Now don’t get me wrong, I love getting that perfect beach shot as much as the next person (and OH do the Philippines provide), feeling smug in the knowledge that my friends are shivering away at university… However, very soon after touching down on this island paradise, I realised that this country was so much more than that.
The locals will welcome you with open arms
It’s no wonder that the Filipino people are well-known for their hospitality – I felt friendliness and positivity from everyone I met. Don’t be surprised if you’re made to feel like royalty while visiting – many of the people that I met went the extra mile to ensure you leave the country loving it as much as they do.
Arriving at our early morning snorkelling tour, I was feeling a little worse for wear after enjoying some of the island’s famous coconut Lambanog wine. Our local guides rushed to get me their hangover cure: ice cold Diet Coke and fresh watermelon. I can 10/10 recommend. It’s safe to say it was a welcome change from my mum’s usual, “grow up and take the dogs for a walk”.
You can beat the crowds of Vietnam and Thailand
Have you visited Phuket with visions of a remote beach paradise, only to leave feeling like Danny Boyle and Leonardo DiCaprio lied to you? Unlike Thailand, the Philippines receives far less tourists and is generally better at preserving its areas of outstanding natural beauty. This careful management, makes these islands uniquely idyllic and home to some of the most breathtaking beaches in the world.
As my first visit to Asia, it felt a very, very long way from my rainy beach holidays in Devon. I was just shocked that somewhere this beautiful could exist.
You can fulfil all your Finding Nemo dreams
Still have the Great Barrier Reef at the top of your diving bucket list? Update it. Across its 7,000 islands, the Philippines boasts one of the most diverse and thriving ecosystems in the world. And you don’t even need your diving PADI, as there’s so much to see with just a mask and snorkel.
A splash into the turquoise water off Panglao Island confirmed this for me. I was instantly surrounded by schools of striped fish, and the beautiful rainbow parrot fish glided beneath my ankles. As well as swimming amongst the pygmy seahorse, blue-ringed octopus and green turtles, there’s also the opportunity to swim with larger creatures – the largest fish in the ocean no less. Here, you can see whale sharks in their natural habitat!
The surfing is insane
Think Bali is the only tropical surfing spot? Think again. Unleash your inner beach bum in Siargao. The tear shape of the island southeast of Manila makes this spot a total surfer’s paradise, frequently hailed as the unrivalled surf capital of Asia – gnarly!
If the word-class waves are a little too much for you, then visit the nearby Sugba Lagoon. The still, turquoise water makes this spot perfect for stand-up paddle boarding. Bali, you’ve got a tough rival to beat here.
So, if you’re already island dreaming – make the Philippines top of your list!