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Published May 17th 2015
A relaxing view of some of the best of The Philippines
The Philippines is a unique country which comprises some 7,100 islands in the Western Pacific Ocean. Most people when visiting The Philippines only get to visit 2 or 3 of these islands where they get to experience some of the beauty and culture of the country, but on a recent trip to The Philippines, I had the opportunity to see many more.
A quick plane flight from Manila to Iloilo City followed by a ferry ride to the town of Jordan on Guimaras Island saw me traverse three islands in quick succession. Before long, after a jeepney ride and a short walk, I was at the Alubihod Cove and the Raymen Beach Resort where I was ready to commence the popular Island Hopping Tour.
Being the sole Australian at the resort, and perhaps one of only a few westerners there on this particular day, the small group of four were offered the luxury of the boat all to ourselves and the two man crew. Departing from the southern end of the beach, we boarded the motorised paraw and with our crew we headed out in to the water, with our first destination across the wide channel that separated the islands.
Our first stop was immediately to the north at a small inlet between a rock formation with a cave that is visible at low tide, and a small island known as Ava Marie Islet. A part of the province of Barangay Lawi, Ave Maria Islet has a beautiful curving white sand beach with a sprinkling of coral rocks. The sand itself is very fine and is surrounded by crystal clear turquoise waters.
Ave Maria Islet is also uninhabited so there are no dwellings here except for a couple of abandoned and derelict native huts. The crystal clear waters and beautiful beach were stunning and it didn't need much encouragement to get us snorkelling and swimming in the shallow waters amongst the kids from the other passing tourist boats.
Back on board the paraw, and around the corner we headed as we approached Baras Beach and the local Resort. This resort, tucked away in a small inlet, also features a cave which many boats and locals visit during low tide. The secluded resort has only a few huts for accommodation making it perfect for the get-away-from-it-all holiday that each of us desire at some point in our lives.
Continuing on the tour, our next destination was Natago Beach, another white sand wonder on this group of islands. On the way there our boat passed a narrow opening between two rocky islets, where a beautiful white sand bar ran right across that opening.
The boat crew explained that it is possible to traverse this sand bar at high tide, but not at the moment as the tide was currently on the way out. We then took the long way around this little island with Natago Beach being located just to the right of this opening.
It is now off limits for boat people to drop in at Natago Beach, with the only persons allowed there being guests of the resort. While this was a little disappointing as it looked like another stunning beach, it was understandable given the same "rules" happen in many other parts of the world as well. Hence we ended up just sailing past Natago Beach and observing it from our boat before moving on to our next destination, Isla Naburot.
Isla Naburot has eight native style cottages perched on cliffs and on a desirable white sand beach. The surrounding turquoise waters appear ideal for swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving and we were quite envious of those in the water trying some of the activities. However, similar to Natago Beach we could only pass by, admire and take pictures of this resort.
Our boat trip continued north around the large island of Guimaras, and in between several more small surrounding islands. Each of these islands were made from volcanic rock, with little soil to be seen. I did wonder how the trees grow in the rock, and could only assume that some of the rock had been ground to sand-like material, which would have enabled the tree roots to take hold.
We then turned around and headed back, enjoying a short race with some local boys in their small paraw. Travelling a bit further away from the islands, it was fascinating to admire their beauty of the volcanic rock, intertwined with palm and other associated trees, and lined with some majestic sandy beaches. And if only I had some more time, I would look to stay at one of those secluded resorts and get away from it all for awhile.
Alubihod Beach is the most popular starting point for touring the islands in the southwestern Guimaras. The boats operate from 6am to 6pm daily, and itineraries can be arranged with the local boatmen, or you can do the standard one, two or three hour tours. Like I did, it is possible to travel from Iloilo City early in the day and to do a tour, or alternatively you can stay at the local accommodation, all of which is modestly priced.