It seems almost impossible. The horizon is painted with such vivid colours it looks like the sky has ruptured.
In the foreground, a camera-toting father scrambles to pose his son before this startling backdrop on Boracay Island’s White Beach in The Philippines. The man’s urgency underlines that this is no ordinary setting, no generic moment, rather a rare juncture crying out to be captured.
Similar scenes play out all along the famed beach’s four-kilometre stretch. Usually a promenade on which tourists and vendors stroll back and forth, the beach has now come to a halt.
Even the young locals charged with peddling 'designer' sunglasses and watches are bewitched by the sunset. As colour drains from the sky, people break from their trances and continue on their way.
This powerful exhibition of the environment is apt. On an island with a reputation as colossal as Boracay’s, you expect Mother Nature to reveal her grandest tricks.
It is regularly included on lists of the world’s best islands, while White Beach enjoys a similarly lofty standing. After the smog, noise and chaos of the Filipino capital, Manila, Boracay’s fresh breeze and clear sky is a cleansing change.
A one-hour flight from Manila to Caticlan, on Panay Island, is followed by a brief ferry crossing to the petite tropical haven. As our boat neared Boracay, local children were leaping from a jetty into the translucent water. Patently delighted to have an audience for their acrobatics, they waved while sporting the widest of grins.
This facial expression is a motif on Boracay, where visitors appear both relaxed and thrilled by their extraordinary surroundings. The relaxation stems from spa visits, hammock naps, market shopping, seafood feasts, beachside massages, cliff-top cocktails, and wading in the turquoise ocean.
The thrills come from yachting, snorkelling, parasailing, cliff jumping, rock climbing and witnessing cartoonishly vibrant sunsets. Above all, the star attraction is White Beach. This ribbon of inviting sand is separated into three 'stations'.
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At its southern end is Station Three, home to many budget hotels and cheap restaurants. Station Two is the lively centre of the island, where you can find its nightlife precinct and the sprawling D’Mall shopping area. Isolated from this hubbub, Station One is dotted with upmarket resorts, many of which have ocean frontage at the northern end of White Beach.
The resorts offer a host of water-related activities. Fly above the ocean while parasailing, cut through it on a jet ski, skim across it on a towed banana boat, descend into it on a diving expedition, extract fish from it on an angling trip, or bob across it on a sail boat. These pursuits vary in price from $8 a person for banana boat rides up to $85 for a three-hour fishing trip for five people.
For golf lovers, Boracay’s only 18-hole course is just a few minutes' ride from White Beach at the sprawling Fairways and Bluewater country club.
Of course, not all tourists who visit Boracay are seeking family-friendly or romantic environments. The island is also a magnet for party people.
Station Two has a strong pull for these types, given its array of dining and drinking outlets. Along its busy beachside promenade, tourists weave between fire breathers, snack vendors and hair braiders while assessing the nightlife options.
Some choose to perch atop a stool and nurse a bottle of beer in a cheap and informal bar. Those with more refined tastes peruse the wine lists in dimly lit bistros. As PM bleeds into AM, Station Two’s nightclubs begin to boom.
Regardless of how late you stay up, your mind and body will be soothed by nature in the morning. Boracay’s gentle winds, endless sun and warm water have a curative power.
Visit your local Flight Centre store or call 131 600 for more advice and the latest deals on travelling to The Philippines.