19
Nov
13

a birthday in boracay

I had massive expectations about visiting Boracay.

All the pictures, videos and stories I’d heard of this island told me that despite huge redevelopment over the past decade here, the island itself was still just as postcard perfect as it was before it became ‘mainstream’ (not that mainstream in that it still takes a minimum of 3 flights and over twenty four hours to get here from the UK, but mainstream thanks to the whole of South Korea and their iPads, iPhones, iPods and iRons (sorry) – seemingly being on Boracay when not in immigration queues back in Manila) Seoul must be a ghost town….
Anyway…..

So the super typhoon last week had maybe slightly lowered my hopes of finding a new favourite island in that perfect crystal clear sea, white sand, beach bar, friendly local cliché kind of way. After all I’ve been fortunate to spend varying amounts of time on some cracking beach isles – Gili Trawangan, Koh Samui, Antigua, Langkawi, Barbados – to name drop a few. Boracay has strong competition is what I’m trying to say.

Several days into our stay here and you could see Boracay is getting back to its postcard picturesque best. Aided by two near-perfect days of bright sunshine, warm temperatures and minimal winds, I can confirm after a sunset swim (whilst Naomi had a beach massage – tough life) that the sea waters on Diniwid Beach are now as clear as we’d hoped. They weren’t particularly ‘murky’ before, oh no. Just slightly cloudy from the debris that had blown about last week. Our hotel pool, out of action and emptied of its water on our arrival, is now clean and full again. The neon lights are back up on the palm trees, the hotel restaurant is now softly playing music again and candlelit tables and chairs are being spread back onto the beach, ready for those perfect evening meals with the sand between your toes. Even the numbers of tourists seemed to grow by the hour.

You can of course see the effects of the storm across the island. In particular the small shanty towns that are located behind the many hotels here all look slightly battered and bruised. A few days ago we had a massive rainstorm here that left little to no marks on the ever recovering hotels and beach fronts. Getting a lift to and from D’Mall (the slightly overrated, noisy, touristy main area of the island) you cannot help but notice the state of some of the locals homes, flooded again after the latest rain storm, and feel slightly guilty about the fact all we have to go without is the internet for the week and a few hours of power in the afternoon.

On the other hand we need not feel guilty. People in this part of world do seem to have a more ‘roll the sleeves up and get on with it’ kind of attitude than we do in western world. Also just by being here so soon after Yolanda, on such a small island that is driven by tourism, we are doing our bit. The friendly tricycle drivers in particular seem to be making a roaring trade shuttling people round the isle. As do the many tour boats that line the magnificent White Beach, located a short, rocky walk away from Diniwid. Life is getting back to normal very quickly for the people of this island.

In the same way it has taken Boracay a couple of extra days to get back to somewhere near its best, me and Naomi also took till Wednesday to finally acclimatise and start making the most of our precious time here. Sure we had our morning breakfasts, walks to White Beach and swims in the sea. We had a lovely first evening out at D’Mall watching a characteristically cheesy, yet strangely decent live local band on the beach. But weighed down by the jet lag driven desire to have (five hour!) power naps in the afternoon, our time here was in danger of not being hundred per cent fulfilled.

That all changed on our fourth Filipino morning as we woke on Naomi’s birthday. Within an hour of waking up we’d had the wonderfully friendly staff sing happy birthday to her (recognised thanks to the ma-hoo-sive 21 badge I’d kindly bought her to wear) and were on our way to White Beach for a half day of ‘island hoping’. Not really having any pre-conceptions about what might lay ahead, we were pleasantly surprised when we were beckoned to paddle out to sea in order to board our personal boat. I thought we’d be on a boat with maybe a dozen others, all battling for the same photo opportunities and doing nothing but getting in each others way. For the next few hours we were taken up and down the west coast of Boracay, stopping a couple of times to try some snorkelling. The first time wasn’t overly successful as we were quite far out at sea, meaning the water was pretty choppy. I managed to dive down and take a few decent up close and personal shots of the colourful tropical fish before we jumped back aboard our boat. The second time out was great fun. We managed to settle into it pretty quickly, helped by the fact the sea was calmer and we could get a bit further away from our boat. I’ve not snorkelled since I was a kid – I enjoyed the hour or so I had in the sea so much that I’ll hopefully get another chance before we leave for home. Having the fish swim literally right by your nose in such crystal clear seas was exhilarating.

