After our amazing month in Palau we needed to regain some of our rapidly diminishing budget. We asked ourselves where we would head to next? Another small island, a busy town, or even head for the hills and cool down for a while in the jungle? We chose Alona beach, Panglao, after hearing about a great house reef and nearby islands including Balicasag. Although joining yoga classes was a big part of coming here, we were also thinking of possibly staying and teaching scuba here. After only two months of enjoying Alona’s hospitality of yoga, diving, and great people, we were hooked. Now were going to investigate this piece of paradise and hope to see you here.
Panglao, a small island in the island province of Bohol just off the south-west tip of the main island. Friends have lived here for almost ten years and highly rated the diving around this holiday destination, though after Palau I wondered if anywhere would measure up. We booked ourselves flights to Tagbilaran via Manila and readied ourselves for the next adventure.
New fishes, friends, and food.
New friends, food and music at the yoga barn.
Arriving mid morning at Tagbilaran airport I was groggy but upbeat on only my second trip to the Philippines. As we disembarked the plane, we headed over to the “terminal”, a small simple building that housed a motionless luggage conveyer and around fifty porters all scrambling to help with the bags. Outside we were immediately reminded of the Asian custom to ambush you by taxi drivers, motorbikes with sidecars welded to them, and of course resort touts. We negotiated passed them looking out for our friend who was going to be picking us up, once spotted a huge grin enveloped his face as we man hugged it out. Steve, whom we’d last seen in Sri Lanka has been a resident and business owner on the island, he’d had agreed to show us around and help us find a place to stay and of course get some diving in.
Alona beach has much to keep you busy during the day with diving or just soaking up the sun and also a vibrant night life that promises to damage a fair amount of brain cells. With beer and alcohol prices being less than that of water and soft drinks you may end up with quite a sore head in the morning. Rum and cokes are typically doubles or even tripples as the expensive ingredient is the cola, so bars tend to fill your glass with rum adding a small amount of cola. The more rum you ask for, the cheaper the drink! Along the 2 kilometre beach are many perfect spots to enjoy a sun downer and some food with friends. We settled into “Birdwatches” bar and enjoyed the best homemade chips on the beach and some ice cold San Miguel Pils. Though the beach is lovely we also found some nice drinking holes just off the main street Alona.
In the evening just before sunset the tables and chairs are put out over the sand giving you a lovely location to enjoy dinner, restaurant staff are always smiling and ready to refill your rum and coke. Food along Alona beach is unfortunately very “same same” with neighbouring restaurants having identical menus, there is an abundance of sometimes questionably “fresh” juvenile reef fish for sale along the beach including parrot fish, grouper, jacks, lobster and crab. If your a diver you may want to avoid purchasing these after spending your afternoon swimming with them. There are some amazing places to eat, but you’ll have to read our following Alona blogs to learn more.
Another feature of Alona along with most tourist areas are the street sellers, here you can expect to be asked 10 times on the way to the beach if you want to buy pearls. Some of the sellers will casually ask if you want to buy as you walk by, other are a little more aggressive but a firm and raised voice usually puts a stop to the hard sell. Other street sellers seem to have more decorum offering whale shark tours or island hopping trips for those who want to leave Alona for the day, these are well priced at a glance but may not include additional fees. As a rule I’d avoid the whale shark trips due to bad practices and conservation issues.
Whilst in Alona we’ve had the privilege to be involved in coral workshops hosted by Ocean Quest Asia which have been educational as well as extremely fulfilling. I do always like the term “non profit” when it comes to NGO’s and charities. We look forward to getting more involved in these projects to rehabilitate damaged reefs and spreading knowledge and I promise to write more in depth about this as its gonna be a big part of us staying in the Philippines.