Short Breaks

World Travel Magazine - - Contents -

Dis­cover the sus­tain­able travel move­ment in Palawan in the Philip­pines. It’s a con­coc­tion of sunny days, friendly skies, white sand and clear blue wa­ters.

Agreen sea tur­tle sur­faces near your kayak as you pad­dle through an elec­tric Kool-aid blue la­goon sur­rounded by tow­er­ing lime­stone cliffs. Your des­ti­na­tion? A pris­tine palm tree shaded beach with­out an­other soul in sight. This is just an­other day in

Palawan, an ar­chi­pel­ago of 1,780 is­lands south-west of Manila in the Philip­pines.

Yet, this scene has be­come in­creas­ingly rare around the world. Things like empty beaches, bio­di­ver­sity, cul­tural au­then­tic­ity and clean oceans are be­com­ing scarce. The price of stand­ing in the world tourism spot­light is high.

Case in point: Bo­ra­cay. Waste man­age­ment and en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns so plague the trop­i­cal hotspot that on April 26, 2018, Pres­i­dent Duterte of­fi­cially closed Bo­ra­cay to all visi­tors for six months.

Bo­ra­cay is an ex­tremely pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional trav­ellers. Ac­cord­ing to the Bo­ra­cay tourism of­fice, the is­land made a record US$1 bil­lion dol­lars as it played host to over 2 mil­lion visi­tors from all parts of the globe.

With Bo­ra­cay off lim­its, it’s time to look for a new favourite is­land des­ti­na­tion while si­mul­ta­ne­ously fig­ur­ing out a way to pre­serve the slices of par­adise we so love.

El Nido: The Green Al­ter­na­tive to Bo­ra­cay

En­ter El Nido. Armed with its spec­tac­u­lar nat­u­ral beauty and for­ward-think­ing ap­proach to sus­tain­able tourism, this charm­ing lit­tle town is the per­fect launch pad to see Palawan. Get ac­cli­mated while stay­ing in a lux­ury bell tent at the Bird House El Nido. The Bird House is a “glamp­ing” eco-re­sort that is perched in the jun­gle canopy 187 stairs above Marmeg­meg Beach.

The own­ers of the Bird House said that they were quick to recog­nise the grow­ing need for busi­nesses built around an en­vi­ron­men­tal ethos in El Nido and the greater Philip­pines. The Bird House is now lead­ing the green tourism ini­tia­tive in the area with com­post­ing toi­lets, a grey­wa­ter sys­tem, a gar­den-to-ta­ble restau­rant and an en­tire op­er­at­ing sys­tem based upon the ideals of per­ma­cul­ture.

Be­yond be­ing en­tirely self-suf­fi­cient, the Bird House lures flocks of trav­ellers to its canopy-top perch be­cause of its luxe bo­hemian in­te­ri­ors, com­fort­able beds and unique out­look. Nowhere else in El Nido will you find a 180-de­gree birds-eye view of the ex­quis­ite Bacuit Bay. Down the stairs, ad­ven­ture beck­ons. Op­tions in­clude kayak­ing to Pa­paya Beach, sun­bathing at Marmeg­meg Beach or try­ing the 750-me­ter zi­pline that sends tourists hol­ler­ing from the top of Marmeg­meg Beach to a neigh­bour­ing is­land.

A Healthy Dose of Vi­ta­min Sea: Palawan by Sail­boat

The Bird House may seem like the sky’s limit, but the rea­son most peo­ple visit Palawan is the is­lands. Out amongst the atolls, your tough­est daily de­ci­sion may be whether to ex­plore what’s above the sur­face or what’s be­low. Sheer lime­stone cliffs that flank la­goons of crys­tal clear, bright blue salt wa­ter are a pho­tog­ra­pher’s de­light. Yet, for divers, what lies be­neath is more en­tic­ing. Palawan is world-renowned for scuba and free div­ing be­cause it is home to hun­dreds of unique species of coral and fish.

One of the best ways to see more of the is­lands, skip the crowds and re­duce your car­bon foot­print is to rent a skip­pered pri­vate sail­boat. Sev­eral out­fit­ters run trips through­out the year with best sail­ing months be­ing Jan­uary through March.

