Well this post has been a long time coming – *blushes* – but better late than pregnant so here it is! 😉
After a not-so-smooth journey to getting there, having to fly 24 hours later than planned – take note: there’s a reason low cost airlines are low cost. My word of advice, avoid traveling with Cebu Pacific from someone whose learned the hard way. Not only do they overbook flights (by up to 100 passengers!) but their customer service and manner of handling the issue was really disappointing. Adding to that is the 9.5 hour flight time from Dubai to Manila with no in-flight entertainment or complimentary meal/snack and the temperature on the flight being close to Baltic! *LOL. OK – rant over*
First up – Where did I go & What did I get up to?
Once in Manila I transferred terminals to hop on my next flight from Manila to Boracay. It’s important to make sure you have sufficient transfer time between flights as Manila airport is crowded and baggage collection and moving terminals is a slow process.
The trip to Boracay though is short, approx. 1 hour and the airport is tiny but it makes it very convenient for hopping off the plane, grabbing your bags & heading on your merry way.
Again I flew here with Cebu Pacific and on board cabin crew were selling transfer tickets for Southwest Tours at a slightly reduced price, or their offices are located directly opposite the airport when you exit, which for 400 pesos allows you to be taken by mini van to the ferry, covers some local community/nature fees (can’t really remember this part), the ferry ride across to Boracay island and then mini van transfer to your accomodation. Very convenient, very easy.
Then – Aloohhaa Boracay!
Time to kick back on the white sandy beaches and relax – or get up to some fun activities such as helmet diving, zip-lining, cliff diving at Ariel’s point or dressing up as mermaids for a beach photo shoot (I kid you not).
If visiting Boracay make sure you get to Spiderhouse to watch the sunset, this well known restaurant & bar fills up by 3/4pm daily for it’s view and chilled out vibe. You can even jump down from the cliff side restaurant into the sea below. Pizza seems to be a popular order for food here but I they also have healthier options, as you can see in the first picture below. The beach before you reach Spiderhouse also has a great buzz and an awesome DJ in the evenings and we got a gorgeous meal of fresh shrimp and coconut rice there on our first night. Plus that beach is amazing – like all of Boracay’s beaches!
After 3 nights in Boracay we left for Cebu, again flying with Cebu Pacific. We were met at the airport by our tour company who took our suitcases to our hotel and transferred us to the ferry. However, with traffic what should have been a much shorter journey ended up in us narrowly missing our scheduled ferry and instead having to wait almost 2 hours for the next boat, which is then another 2 hour ferry ride to Bohol so give yourself enough time for this.
What we saw on our very short trip to Bohol was beautiful – vast farm land on one side and turqoiuse waters on the others. Due to time restrictions to get us back in time for the last ferry, our tour company sped us around the island to visit first the Tarsier sanctuary (for those who don’t know these are tiny nocturnal chinchilla-like animals) and then to Chocolate Hills which is an area of topographical interest, appearing brown in summer when the sun scorches the earth and green during the rainy season., before heading straight back to the boat. Friends of ours did stay a night here though and thoroughly enjoyed it, there is island hopping excursions and a night-time firefly tour that they took part in and recommended.
Off the ferry and back in Cebu we stayed the night at The Dragon’s Inn (very low cost, no breakfast included, Wi-Fi only at reception, really only a place to rest your head but there were a few more hotels on the same road that had breakfast included that I would imagine are similarly low cost but slightly better options).
6 a.m. the next morning – yes these early mornings were become a habit – we were collected by a tour guide (all of which we found through Google searches and enquiries by the way!) and set off on a 3 hour journey to Oslob. On arrival we were provided with breakfast of mango and sticky rice then we proceeded down the road to the Whale Shark diving centre – you can dive or snorkel here but snorkeling would be best recommended as the whale sharks spend all their time up at the surface of the water looking for food thrown by the diving centre instructors. Don’t worry these huge guys are vegetarian but really impressive to be within touching distance of. How ethically correct it is remains to be seen though.
After our whale shark encounters we went a short distance to Tumalog waterfalls which you can walk to in five minutes from where the coach drops you or you can take a motorbike ride with you of the waiting drivers.
After our activities we were taken back for lunch by the beach.
By chance, one of our friends happened to inquire about a sand-bar she had seen on Instagram which we then learned was only a short boat ride away. Deciding it would be a shame not to go see it when we were so close, we hired a boat and agreed to pay our coach driver for the additional over-time we would be (which between 7 of us worked out at approx €6 each in total!).
The Sumilion sandbar itself is public property but the island it leads into is a private 5* resort only for guests so we just had some fun, soaked up the sun and got some nice snaps on the sand before sailing the short 10-15 minute journey back. (Heads up – check what time the tide is in/out before you visit or you might not get to see the sand bar!)
That night after getting back to Cebu we took a taxi to the nearby Ayalla mall for dinner. There is loads of restaurants and shops here to choose from and we were actually quite surprised how up-market and modern it is in comparison to everything else we had seen on our travels and in the surrounding area.
The next day we were leaving for the airport again so I grabbed a “Buko juice” or coconut juice to you and I, from a vendor across the street. We also got our driver to stop at a fruit stall en route – I always love how they display their produce.
Leaving Cebu we were bound for El Nido – voted one of the world’s ten most beautiful islands. We flew direct from Cebu to El Nido which takes less than an hour and arriving to El Nido airport is worth the trip alone! The runway is practically on the beach and once you disembark you are greeted by singing locals, a tethered cow on a patch of greenery and your luggage which arrives on a table from a Vengabus style wagon. Absolute comedy gold. Plus while you wait for said Vengabus there are complimentary juices and local snacks!
We stayed at Zeniya’s pension in the heart of the town and couldn’t recommend it enough. The staff and owners were so warm that it felt like home for those few days. Each morning breakfast is served outside your room and there is a juice/smoothie bar across the street too.
Booking tours is easy as there are so many stalls and locals wandering around advertising. We had heard of a sunrise trek up Turar mountain/cliff that overlooks the town and found a local guide willing to take us so the next morning at 4.45 a.m. he met us at our hotel and off we set. Little did we know at the time how difficult the climb would be and that only a week or two previous to this there had been a bad accident involving a tour guide and a tourist and the trek had since been banned! Just as well we didn’t know though as we scaled sheer cliff face in the pitch dark (if you do decide to brave this trek – bring a head torch or phone with a torch as we would have been lost without them – and snacks!). Exerting so much energy in the early hours coupled with the heat, many of us felt sick and light headed so snacks and water were a blessing, paired with multiple pit stops. Eventually, feeling a little worse for wear, I am proud to say we made it to the top just in time for sunrise!
After such an early start it was time for some R&R so I went for a massage in a little place our hosts recommended down the road (everything is maximum 5 minute walk away here) which was €8 for an hour full-body.
In the afternoon we went to El Nido zip-line – which if I had to choose between Boracay zip-line and here I would choose here. We chose to do a two-way zip-line with a combination of sitting and ‘superman’ style to take in the views from all angles. Finishing on Las Cabanas beach we settled in for some drinks and dinner to take in the sunset.
Our next day was spent island hopping (we chose a combo of tour A & C as recommended to us by friends) which includes 5 different locations, kayaking, snorkeling and lunch and lasts the entire day (8 a.m. – 5 p.m).
With the end of our trip in sight we spent our final day at Cove Beach resort where some friends were staying, which is approx. 20 minutes outside of town and is completely secluded and peaceful. The perfect way to end an action-packed holiday!
(We flew from El Nido direct to Manila to catch our flight to Dubai)