Goal = 52 countries in 52 weeks.
The Philippines… A dream destination with it’s many magical islands full of white sand, palm trees and crystal clear water. It’s not hard to guess why this tropical paradise made our list! Arriving in the capital city of Manila was a world of its own though. Because of it’s small land area and huge population it’s one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Cars galore, zigzagging in and out of traffic, thick smog and endless noise, it was a far cry from the tranquil oasis you picture when thinking of the Philippines. Needless to say, we were keen to get out the city and back in touch with nature.
Our first adventure lead us a few hours south out to Taal volcano, the smallest active volcano in the world. This geological wonder is actually a volcano within a lake within a volcano! Upon arrival to Tagaytay, the starting point for the visit, an old fashioned Fillipino made motorised outrigger is waiting to take us on a short scenic journey across Lake Taal to the base of the volcano.
The best views are always at the top, so up we trekked towards the rim along black sandy trails. One of the most mind blowing things to witness was the steam billowing out the vents on the edges of the volcano! As we reached the summit, we were met with breathtaking views of the lake and surrounding mountains. The hike was definitely worthwhile for some picture perfect shots.
With 7,000 beautiful islands to choose from, it was a tough pick for our only island stop. But with amazing resorts right on the beach and countless adventures on offer, we felt drawn to stunning Cebu, which has been voted countless times as one of the most beautiful islands in the South Pacific. And what a lesson in tranquillity it was! We decided to indulge for our little weekend getaway and rented an apartment at the popular Movenpick resort on Mactan Island, Cebu. Although pricey, it was the height of relaxation and we thoroughly enjoyed our time lazing the days away poolside, with a few ice cold San Miguels!
To equal out all the relaxing we were doing, we sought out some local adrenaline activities to get the blood pumping again. Although endless options were at our fingertips, we chose something we had never done before – parasailing! The thought of just floating in the air overlooking the endless blue water was too good to pass up.
And it really did feel like you were walking on air! The whole experience only lasted about 15 minutes but we just couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces. The local guys towing us from the boat had a lot of fun dunking us in and out of the water too! I couldn’t recommend this activity enough.
Of course we couldn’t pass up another opportunity to swim in more sparkling water, so we headed out to Olango Island for some kayaking and snorkelling. Olango Island is well known for it’s wildlife sanctuary, supporting the largest concentration of migratory birds found in the Philippines. Although out of season, we were still able to admire the hectares of sand flats and mangroves, making the island an austerely beautiful spot to visit.
To get to Olango from Mactan Island, we had to first jump on a local outrigger pumpboat and upon arrival to Olango, negotiate a fare with a local tricycle driver to take us to the sanctuary. These tricycles are a pretty fun experience, as there are literally a motorcycle with a sidecar attached (think Hagrid’s bike from Harry Potter here).
The sanctuary has a lovely little nature walk you can do before jumping on a kayak and heading out to the ocean. The ocean was an aquatic dream with thousands of species of fish and coral. The only downside was the pesky but harmless jellyfish that seemed to constantly swarm me! We finished the day with some fresh coconut juice and finished our time in the Philippines relaxed and refreshed.