Basking in the White Sands of Boracay
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Name it and the enchanting paradise off the coast of Aklan in Panay has it — pristine white sand, crystal-clear waters, palm-fringed shorelines, gently sloping ocean floor, spectacular sunsets. All natural qualities that have made Bora — as habitués love to call it — an internationally- acclaimed and frequented tourist destination.
This beachcomber made it for the first time to "the world’s No. 1 tropical beach" to accompany my cousin who came home for some sun, sea and sand. The invite came when deadlines at the office have reached a toxic level. I could have easily said no. But who, in his right mind, would refuse an all-expense paid trip to the summer getaway? Damn those deadlines. It isn't every day that a chance like that comes my way.
So off we went to Bora on a journey that saw us flying to Iloilo via Cebu. Upon arriving in Iloilo, we hopped into one of the air-conditioned buses that ply the route to Caticlan, a coastal town in Aklan, the gateway to Boracay.
The road to Caticlan, however, is a combination of both rough and mostly well-paved stretches. We just ignored the little discomfort during some parts of the trip that lasted more than three hours. The thought of the white-sand beach, azure waters, delectable seafood, and other perks awaiting us in Boracay somehow made the rough ride bearable.
To while away time, we feasted our eyes on the visually-arresting sights — verdant farms, sandy coasts, and lofty mountains. In Caticlan, we boarded one of the colourful pump boats waiting at its jetty. Less than ten minutes later, we reached the shores of the famous hideaway.
The moment I stepped into its immaculate, powdery expanse, White Beach swept me off my feet. Spanning about four kilometers from end to end, it also stretches about 50 meters or more into the emerald water, with nary a trace of coral or stone underneath it.
Right after lunch, my cousin and I scoured the beach, snapping ourselves as we meandered throughout its entirety. Along the way, we passed by several bikini-clad women getting a tan (whoa!), a rocky formation named Willy's Rock, numerous stalls and shops selling colorful hand-painted garments, trinkets, handmade native shell accessories, bags, baskets, and other island souvenirs.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about White Beach is that its sand never gets hot under foot even at noontime! Walking barefoot in the sand at high noon, I felt light and breezy, as if all the aches of our long journey over air, land and sea have vanished into thin air.
Whatever the season, Boracay is a vacationer’s haven. But summer is the best time to be there. Since we wanted some peace and quiet while staying in the island, we deemed it wise to wait until the hordes of tourists have left, that is, during the opening of classes in June. It was a wise decision for the room rates were at their all-time low, enabling us to get real value for our money, er, my cousin’s money, I mean.
Quite a few foreigners were around when we came to the island — Americans, Europeans, Japanese and Koreans. Off-season in Boracay seemed to work to our advantage for the staff at the resort where we stayed pampered us as if we’re foreign tourists, perhaps hoping we’d reward them with hefty tips. We didn’t. Of course, the dearth of foreign and local tourists at that time of the year also meant enjoying a lion’s share of Boracay’s sparkling beauty as there were few rivals for its much-coveted tract of white-sand beach.
One thing I realized though is that it’s best to go to the island in droves. Boracay’s beach resorts usually offer wholesale rates and even discounts for groups of four or more especially during off-season months. Low-priced accommodations such as single/shared huts or rooms are available for travelers on a shoestring budget. Your accommodations may be modest, but you’ll still be entitled to a veranda, a private toilet and bath.
Apart from the discounts in accommodations given to groups, there’s also safety in numbers. You’ll feel more secure walking along the beach during the night as you hop from one bar to another, or burn those excess calories in the island’s dance shacks — Bazura, Beachcomber, and INSô at Lorenzo Main.
Early in the morning the following day, we came across some boatmen while walking along White Beach, who offered us a three-hour tour around the island. Sensing that they’re trying to rip us off, my cousin politely turned down their proposals. Fortunately, we found one boatman who’s willing to oar us for almost half the price of the other fellows, inclusive of the diving masks and life vests.
As we cruised around the island, I saw a deserted beach on Bora’s western part. Curious, I asked the boatman if we could go there and dock. “Yes, we’re going to drop by Puka Beach,” came the reply. Said to have been named after the Puka shell, the beach has several tiny shells and small white coral bits strewn all over it. Compared to White Beach, Puka’s sand is yellow and not as fine as that of the former. After snapping ourselves there, we moved on with the tour.
Three days later, we left Boracay with a heavy heart. For there’s so much more that we’d like to do there if only time was on our side. But everything in the island has a price, which we know would burn a big hole in the pocket.
Where I stayed
Titay South Beach Resort, Manoc-Manoc, Boracay