alleged or otherwise, I chose to seek out a “real” massage and found a shop in D*Mall, which isn’t a mall but you will have to find that out for yourself.  The massage for an hour was 540 pesos or about A$15 and they were well worth it. Truly professional and clearly trained. Those on the beach were 350 pesos. Call me a massage snob but I do not wish to pay for someone untrained and unskilled in massage to rub my leg whilst prattling on to a mate on the next bed with little or no interest in my therapy.

Best Boracay Massage

Best Boracay Massage

I am not much of a bar person when travelling alone so I elected to buy some beer and wine at the 7 Eleven, order off the hotel restaurant menu (as I said was cheaper and much much better food than I had seen at the beach resorts) and watch a bunch of movies on HBO. This allowed me to be in bed early, sleep like a baby for 10 hours and then repeat my day with 14k walks and multiple swims, chuck in a massage and a feed of prawns and I had holiday happiness.

Prana Restaurant ~ Mandala Spa & Resort Villas

Prana Restaurant ~ Mandala Spa & Resort Villas

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Boracay Island Fish Market Prawn Lunch

Boracay Fish Market Prawn Lunch

Boracay Fish Market Prawn Lunch

Oh I should mention the cleanliness of the beach. Very very clean. There is a real awareness on the part of the locals that the beach is there livelihood and that it needs to stay pristine. One morning I was bobbing about in the water when I saw what appeared to be hundreds of termites come onto the beach. On closer inspection it was revealed that the ants where in fact primary school kids wearing brown shorts, white shirts and green hats. They were cleaning the beach. It is just a shame that this attitude isn’t applied to the streets.

The week soon passed. Rowga collected me for the return trip but this time he paid everyone!

Will I come back to Boracay? Well I certainly hope so. El Nido on Palawan Island to the west of Boracay, is apparently just as nice but quieter. After visiting Boracay, I am sure other parts of the Phillippines are worth a visit also.

If I find myself in need of a break and do not wish to risk another location, then I will make a beeline to Boracay Island. I will also stay at Station 3 and I would probably stay on beach at the likes of Ocean Blue or Caemilla as I liked the pool and eatery area they each had.

Is there more to do on Boracay? Sure is. I have barely touched the surface.

Happy travels.

Boracay Island Phillippines Pristine Waters

Boracay Island Phillippines Pristine Waters