Earlier this year I was introduced to the Philippines for the very first time. Now totally smitten with these islands and their people, here are my five top reasons why you should push the Philippines right to the top of your travel list.
#1 – The people
Filipinos have to be some of the most welcoming and polite people I’ve ever met. During my trip, I hardly ever saw anyone without a smile on their face, and I instantly felt relaxed and at home. The locals were always quick to offer help when needed and keen to share their stories and experiences whenever you asked a question.
There’s just such a friendly vibe there and you feel that the Filipinos are truly happy to show you their home and customs – oh and they want you to have a total blast while you’re there. One day you’ll find groups of school kids eagerly waving you off as you drive down the road, and the next you’ll find yourself going from watching a show to being part of the action, as the singers and dancers drag you up onto the stage!
#2 – The natural wonders
Made up of over 7,000 islands, there are so many different landscapes to explore, offering oh so many different experiences. Jungles – tick. Volcanoes – tick. Rice paddies – tick. You get the gist! During my whirlwind visit to just three different islands, I never tired of staring out the window, taking in the amazing landscapes as they rushed by.
One of my favourite moments was riding a quad bike down an almost deserted Palawan road. Feeling the sun on my face and the wind in my hair, I felt utterly content and in awe of the lush mountains and jungles around me and I wanted to stay in that moment forever.
Natural beauty is everywhere in the Philippines but it also has its fair share of natural wonders, and one of my personal highlights was visiting the Chocolate Hills during my 48 hours in Bohol. These are over 1,000 cone-shaped hills that get their name from the fact they turn a chocolaty brown in the dry season. Spreading as far as the eye can see, my visit there was really brought to life by our amazing tour guide Celine, who told us the amazing myths behind their creation, involving lost loves and warring giants.
Then there’s also the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, named one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature. Here you can take a guided boat journey into its caverns, watching the birds and bats fly about whilst you weave around the amazing rock formations.
#3 – The beaches
If you’re looking for idyllic beaches, then your search is over. The Philippines has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and even better, they’re not chocca with tourists. Often you can find an empty beach and make it your own personal paradise.
I had the pleasure of island hopping around Palawan’s Honda Bay during my first full day in the Philippines and I was instantly in love. Wiggling my toes into the fine, golden sand and then walking into the warm ocean, with only my friends, the wildlife and the palm trees around me – utter bliss.
#4- The wildlife
If you consider yourself an animal lover, then the Philippines has a lot to offer you. In just five days I had the chance to get up close and personal to some of the local fish whilst snorkelling off Starfish Island, watch the bats fly over my head while I drank cocktails from the comfort of the in-pool bar at dusk, take a river tour to see the local snakes and lizards chilling out in the trees, watch a sea eagle dive for its lunch, and even meet an elusive tarsier.
And that isn’t everything on offer. My latest dream is to return to the Philippines to dive with whale sharks, another amazing opportunity open to visitors to this diverse eco system.
#5 – The food
You can eat both well and cheaply in the Philippines. Staples involve rice and fish, and during my stay I was treated to some amazing dishes and ate like the locals kamayan-style, which simply means eating with your hands.
Most meals started off with fresh vegetable soup then moved onto rice and meat dishes, such as adobo (mainly pork or chicken marinated in vinegar, soy sauce and garlic) and tapa, which is cured beef. As if this wasn’t enough, meals often ended with fresh mango, which the country is renowned for, or for the adventurous you could try out some of the local ice creams, which come in a wide range of flavours (and colours!) including spicy ginger, dragon fruit and durian.
About the author
Keri Allan co-edits Ladies What Travel, a blog written by, and for, part-time travellers. She hopes to show people that it is possible to travel regularly even when holding down a 9-5 job, and shares how she makes the most of her weekends and annual leave. You can also follow her adventures on Twitter and Facebook.