Once you’ve met your boat and cap­tain, you mo­tor out of Corong Corong har­bour, put up the sails and leave the rest to the wind. You’ll soon find that the slow pace of travel is not only re­lax­ing but the best way to see the seem­ingly end­less sugar-white beaches, jun­gle-cov­ered de­serted is­lands and deep blue fan­tasy la­goons of the area.

El Nido Re­sorts: Where Lux­ury Meets Sus­tain­abil­ity

Of course, not ev­ery­one has found their sea legs. If you’re a land­lub­ber look­ing for a lux­u­ri­ous but re­mote al­ter­na­tive to sail­ing, try one of the El Nido Re­sort’s four is­land out­posts. All four - Apulit, Miniloc, La­gen, and Pan­gu­lasian - are lo­cated on se­cluded pri­vate is­lands ac­ces­si­ble only by boat. The El Nido Re­sorts group prides it­self on of­fer­ing ex­clu­sive high-end ex­pe­ri­ences to its guests while work­ing with the lo­cal com­mu­nity to pro­tect tra­di­tions and the en­vi­ron­ment.

Choose your is­land based on your mood or pur­pose for the trip: Miniloc for fun, Pan­gu­lasian for op­u­lence, La­gen for sanc­tu­ary, or Apulit for ad­ven­ture.

While it’s hard to look past the orig­i­nal - Miniloc Is­land was the first re­sort of any kind in Palawan when it opened its doors to divers back in 1982 - Pan­gu­lasian is the show­stop­per. The re­sort is lo­cated on a pri­vate is­land called the “Is­land of the Sun” for its in­cred­i­ble sun­set and sun­rise views. Pan­gu­lasian is known equally for its im­pec­ca­ble ser­vice and pri­vate pool villas as it is for its nat­u­ral beauty. Frolic on the 750-me­ter stretch of snow-white sand be­fore tak­ing part in nu­mer­ous ac­tiv­i­ties like la­goon and is­land hop­ping tours in­cluded with your ac­com­mo­da­tion.

Re­gard­less of which re­sort you chose, you’ll be able to soak up this lux­ury ex­pe­ri­ence guilt-free know­ing that El Nido Re­sorts is com­mit­ted to pro­tect­ing this un­for­get­table place. The en­tire op­er­a­tion is de­signed to be as low im­pact as pos­si­ble on the en­vi­ron­ment and cul­ture. The Re­sorts seek to en­hance the nat­u­ral ex­pe­ri­ence and thus pro­hibit jet skis and mo­torised sports equip­ment. Their team has also in­stalled 21 moor­ings around Bacuit Bay to pro­tect the coral reefs from de­struc­tion by an­chors dropped by tour boats.

Sav­ing the Philip­pines’ “Last Fron­tier”

El Nido is of­ten called “the last fron­tier” be­cause, as the leg­end goes, the area was not dis­cov­ered un­til 1979 by a team of stranded divers. But this nick­name also de­scribes the area’s unadul­ter­ated nat­u­ral beauty, in­tact bio­di­ver­sity and un­touched is­lands and beaches. The fact that El Nido stayed out of the tourism spot­light un­til rel­a­tively re­cently cre­ated an op­por­tu­nity for proac­tive preser­va­tion. As luck would have it, stew­ards like the own­ers of the Bird House and the El Nido Re­sorts group are step­ping up to pre­serve the nat­u­ral splen­dour of El Nido and pre­vent it from be­com­ing any­thing like Bo­ra­cay. The fu­ture of the Philip­pines’ marvellous nat­u­ral re­sources de­pends on our choices as trav­ellers.

From top left, 180-de­gree un­in­ter­rupted views of Bacuit Bay from the Nest­ing Ta­ble Restau­rant at the Bird­house; guests sleep in their own pri­vate lux­ury “Nest” perched in the canopy Op­po­site, clock­wise from top, low im­pact ac­tiv­i­ties like kayak­ing and pad­dle­board­ing are the pre­ferred way to see the Big and Small La­goons at the El Nido Re­sorts; one of the green­est ways to see Palawan is aboard a sail­boat; Palawan is a diver’s dream with hun­dreds of unique species found only in its wa­ter

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