The Philippines is becoming more and more popular as a backpacker destination and I think this is because a lot of people are now looking for countries in South East Asia that feel less touristy and more ‘off the beaten track’. The Philippines also launched a big marketing campaign around 2014/2015 where there were loads more adverts and billboards with the slogan: ‘Its more fun in the Philippines’. After Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most devastating typhoons on record, it was important to keep tourists coming back as the money the Philippines makes from tourism is important for its economy.
I can imagine that parts of the Philippines will become quite built up for tourists and this may spoil some of the locations a little (but hopefully not too much). But the great thing about the country is that there are so many beautiful beaches and islands there will always be a place there that is quiet and off the beaten track.
The Philippines is like no other South East Asian country- it has an unusual history meaning the culture here is very mixed. There are obvious Spanish influences as well as American (English is spoken widely here which makes travel more convenient). But there are also so many different tribal languages depending which region you’re in.
I visited the Philippines in 2014 and spent just over a month there. I also went to the Northern Mountain Province as well as some of the southern islands. It is easily one of my favourite countries
Here is a summary of my trip:
Manila is not the prettiest of capital cities but it does have some lovely parks, Cathedrals and an interesting history. Be sure to visit the Old Town. You only need 2 days here to see the highlights. I would recommend travelling by taxi- ask them to use the meter although you may find they do not always do so. In which case, you should agree a price beforehand. I did feel quite safe in this city but it can feel a little dodgy at night- be wary of small children begging who can easily pick pocket you and stick to busy streets at night.
Jeepneys are orginally US military jeeps left over from WW2. They now serve as a popular means of public transport for locals. Tourists can use them but prepare to be cramped and completely confused as to where you are going!
Palawan is a popualar island to visit for its beaches. Its easy to get to via a short flight from Manila to Puerta Princesa. We stopped off in 2 locations on this island the first was:
It is worth visiting for a day or two on route to El Nido. The beach is pretty nice here but it was quite rainy the days we there so I don’t have many photos. We spent our second day on a tour of the underground river- also called the Subterranean National Park. This is a short boat ride from Sabang and you enter the first 15km of the underground river- it was pretty cool! Sorry the pictures are so rubbish the lighting inside makes it very tricky to get good photos! I did get a short video of some bats inside the cave which you can watch below:
This is one of the Philippines most popular destinations for beaches and island hopping. There are plenty of tour operators in the area offering day trips to various islands and it is definitely worth doing at least one boat tour. If you have lots of money to spend you can even hire a boat and driver to take you to your own private island. Instead, we hired a kayak and made our own way to a couple of the closest islands- where for a couple hours we were the only people on the beach- it was bliss!
More from El Nido:
It is easy to get to Cebu from Manila or from Palawan and I am pretty sure it is easy to get a flight here from other major islands in the Philippines. We made 3 stops in Cebu the first was:
There is not a lot to do in this city and it’s more of a stop off point when you are on route to somewhere else. We did go to the Crown Regency Hotel and treat ourselves to an all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant which is on one of the top floors. There was also a really strange ride you can go on from the roof of the hotel which tilts you over the edge. There were other activities such as ziplining between the two towers so if you want to check out the website it’s here.
In Oslob, Cebu, we snorkeled with Whale Sharks. It was obviously amazing to see these huge fish up close BUT I wouldn’t actually recommend seeing them this way and would advise you NOT to go to Oslob.
We initially planned to see the Whale Sharks in a different part of the Philippines where they do not feed the sharks but due to restraints on money, travel time and hitting typhoons we had to change our plans. I didn’t know a lot about the Oslob Whale Sharks but I did know that it had been recently discovered that a lot of sharks migrated here throughout the year- so I assumed it would be a very natural interaction with the them (not getting too close, no feeding and no touching etc.) We were briefed beforehand and told not to do these things but when we were snorkeling I noticed a few idiots breaking these rules. These idiots were not told to stop or penalized in any way. The Sharks are not trapped in a pool or anything like that. They are free to swim around in the sea as they please, but I still didn’t feel that this was the most natural way to see them since they are fed to keep them coming back. It didn’t feel entirely right doing it this way.
This is an example of a travel plan made in a hurry without much research conducted beforehand. It was awesome to snorkel with the Whale Sharks but in future I will definitely try and swim with them in a different environment.
I have included a few pictures of these incredibly beautiful fish but I will not be crediting the company I used and I hope you chose not to swim with them here.
The reason I wanted to visit Malapascua island – which is just off the northern tip of Cebu- was to dive with Thresher Sharks. This is one of the few places in the world where you can scuba dive with Thresher Sharks. The island is easy enough to get to by public transport. You first have to take a 4 hour bus from Cebu City’s Northern Bus Terminal to Maya and then from Maya you take a short boat ride to the island.
Much to my dismay, my GoPro camera’s memory card was corrupted and I was unable to recover the video files I had of my dives with these sharks. So instead, for those of you who do not know what a Thresher looks like, here is a picture I found on Google for you!
If you are interested in diving with the sharks I would recommend using the company: Thresher Shark Divers.
More pictures from Malapascua Island:
The Northern Mountain Province
The Mountain Province of the Philippines is a hidden gem in this diverse country. Beaches may be the first thing that springs to most people’s minds when they think of the Philippines but the Mountain Province is just as incredible.