When a visitor to Boracay asks a resident where the best place is to have a seaside lunch, the common answer would likely be ‘Take your pick along White Beach’ (although I doubt that’s where he’d go himself). Don’t misunderstand me. White Beach still is quite the stunner… just a tad too choked with tourists grabbing every opportunity to immerse themselves in the famed Boracay experience of seafood buffets on the sand, sun hat-protected strolls with fresh fruit shakes on hand and selfie stick-enabled photo ops for their Instagram galleries. Can you really blame them? Unlike a few of those who are fortunate to call this island home, visitors will indeed try to cram as many activities on this world-renowned beach as they can in their 3-5 night stay.
However, if you happen to come round with a bit more days to spare (and if perchance you ask me the same question being a resident now for almost two years), perhaps I’d steer you more towards arranging a picnic at Puka, a quieter version of White Beach on the northern tip of the island or the less-explored Ilig-iligan around the northeastern corner from Puka, where a strip of paradise is still virtually untouched (as of this writing) by commercialism.
Or even better still, why don’t you have someone pack your lunch, take you on a day trip to the neighboring Carabao Island and leave you to soak in the raw beauty of rural Philippines?
Carabao Island was so named because legend has it, there used to be plenty of these water buffaloes roaming freely on the island. It is relatively undeveloped, with limited power and fresh water supply. It is home to about 12,000 people, who are simple folk relying solely on the fruits of their land and the bounty of the sea.
Located only 45 minutes away by boat from Boracay, Hambil (as it’s locally called) is part of Romblon province and is slowly attracting the attention of adventurous travelers. You can approach several tour companies who organize trips to this island. Usually, the rates include boat rental, your BBQ lunch, unlimited drinks and snorkel equipment. One such company is Boracay Explorer. At Php 2,000 per head, you might think it’s pretty steep for a meal at a secluded beach but to be honest, it’s not a bad deal at all, bearing in mind you can easily spend that much on just a half-hour jet ski ride.
But there’s more. The crew makes you feel you can resign yourself to their care the minute you board their 26-meter dive boat, Maruja, which is equipped with a kitchen, a dining table and an outdoor grill plus a roof deck and massive outriggers where you can sun yourself to your heart’s content.
Once aboard, they offer you a choice of drinks — from chilled juices and sodas to local beers and classic cocktails. Tom and Florian, the two partners who run this group, make sure that every guest is looked after. It’s impressive that they even thought of the little things a guest might need during the trip, like anti-vertigo pills for those who suffer from motion sickness, especially for when Maruja mightily knifes through the channel that separates Boracay from Romblon.
Anchoring about three hundred meters from the shores of Tinap-an Beach, the guests are ferried to the island, six at a time, on a small dinghy. What greets you when your foot touches the sand will make your heart skip with excitement.