Having a traumatic experience as a child when I almost drowned in the Subic beach back when I was 4 years old, I thought I’d never step a foot in beaches ever again.
However, my home country being an archipelago and having countless beautiful islands to boast makes it difficult for me to stay away from the crystal clear salty seawater.
Here is my brief comparison for the Philippines’ top 2 most popular beach island destinations:
If you want a nightlife after hanging out the beach, then Bora is for you. At night, there are small night parties by the beachside, complete with DJs and firedancers.
There are very cheap flights directly from Manila to Kalibo, Aklan. Cebu Pacific offers the most promotions several times a year especially for domestic flights, hence, it is not that ‘hole – burner’ in your pocket to go to this island anymore.Kalibo International Airport
Our generous and balikbayan uncle, who sponsored this trip, booked for us an accommodation in the Station 1 of the island. We stayed in a two-storey cozy and mini villa named Club Ten Boracay . It is just a couple of minutes walk from the beach located inside a Euro-style mini villa compound in the first station.
Aside from the tempting nightlife in Bora, there are many activities you may also accomplish in daytime. Some of the activities we did were learning how to surf, roll away inside a gigantic zorb ball and riding the banana boat.
The cloudy weather did not stop us from exploring the beach though. In the near middle, there is a small grotto in which tourists can visit. It has small staircase leading to it, which makes it easir for tourists to get up close the religious sculpture of Mama Mary.
Though I did not have much patience learning the basics of the surfboard, I still enjoyed watching the guide teaching my sister and cousin. There are local surfers roaming around the island offering cheap rates per hour for those who want to learn the surfboard.
The next day, it rained when we tried out the zorb ball activity in the Zorb Park. Muddiness aside, we still enjoyed the experience especially as there are a lot of us who tried the zorb ball.
As you can see, you can get inside the large zorb ball with one or two more persons. Once inside, the zorb ball will be closed and then it will be rolled down the slope and straight to the swimming pool. I guess the first trial was sort of weird to me, especially when the ball started rolling through the humps of the slope and the ball seemed to bounce a bit continuously downwards, making us, the persons inside make uncomprehensible sounds. Good thing though, that the inside of zorb ball seem to be soundproof.
If you want more adrenaline – pumping activities, you may also try the flying fish or banana boat. As there are many of us, we opted for the banana boat ride. It was an exhilarating experience and the people in the motor boat is helpful anough to take nice photos despite the riot in the banana boat.
The banana boat can hold up to 10-15 persons, and it will take you to tour around the island (pulled by a speedy motor boat). It was thrilling, especially when the weather during that time is a bit windy and the waves are stronger than the usual.I swear, I think I saw this vicinity in one of the local television dramas.
My favorite activity done in Boracay, is the helmet diving. This involves submerging your whole body underwater with only helmet and oxygen tank attached from the boat. It is quite scary at first, especially as it seems the helmet is going to come off any minute if you have not properly held the grip in the helmet. Also, when being underwater, you have to breathe properly and follow what the guide is teaching, otherwise, the water pressure is quite painful in the eardrums. Hand gestures are the allowed form of communication here, and when you dont want to continue anymore you just have to signal (pointing your index finger upwards) that you want to go up the boat for good.
We also tried the Henna Tattoo, wherein there are a lot of designs to choose from. For me, I selected the feather design with little birds. You just have to be extra careful not to get freshly tattooed ink in the bedsheets though.
The souveneir shops are also a must – see. There are variety of pasalubongs to choose from. I even came across an eccentric looking souveneir stall that seems to be selling souveneirs for ‘adults’ eyes only. 😅
• El Nido
Located in Palawan, this island is famous for its natural and ethereal natural resources. Aside from Cebu Pac, you can also find direct and affordable flights in Air Asia from Manila to the Puerto Prinsesa International Airport. Though the travel time can really be exhausting and literally pain in the ass with the land travel being longer than the air travel alone (i remember that upon arriving at the airport, our rented private van took at least 6 hours to get to our accommodation near beach from the airport), all the numbness and exhaustion will fade once you get to see the island.Island hopping around El Nido
We toured a lot of islands during our visit in El Nido, Palawan. Some of the islands I remembered visiting were the following:
- Big and Small Lagoon : You can rent kayaks here for 30 minutes in which it can sit 2 persons including the boat driver. The waters are very deep as well, wherein the clarity of the seawaters can almost fool you that its shallow enough to take a dip in.
- Matinloc Island : This island promises of an IG – worthy snaps afterwards. Also, inside the island you will be able to visit the famous shrine shaped liked a dome.
- Shimizu Beach : this has limestone cliff formations and picturesque sandy beach in which you can enjoy snorkeling.
- Secret Lagoon : Derived from the name itself, this tiny island is enclosed in limestone cliffs. Among the islands, I found it especially difficult to go here. Why? because the boat will not directly transport you to the secret lagoon itself. Hence, you have to wade and walk through the rocky surface of ocean floor. Beware of the sea urchins and slippery rocks! It is advisable that you buy a swimming or water shoes for this trip.
- Hidden beach : A small sandy beach perfect for sun bathing and othr chill beach activities.
- Helicopter island : A helicopter – shaped island with a long stretch of sandy white beach perfect for photo ops. It is also distinguished from any other islands easily because of its similarity to a look of a sea turtle.
The island hopping tour allows you to tour at least 4 islands a day, and most of the time you will be in a boat. One of the tourists with us in the boat, who is a Chinese national, even swore that he saw a shark’s fin by the ocean’s distance as we are island hopping. Creepy!
In fact, there are a lot of tour packages to choose from in El Nido, and the island are to be toured and divided into Tour A, B and C. The tour we paid is good for 4 days and 3 nights wherein we have chosen 2 tours to combine (as far as I remember, we chose Tour A and Tour C in which is has a whole 2 – day of island hopping. This package also included a lunch already. Hurray to a boodle style lunch by the boat! It is so refreshing that sometimes you feel like a survivor castaway. For reference, you may check out WayPH or Klook for affordable and competitive rates for package tours.
Like Boracay, El Nido also have souveneir stores you can shop and select pasalubongs with. From keychains to fridge magnets to shirts and slippers and many other items, you name it and you’re going to find here.
Verdict: I think I would go for the El Nido on this one. If you are looking for more subtle and refreshing feeling of vacation, then to Palawan you have to pack your bags to. Honestly, I am much more if a nature lover than a night life party goer, hence, I really appreciated the natural beauty of El Nido more than the Boracay which is much more commercialized compared to the former.
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