And the adventure with SilkAir and Tourism Philippines continues…
Rise and shine, it’s a good day to be alive. I woke up early to catch the sun rise, but realised I was on the wrong side of the island. Oh well, nothing like a hearty breakfast to get on with the day. I walked up to Star Lounge and found a delicious spread of both local and International cuisines. The variety is impressive and I love that they have fresh fruits (big, juicy Philippine mangoes) and a salad bar. There are sausages and bacon for meat eaters and a station for eggs and noodles – made-to-order to your liking.
Hearty spread of hot and cold selections at breakfast includes tropical fruits, pastries, Filipino congee, continental breakfast and freshly-made juices
So, what’s there to do in Boracay? Heaps. Anything you can do in or on water, you’ll find it in Boracay. From helmet-diving, snorkelling, cliff diving, para-sailing, sitting on a banana boat, to screaming like a banshee on the flying fish, depending on the adrenaline needs you want to fulfil, you’ll find it on this island. There’s also several shore excursions like heading to Mount Luho on an All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) which never fails to bring the biker chic in me, hiking to The Bat Cave (no, you won’t find Batman), or shopping at D’Mall, there’s something for everyone.
Whether you enjoy jumping off cliffs or kayaking sedately in open waters, Ariel’s Point is a nice change from the bustling crowd at Boracay
I always envied people who could dive so care-lessly into the azure ocean. As my swimming prowess are limited to floating and passable back strokes, jumping off a diving boards is, for now, off-limits. So here I am, watching others fall five to 15 meters into the deep-end. While cliff jumping may not be one of my things, I did opt to kayak. Paddling through turquoise waters, I realised I’m off the grid and there are no emails to reply or calls to make – this is therapeutic and meditative.
But the day is short and there’s still lots to see. We made our way back to the kayak shack and head off to our next island hop – Crocodile Island. Named for its crocodile head-like shape, this is considered the best diving and snorkelling site. The boatman passes around some bread to attract schools of fish and hands out snorkelling gears. Our tour guide Juanito, tells us to jump in, “don’t miss out on the beauty of Boracay” he says. And like good children, we do. It is like jumping into an aquarium filled with tropical fish – groupers, parrot fish, snappers, wrasses – the view is magnificent. I am amazed at how crystal clear the water is – it’s almost glassy and the scene below is mesmerizing.
If the sun gets too much, there’s always refreshment at hand – ice cream anyone?
Above water, I’m amused to see a floating ice cream vendor and ‘parking’ attendant. There’s money to be made even in paradise. But life around Boracay is still relatively simple. It’s not what it used to be in the 70s but it’s certainly less trodden compared to other tropical islands.
Our boat ‘parked’ itself neatly between two others (in actual fact, the boatman pushed neighbouring boats with a long bamboo pole and squeeze himself in) on a quiet, sleepy village on Tambisaan Beach. This place is a little slice of heaven and the modest restaurant that served us lunch had a surreal view of the ocean. We had a delicious smorgasbord of local fare, featuring mainly seafood; grilled pompano, mud crab cooked in special sauce, chili shrimps, sautéed octopus and the widely popular Adobo chicken.
Seafood so fresh you’d think they caught it in the morning. Oh wait, they did!
A short boat-ride from Tambisaan beach is the picturesque 2.5 hectare island, Crystal Cove. As much as there is plenty to do, the must-see are its two coves located at both ends of the island. It is worth the hike, and even a cave crawl, to view the green crystalline waters. On good weather, visitors are permitted to swim and snorkel inside and around the coves. From end of October to mid-March however, sea conditions changes and winds can be rough.
The best part of this man-made, private island are its hidden gems
By now, our guides figured I’ve been playing it safe. It was time to rock and roll Boracay style. I’m not chuffed. I enjoy sedate activities, I argued, leave the young ones to crazy stuff. But my pleas fall to deaf ears. One of them insists that until I do this, I don’t know what it feels like to be alive.
This thing that I dread is called the ‘flying fish’. It’s an inflatable, heart-pounding, suicidal, 15-minute rodeo ride devoid of any safety rails. If you lose your grip, it means flying into the sea. A speedboat takes us out, I clumsily fall into the six-seater raft. I clench onto a pathetic hand-thing, and off we go. We (I) scream for dear life, bobble all over the raft and I notice my neighbours fly off left and right into the ocean. My only saving grace is that I am in the middle section of the raft. Physics is my friend. If all in doubt, choose the spot closest to the centre of gravity. I have my suspicions that the only people having fun is the speedboat driver and our tour guide who’s in the boat with him.
Ride an ATV to the highest point of Boracay to have a bird’s eye view of the island
We head back to land and it’s finally time for some earthbound action. We catch a van to Happy Dreamland (yes, really, I kid you not) and we get a crash course 101 on handling an All-Terrain Vehicle. This is fun I can handle. I snowmobiled my way through snow in Sweden – I am in my element. We do a test round and what do I do when we stop? I ram right into my front buddy. Oops. The ride to Mount Luho was otherwise pleasant albeit, dusty and noisy. Not quite biker chic but it beats flying off into water.
Nothing beats sailing into the sunset
Our guide takes us back to White Beach. Its half-past-five and we’ve been on a back-to-back schedule like it’s our last day on earth. He’s got one more surprise for us and it’s the best one of all. We wait for our catamaran to arrive and we get on a webbed hammock. The idea is to spread out and enjoy sailing on Boracay’s bewitching waters and watch the sunset.
Dazzling fire dancers in Boracay
Just when you think the action has died down at dinner time, Boracay proves you wrong. Fire dancers on Boracay is one of the best in the world. Their timing and rhythm while spinning balls of fire to the beat is skilful and unerring. The show is most entertaining and fire dancers do put on quite a heart-stopping show.
Food glorious food. Philippines food in Aklan is full of flavour and texture
Food in Philippines varies as much as their languages (between 120 to 175!). While in Boracay, seafood takes centre stage, but back on the mainland, dishes focuses more on meat. On our way to Kalibo airport, we lunched at Marzon’s Café Latte and sampled some of the finest Filipino foods. One of my favourites is kare kare which is rich, peanut-based sauce stew that includes cheaper cuts of meat like ox tail or tripe, but in this case, it was pig’s face. As gruesome as it sounds, it is delicious. Locals use every bit of the animal, traditionally from necessity but today more so for flavour. We also had sizzling milkfish and bulalo (beef bone marrow), grilled prawns, and stewed pumpkin and beans with a serve of rice.
Filled tummies and sun-kissed, we sadly bid farewell to this magical place. This is certainly a case of au revoir. Sitting comfortably once again on SilkAir, the tourism slogan “It’s more fun in the Philippines” rings so true. Whether you’re after lively clubs and bands, or looking for an idyllic island escape – Boracay should be on everyone’s bucket list.
SilkAir flights to Kalibo will be operated on a thrice weekly basis, departing Singapore on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. The flights will be operated by Airbus A319 and A320 aircraft, featuring both Business and Economy Class cabins. As the regional wing of Singapore Airlines, SilkAir operates the Singapore Airlines Group’s narrowbody fleet and extends the Group network by seeding and developing new, exciting destinations in Asia Pacific. Visit their official website for more details.
**Travel and Beyond was hosted by SilkAir and Tourism Philippines. All opinions are our own. Text and photos by guest writer Mable Tan**