After another short flight, I arrived into Caticlan Airport which is on the northern tip of Panay Island. From here it was a short tricycle ride to the ferry terminal, where I boarded an ancient looking Bangka for the journey across to Boracay.
The famous holiday island has been the Philippines most popular tourist destination for many years, however it was closed by the Government in April 2018 to counter the damaging effects of overtourism on the environment.
After significant improvements were observed, the island reopened in October with new regulations limiting the number of hotels and tourists that can visit the islands, while many beachside bars and restaurants have been permanently closed.
Once I had checked into my hotel, I made my way to the famous White Beach, which is the reason the island originally became so popular. The beautiful beach stretches around 4km along the western side of the small island, which covers an area of just 10km2.
I wandered along the perfect white sand, before finding a quiet spot for some sunbathing. It was a very warm day and I had to regularly dive into the crystal clear water to cool down.
After several hours of sun, I retreated to a shaded spot under the palm trees that line the beach, before deciding to find somewhere for lunch.
I wandered along the path that lines the beach, which despite the closures seemed to have an endless selection of cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops. White Beach is split into three stations, and I was staying in Station 2 which is the busiest section of the beach and home to the large D’mall complex. It was packed with tourists as well as vendors offering various watersports and cruises. I decided to make my way the quieter Station 3 where I enjoyed some delicious food from the Sunny Side Cafe.
After a relaxing day of sunbathing, I returned to my hotel to shower and change before grabbing my camera and heading out for sunset. Any hope I had of a secluded sunset was soon dashed as I arrived back at the packed White Beach. I was amazed by how busy it was, and it made me wonder what it must have been like before tourist numbers were restricted.
There was lots of people still out in the water either swimming or on standup paddleboards, while further out it was even busier with the many sunset cruises competing for the best views.
Despite the crowds it was still a beautiful sunset, and my only disappointment was that the new regulations meant I couldn’t take any beers onto the beach with me. I enjoyed some dinner at Nonnis, a very popular health food cafe, before ending the evening with some drinks at the beachside Aplaya Bar.
The following day I had planned to explore more of the island, however as I went to leave my hotel I realised it was pouring with rain. This meant I had no other option but to treat myself to an expensive breakfast instead. I found Lemoni Cafe just a short walk away, and enjoyed the very Australian combination of eggs benny and a flat white.
With the weather showing signs of improving, I decided to wander north along White Beach to Station 1. Despite the rain, there was still lots cruises making their way out onto the water for a tour of the island.
As I made my way further along the beach, I reached the often photographed Willy’s Rock. At low tide, the rocky outcrop forms a small island just a few metres from the shore and is home to a small statue of the Virgin Mary. However with the rain making the water look rather murky and far less enticing than the previous day, I did not explore any further.
With an early flight out of Caticlan Airport the following morning, I had decided to stay the night back on Panay Island, and later that afternoon I took a ferry back across to the larger neighbouring island.
After a short tricycle ride, I arrived at my accommodation for the night which was another traditional Nipa hut. This one however was much larger than the one I had previously stayed in, and was located right on the edge of the beach.
The beach was a little bit of a downgrade on Boracay, but then most beaches would be, and it was a beautiful, relaxing location to spend the evening.
After a great nights sleep it was time for a full day of travelling, first with a flight to Manila, where I would be reunited with Rachael, before saying goodbye to the Philippines and continuing onwards to Japan.