Today we are at anchor off Boracay Island in the Philippines.
This morning, tenders were being prepared and the ship was under scrutiny from the local police. It’s the first time the company has called here, so it was a little bit of an unknown quantity.
It’s always fun watching the tenders launch and I stood for some time as they were hosed down, cleaned off and made ready for use. In an emergency, that boat – #8 – would be our lifeboat, so I wanted to make sure all was tickety boo!
We’d had difficulty deciding what to do in this port. Most tours involved sitting on a beach or spending the day snorkelling and whilst I’d be happy to be in the water, my hero doesn’t really enjoy such activities. So, we chose a tour called “Island Hopping”.
When we looked closely however, the islands were these snorkelling platforms and the idea of spending the day in the hot sun just did not appeal. So, we gave our tickets back and decided to use the tender and the free shuttle bus into town to do our own thing. Before we did, though, we exchanged $20 for Filipino Pesos, because surely there’s be something to buy, some journal fodder or maybe a drink or ice cream?
After breakfast, we secured our place in the first available tender and joined a few other guests and a large group of crew members to go ashore.
Easy peasy to step off the secure stairway and onto the little boat, but there are plenty of staff on hand to ensure everyone’s ok.
Off we went. Ten minutes maximum.
As we arrived, we spotted this service boat arriving at the same time. Those outriggers make for a very attractive sight as they sail past and the first thing I noticed was the palette of colours – suddenly we were in a world of bright blue, lime green, turquoise, yellow and white.
We were greeted by people putting shell pendants around our necks – I’m never sure about these and took mine off immediately, lest it send out the wrong signal to people i the town (like here’s another sucker from that huge cruise ship out there)
There was also a group of dancers and drummers making a noise, too.
But the two smallest dancers did not look happy. Oh dear. It was ever so hot and they were dressed up to the nines in what could be seen as a very embarrassing costume!
Anyway, immediately our feet touched the ground, we were bombarded with offers to ride in this tricycle, go on that shuttle bus, go to this beach. We needed none of these because we already had free shuttle transfers but it didn’t stop them trying.
We drove along a bumpy old road to the drop off point in town. Alongside there were houses of all kinds, but mostly fairly simple places with tin roof and not much more.
It all had a scruffy air and wasn’t especially appealing in any respect. Hope the town is better!
We were dropped off at the entrance to “the Mall”, actually a collection of beachy type shops, bars and restaurants selling nothing we wished to buy.
But we didn’t want to rush back so mooched a little here and there.
We spotted the self same bags as we’d bought in Manila yesterday at the same price as we paid. That’s ok then!
I spotted some crochet sandals, “Hand worked, Madam”.
Since we had time, I tried a pair on for fun, but it merely confirmed, they’re not my style.
Passing this blackboard with a list of Premier League matches on it confirmed that really, this wasn’t our kind of place.
But we knew the path led down to the beach and decided that at the very least, we needed to put our toes in the water. So, we kept going.
White Beach was pretty busy this morning, with families, youngsters and couples. According to our port information, White Beach is the island’s pride and joy, regularly voted amongst the top 5 beaches of the world “thanks to its stunning 4 km of sugary white sand with palm trees swaying in the tropical breeze and the incredibly clear waters of the Salu sea lapping its shores”.
Well, yes, all of those things are true, but there’s not mention of the continual pestering for massages, sun lounger hire, boat trips, wanna buy pearls…and anything else you can think of.
Though the sea was indeed tropical blue, warm and mostly clear,
there were heavy growths of algae in some parts which made it rather smelly too.
I hate to say it, but we have been to far better beaches in so many respects.
Now, maybe the next five minutes affected my judgement still further, because at this point, I wanted to take a photograph of my feet in the soft white sand. I scuffed off my Birkenstocks, bent down to pick them up and as I did, my camera fell onto the aforementioned soft sugary white sand. Slightly panicked, I handed it to my hero whilst I gathered myself together and retrieved a soft cloth from my sunglass case with which to clean it.
If I say “at this point, it was still working”, you might gather what happened then. Actually, I took this photo afterwards and though it sounded a little scary when switching it on, all appeared to be (almost) ok.
But then it wasn’t. I wanted to find some shade, away from people who wanted me to buy things, do things or have things done to me – that bunch under the palm tree took the biscuit – for a price they would draw something on your body with a felt tip pen. Huh? Temporary tattoo be blowed! I simply wanted to try to sort out my camera in peace, but it appeared to be impossible. My hero had the right idea…use my phone for now and take my camera back to the cool of our room, when everything would be clean and hopefully contract a little in the lower temperatures.
So I took a picture with my phone to prove it’d be ok, but really, my heart wasn’t in it. We waited for the shuttle to return to the jetty, and took the tender back to the ship. Once there, I fiddled with my camera a little, managed to get a surprising amount of sand out of it – considering it was hardly in contact with the stuff and for such a short time. By the time we were ready to go and have a bite to eat for lunch, it was at least switching on and off correctly.
When we returned from lunch and all was cool – including us – I switched it on. Bingo. Took a picture. Fine!
There is still the occasional crunch when the lens moves in and out but hopefully, for now, it’s ok. Fingers crossed.
To prove it, I went outside onto our balcony to record where we’d been earlier. We’ll look forward to hearing the stories our friends have to tell when they return from the beach later, but for us, I simply don’t think the world’s best beach matched our expectations.