We spent the first part of the evening back at Diniwid up at the fantastic Spiderhouse bar. It had been a perfectly clear day, the first since our arrival. The reason for choosing this particular venue for Naomi’s birthday sundown drinks was mainly due to the incredible panoramic view that the elevated bar gave of Boracay. The sunset was pretty epic and will stay with me for some time. It’s one of those words cannot do it justice moments so I’ll just let you look at the pictures at the bottom of this entry. Without being too soppy it was a magic moment to spend the last moments of sunlight on her 21st watching the sun go down, supping a cocktail. Memories we will naturally have forever.

Talking of making memories – the next morning I broke the bank in treating myself to eighteen holes of golf at the only course on the island, Fairways and Bluewaters. The lure of passing the resort every time we got a tricycle or shuttle to and from our hotel was simply too much – I had to play a round here. I’d packed a dozen balls, my shoes and some tees and was delighted when I smashed my first drive 200 yards down the middle on the opening par 5 hole. It nearly got better, I chipped from just off the green for par, hit the flagstick and the ball finished less than an inch from the hole. My caddie, a lovely lady who’s name I won’t attempt to spell, was in rapturous as I started bogey, par, bogey, par. Things went well, as I shot 13 over par 49 on the front 9 and ended with a score of 104 (par was 72) It should have been better but I was thrilled with my ball striking, playing as well I have all year on that front nine holes. I’ll put the slip on the back 9 down to the incredible views of the sea from the elevated tee position 😉 Mind you I did smoke that drive miles as well so perhaps we’ll just put it down to the inconsistencies of being a 20-something handicapper! The course was in good nick, especially if you consider the back 9 holes were only re-opened the morning I played due to the typhoon damage suffered. Naomi enjoyed her day, taking on the nickname of ‘Mrs Schumacher’ thanks to her skills behind the wheel of the golf buggy!

As you can tell the majority of our time on Boracay was extremely positive.

The main downside we found was D’Mall, which was a bit of a disappointment. By the sixth and last day walking down the magnificent White Beach was becoming slightly hard work due to the constant heckling from the countless hawkers selling everything from boat trips, scuba diving, sun hats, DVDs and sunglasses. Don’t get me wrong, these blokes are just trying to make a living. But when one has seen you say ‘no thanks’ to one of his mates trying to flog you sunglasses (when you already have a pair on) yet he still walks over to you and offers the same item just seconds later, it becomes tiresome. Give us a break, lads.

Also the nightlife in D’Mall was all a bit much. Perhaps we are old before our time, but quite why you need four DJs in a beachside club playing ridiculously loud music to about three customers is beyond me. More quiet beach bars please like Spiderhouse, please Boracay.

All the moaning aside I’ll take positive memories from time on Boracay. Its not made it to the top of the island charts with me but I’ll always cherish the time we had here. Whether it be chilling out on the two beaches, eating and drinking, snorkelling, golfing, celebrating a special birthday and of course enjoying the fantastic Filipino hospitality. In particular at our hotel bar, Mama’s Fish Restaurant, where the staff kindly likened me to ‘Jason’ as in actor Jason Statham (!) whilst enjoying a tequila sunrise cocktail on our last night. For an island so close to being devastated just days before our arrival, I’m thrilled that it is moving on so quickly, returning to its postcard best.

Thanks for the memories, Boracay. See you again one day!

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1 Response to “a birthday in boracay”


  1. November 19, 2013 at 10:48 am

    Nice one, as usual! Sounds pretty close to perfect!


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