Anda, Philippines

Anda is a delightful small town on the island of Bohol and despite being relatively undiscovered by tourists it has some of the most stunning white beaches i have ever seen. It felt like we had found a hidden gem and I have no doubt that Anda will have a tourism boom in the next few years. We arrived after taking a rather bumpy boat ride from Oslob to Bohol and then catching the public bus to Anda. There are no bus stops here, instead the bus stops whenever and wherever there are passengers. Consequently the bus stops every few minutes.. we stopped twice before we had even left the bus station complex!

We stayed at 1Peace Beach Resort which was a few minutes out of town but had a beautiful, almost private, beach. This is one of the best places we have stayed on our trip. We spent the days lazing on the beach, playing on the slackline and kayaking down the coast. At night there was a communal meal which was a great way to meet other travellers and it was usually followed by an impressive fire show (we even had a go too!)

Whilst in Anda we hired a scooter to explore the surround area. We visited Can-umantad waterfall and Bohol’s main attraction; the Chocolate Hills. There are over 1,200 mound shaped hills scattered along the horizon and they turn a chocolatey brown colour during the dry season (hence the name). The hills make quite an unusual view and it’s hard to imagine how they were formed naturally, it is still disputed by geologists.

Next stop: Sydney, Australia

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Malapascua & Oslob, Philippines

Malapascua is a small island off the northern tip of Cebu and is a great place for scuba diving. It is one of the few places in the world where seeing Thresher Sharks is almost a guarantee. In one day alone James saw 3 types of sharks: Threshers, Hammerheads and White Tips. Not bad for a day’s diving! While James explored the underwater world, I enjoyed a few lazy days relaxing on the island’s beaches, often getting befriended by the local children.

After a few days in Malapascua, we headed back to Cebu and travelled south to Oslob. Oslob has become a popular destination due to the Whale Shark Tourism. Each morning the sharks are fed krill and plankton and the free meal means it’s pretty much guaranteed that they will show up. Whale Sharks are the largest fish in the world and can grow up to whopping 12 meters long!

It was an amazing experience to be able to snorkel alongside these magnificent creatures. They are so graceful and I was completely taken aback their size, especially being so close to them. Unfortunately the free food is affecting the whales’ migratory patterns and they are staying around the area for much longer than normal. So although this was a great day, I feel bad that the whales are being affected and are starting to rely upon the free food.

Next stop: Anda, Philippines

El Nido, Philippines

El Nido is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Philippines and for good reason too. The town itself isn’t the most attractive; it’s overdeveloped with buildings crammed into every inch of space, but the surrounding scenery is spectacular! The area is famed for its imposing limestone karsts, stunning islands and emerald lagoons.

We booked on to a boat tour (Tour A) to explore the surrounding islands and hidden lagoons. The area reminded me of Halong Bay in Vietnam, but was possibly even more impressive due to the jaw dropping colour of the water. The highlight was kayaking around one of the lagoons surrounded by towering cliffs and watching the small fish and jellyfish lurking beneath us.

The next day we hired a scooter a rode 45 minutes out of town to the beautiful Nacpan beach. The beach was surprisingly quiet, with barely another person in sight and the sweeping white sand was fronted with amazingly blue hues. This is without doubt our favourite beach of the entire trip, not something I expected to find so close to the tourist hub of El Nido.

Next stop: Malapascua, Philippines

Port Barton, Philippines

Port Barton is a laid back beach town on the beautiful tropical island of Palawan. Palawan is probably the most naturally beautiful island we have visited during our trip so far, with stunning beaches, clear blue sea and untouched mountainous jungle. A huge contrast from the bustling capital city of Manila, which has a very American feel.

Our first stop in Palawan was at the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River in Sabang. The underground river is over 8km long and was thought to be longest underground river in the world until 2007, when a 153km underground river was discovered in Mexico. The striking emerald coloured river flows through an impressive cave system, home to hundreds if not thousands of bats and swifts. As we floated through the cave our guide pointed out several rock formations including ‘the naked lady’ and ‘the Virgin Mary’.

Whilst in Sabang we tried the local delicacy – Tamilok. These woodworms are found inside rotting mangroves and are served raw with a dash of lemon and sea salt. Although they don’t look too appetising, they were surprisingly tasty; I even went in for a second helping!

Our next stop in Palawan was at Port Barton; a lovely beach side town on the east cost of the island. It was a great place for a few days relaxation, island hopping and trekking to the nearby waterfall. Our island hopping tour took us around the nearby islands, to untouched beaches and several snorkelling spots. The snorkelling wasn’t much to shout about in comparison to Indonesia or Thailand – unless you are a fan of jellyfish that is! We must have seen 20 times as many jellyfish as we did fish, but we did get lucky on our last snorkel and spot a turtle and a stingray.

The following day we decided to trek to Pamoayan Falls.  It took us around an hour to get there, aided by small handmade signs which led us in the right direction on the jungle trail. After a hot and humid walk, we were very glad to reach the waterfall for a refreshing dip. It was the perfect place to spend a few hours swimming and cliff jumping in the middle of lush jungle.

Next stop: El Nido, Philippines