With more than 7000 islands to explore, the Philippines is on the bucket list of many a traveller. When our traveller Aaditya Raj Kishore decided to go to the Pearl of the Orient, as the country is called, he was ticking off the most picturesque place on his list. On his to-do list were beaches, swimming with the sharks, resorts and more – everything that a visitor to Philippines would want to do. When Aaditya came back, he told us all about the beauty of Philippines. But he also told us this list of all that one shouldn’t do, including swimming with the Philippines whale sharks! Make a note of this before you drop us a note to plan that trip!
1. Don’t swim with the Philippines whale sharks at Cebu
If you have Cebu on your list while in Philippines, then I strongly suggest that you skip the ‘swimming with the whale sharks’ experience. Why you ask? The whale sharks are magnificent creatures and here at Cebu, they are reduced to the state of animals in a zoo. The activity is a very crowded one, you will be taken in a boat and shown the whale sharks. Ours was the 156th boat to go out that day and each boat carries 10 people! It’s cacaphony out there and you just don’t get to experience the whales and their beauty. The feeling is more like that of a zoo.
Insider Tips: The traffic in Cebu is pretty chaotic as well, narrow and crowded streets adding to the chaos. So plan with a little buffer time always!
2. Don’t miss the Tumalog waterfalls at Cebu
While Cebu is known for the whale shark experience, don’t miss the marvellous Tumalog falls. I would say it is a must visit for those visiting Cebu. It’s a ride out of the town and along the coast of Oslob. The falls are at the end of a mountain trail, and the climb is absolutely rewarding! Tumalog is a horse-shoe shaped fall and resembles a huge shimmering white curtain of water. A lovely place to have a picnic or just escape the sun for a bit. If you don’t know how to swim, worry not, the pool at the bottom of the fall isn’t very deep.
Insider Tip: Don’t forget to take a dry sack to keep your gadgets dry, the spray from the fall is quite powerful.
3. Don’t forget to include El Nido in your itinerary
Not that we forgot! El Nido is very beautiful and has a whole lot of places and activities to explore. I would suggest you plan a longer stay at El Nido than any place else. El Nido in Spanish translates to ‘The Nest’ and it is a cluster of 45 small islands. These enchanting islands can occupy you for more than a couple of days. The Secret lagoon, Taraw Peak trek are some places that are most recommended at El Nido.
Insider Tip: If you are taking up the tours offered, I would recommend Tour A that most operators offer. Tour A takes you to the beautiful Secret Lagoon of El Nido and also has some great snorkelling to do.
4. Don’t think of adventure if you are staying at the Matinloc Island
The Matinloc island is a small paradise in itself. Towering cliffs hugged by long stretches of white sand beaches and bluest of waters – that would just be a brief description of the beautiful island. The Matinloc Resort is the only one on the island and is completely cut off from El Nido and maybe the rest of the world too. The only way to the property is through a ferry from El Nido. Don’t expect too many activities here, as Matinloc is for those who want complete leisure.
Insider Tip: While the resort is great, there is no liquor served on the property. You are allowed to carry your own though.
5. Don’t come back without shopping in Manila
I would recommend at least a full day here to explore the local places and do some shopping. Manila is home to UNESCO World Heritage sites – the San Agustin Church and the Fort Santiago. There are wonderful street art all over Manila, great photo ops! Taking home some souvenirs? Manila is known for a unique fabric called Pinya that is woven from pineapple fibres, many different products are made from this fabric. You could also check out the coconut shell products, baskets and bags.
Insider Tips: Here are some places that have great quality souvenirs : Balikbayan Handicrafts or the Maila Collectible Co.
6. Don’t go without learning these key phrases in the local language!
While English is very much spoken, it helps to know a few common phrases always.
Please – Paki (pronounced Pah-KEE)
Thank You – Salamat (pronounced sah-LAH-maht)
You are Welcome – Walam Anuman (wah-LAHNG ah-noo-mahn)
Goodbye – Paalam (Pah-AHL-ahm)
Here’s a word that may not be a common one, but definitely something you could know when you go swimming with the Philippines whale sharks. Butanding is what these giants are called locally.
7. Don’t miss the jeepney rides
Getting around in Philippines using the local transport is quite an adventure – the most colourful of them being the Jeepneys. The Jeepneys are multi coloured buses that are indigenous to the country. The original jeepneys were made from old American jeeps that were extended in length and made into a small bus. These were later replaced by ‘Made in Philippines’ Jeepneys that were totally hand built. The loud horns and vivid colours make it quite a spectacle indeed!
8. Don’t miss out on Scuba diving in Boracay
The Philippines are said to have the most widest variety of marine life on earth. The country’s corals are believed to be the centre of the world’s coral triangle. The diving season is on throughout the year, but the best visibility of the underwater world is between November and June. While Swimming with the Philippines whale sharks is not a great idea, scuba diving to see the rich marine life is a great thing to do!
9. Don’t miss out on these great places to stay!
At El Nido – The Lio Villas Resort is a good property. The staff are friendly and hospitable, the food is also good. Be prepared for the sounds of wild animals at night though! Perks of living close to nature, maybe?!
At Boracay – The Fairway Resort is a great one. I would recommend it for people who want to relax at the resort itself. However to explore local places, you would have to depend on the hotel’s bus service to take you out of the island.
At Matinloc Island – the Matinloc Resort. Simply because there isn’t another one there! And also because it is a great place to chill out.
10. Don’t go late to El Nido airport or Boracay airport
Well, it’s a pretty obvious thing you might think. But El Nido airport is a completely manually-run airport, which means they scan your bags manually, open and check everything. The check-in process itself at El Nido took us around 1.5 hours! Boracay airport is not too different either! So do remember to go atleast 3 hours before your flight.
11. Don’t forget sunscreen
It’s a pretty hot country, the Philippines. And the sunscreen is quite required if you are going to be exploring the countryside.