Once considered among the world’s most idyllic islands, Boracay in the Philippines was closed to tourists since April when a six-month period of repair and rehabilitation was announced. The country’s president Rodrigo Duterte had described it as a “cesspool”, after a video showing sewage flowing into the island’s blue waters went viral. Heavily armed soldiers were immediately dispatched to the island to turn tourists away.
Now, the island is almost ready to welcome tourists back on October 26, but don’t expect it to be the same. Jose Clemente, president of the Tourism Congress of the Philippines told The Philippine Star that restoration works are still in progress, and that the island is in good condition for locals but not yet for tourists. Tourism secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat also told the paper that Boracay will reopen in three phases, with the first next month.
In a bid to protect the island’s appeal and beaches with powdery sand, the country’s environmental ministry has asked more than 15,000 hospitality staff to live off the island. Moreover, the number of visitors who can stay in Boracay at one time may also be capped and all disposable plastic items will be banned to reduce impact on the environment. The Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force has advised the number of tourists should be set at 6,405 per day.
The country suffered a heavy blow to tourism after closing Boracay for a massive clean-up that included improvements to roads and waste disposal. The shutdown also affected holiday and wedding plans, some made years in advance.
If you’re still planning a trip to the Philippines, here are three alternative activities to consider:
Swimming with sharks in Oslob
Whale sharks are hard to spot and they’re only encountered through sheer luck by scuba divers or on organised observing tours such as those off Australia’s Ningaloo Reef. However, catching sight of a whale shark in Oslob is virtually guaranteed. While they are actively hunted in some parts of the world, the whale sharks in Oslob are valued and protected by the locals.
Surfing in Siargao
The tear-shaped island roughly 500 miles southeast of Manila is considered the country’s best surf spot. The famous Cloud 9, with a reputation for thick, hollow tubes, is the site of the annual Siargao Cup but there are other quality waves worth catching too on nearby islands.
Diving in Coron
Consisting over 80 islands and islets in the north of Palawan province, the Calamian Islands is home to multiple diving spots. But Coron is known for having the cleanest inland body of water. Divers are mostly here to see the WWII Japanese shipwrecks that were sunk in the area during the air raid by 120 United States aircrafts in 1944.