It has been almost ten years since I’ve been back at Boracay’s White Beach. It wasn’t a deliberate absence. We’ve just been spending more time with long summers in Toronto. I was also under the notion that I had outgrown Boracay. I’d been going there since the early 1990’s. But last month, during my sister’s visit to the Philippines, we planned a four-day stay in Boracay.
We flew to Kalibo, instead of the more convenient Caticlan. I knew there would be extra land travel once we land in Aklan, but I was told that the roads were nice and the drive was pleasant. It was. This time we flew Air Asia. It was my first time to try Air Asia. I was very impressed with their snappy service.
We chose to stay at Discovery Shores Boracay. I knew about their excellent service because we stayed at Discovery Primea in the early spring. What I didn’t know, being a first timer at Discovery Shores, was their excellent location. They’re at the best part of Boracay, the northern tip of White Beach called Station 1, with the whitest and finest sand.
Here’s how our Boracay rediscovery went…
Our journey started in Terminal 4 which, in my opinion, is the more organized terminal than the other three. It’s smaller and more efficient. But there are no tubes and ramps, so you have to walk across the tarmac. On a sunny day, it’s wonderful.
Stella’s in-flight meal. I suggest for longer flights, you pre-order your meals online for fancy hot meals.
Our land transportation to Caticlan from Kalibo was arranged through Discovery Shores Boracay. We had a private van. The trip took 90 minutes. These days there are many options, like shared vehicles or buses. You may arrange it with your hotel or on your own. On board the flight, Air Asia staff was selling land transfers as well.
The five-minute boat ride from Caticlan to Boracay was very comfortable. The little boat was air-conditioned. We were given cold towels, cold water, and oatmeal cookies. There were lifejackets for all of us in the seat pockets in front of us. And there was a stewardess!
A lot has been said about Boracay’s environmental problems – over-development, algae, flooding, local governance and more. Yet one thing remains, that 8 kilometre stretch of white beach is still so beautiful. As someone who once worked on an environmental planning project there in 1995 (under my Canadian government’s technical assistance program), it alarms me to see the many violations that have been/and are still being committed. But I am also hopeful because there are stakeholders that are trying to do things to improve and preserve Boracay. I think all stakeholders, including tourists, should pause and realize that this small island can only take so much. Technically there is an index called “carrying capacity.” And we can see that for such a small place, perhaps it has been maxed out.
Looking towards Caticlan, there are windmills. It’s good to see sustainable energy choices in the area. Wind power is renewable and non-polluting. By the way, my camera was set on auto. The sky just does crazy things like that during magic hour. Beautiful.
In the shore fronting White Beach, they only allow eco-friendly recreational sports. I’m glad there are no more jet skis allowed there. (Yes, it has been that long since I visited white beach). Sophia and I loved the stand-up paddle board. I suck at every sport, but I’m very comfortable with anything with paddles and scuba diving. But I don’t know how to surf.
David Goldberg is the owner of Heidiland, the Swiss deli located in D-Mall. David is my good old friend. We met in the 90’s when I was managing an environmental management program in the island. We helped set up Boracay Consortium, a group of multi-disciplinary stakeholders who started different programs to ensure the environmental stability of the island. It had lofty goals. Not all were met, obviously. But we started the communications and cooperation between different groups and communities. This eventually became Boracay Foundation.
My family and my sister’s family stayed at Discovery Shores Boracay. More on that experience at a later post.
From Discovery Shores, we were able to go anywhere in the island using their shuttle. But honestly we only went as far as D-Mall. Considering we were at the best part of the beach, I didn’t find the need to go to other places.
My daughters don’t stop drawing and painting. They carry their sketchbooks and markers everywhere they go. Scroll back up to the photo of Lily and Stella in the flight. Both had notebooks. At D-Mall, Lily drew some cute anime figures while I had my coffee.
I was really pleased to see that Boracay is still all that. Yes, many of us look back at the past and think it was much better then. And it was. But Boracay is still really beautiful. I just hope that something will be done about the threats the island is facing. Before it’s too late.
Transportation: Air Asia from Manila to Kalibo
Airport transfers: c/o Discovery Shores Boracay