I finally made it to Boracay! And my shoulders are aching something fierce. It took me an hour and twenty minutes rowing in a kayak to get to the famous – and now deserted – White Beach. This is what Boracay looks like in pandemic days.
For the past couple weeks, I’ve been waiting for the right conditions to try to row the few miles from our resort home on the big island of Panay to the tiny, super-popular, tourist island of Boracay.
A rental unit on Boracay is where we were headed on March 16 — the day this Philippine province (Aklan) went into lockdown due to the coronavirus. When we arrived at the ferry terminal for the final short boat ride, we were turned away. Since then we’ve been in community quarantine on Panay with a beautiful view of Boracay and White Beach.
Ever since our arrival, I’ve thought about making the trip in the molded plastic sea kayak we have at our resort. My main concern; the winds and waves. While every day is hot and sunny here, there is often a strong breeze. As a result, whitecaps are common on the waters between us and the the destination. They are not big waves, but something best avoided in a kayak.
On a recent trip along the coastline by road into the ferry port town of Caticlan, I made another observation. The water closer to Caticlan was much calmer. Indeed, the distance across to Boracay is shorter there – and more protected by the land masses. I decided it would be better to cross closer to Caticlan.
Yesterday, when I woke up, I noticed a few things: there was cloud cover – not blazing sun, the wind was less intense, and there were hardly any whitecaps to be seen looking out toward Boracay. It was what I had been hoping for.
I waited until 3:00 p.m. for even less wind and sun and I got ready to make the effort. I planned to start heading along our shoreline towards Caticlan. Then when the conditions and distance looked best, I would go across to Boracay if I was comfortable. I was hoping it would take about an hour each way. I could go across, look around, and be back just before dark. The map below shows the route.
By 4:00 p.m. I was well underway across to see what Boracay looks like in pandemic days. First, it had taken nearly a half-hour to make my way to a point along the Caticlan shoreline where the water seemed even calmer and Boracay looked very close. But at 4:30 p.m. I figure I was barely half-way across. At that point I paused to drink some bottled water – and immediately noticed I was being pushed backwards by waves. No more pauses.
About 20 minutes later, I was getting close. I had reached a calm area off Boracay where a number of unattended tour boats, water sport pontoons and a huge floating restaurant are anchored. Being that the whole island is shut down, the only people around were on a few small fishing boats. I took my first photos there. I also noticed my arms and shoulders were getting sore.
A few minutes later, I rowed right up to the shore of the famous Boracay White Beach. It was deserted. I was tempted to get out of the kayak and walk around. But knowing the island is officially closed to all but ‘verified residents’, I didn’t want to be in violation. Still, I did have my quarantine pass and protective face mask with me.
Instead, I took photos from the kayak as I made my way along the water’s edge. With the zoom lens, I could easily see the beach entrance ways to a couple resorts now cordoned off. And I could definitely make out the soft, powdery, white sand that the island is renowned for.
What Boracay looks like in pandemic days
There were thousands of footprints – but not a single person in sight on one of the most popular beaches in the world. Spooky!
Eventually, I did see one guy jogging along the rear of the beach in front of the Auhana Resort. And way off in the distance, maybe a mile down the beach, I could see a small group of people near the water. But the sun was getting low, so I decided to head back out to sea.
It was just after 5:30 p.m. It would get dark in about an hour. I debated what route to take back to our resort on mainland Panay. The water seemed even calmer, less winds. But my arms were aching. What to do?
The return journey
A few guys in a modern fiberglass speedboat were nearby (not a small, outrigger, fishing boat) floating offshore and decided to approach them. I had brought one 500 Philippine Peso bill with me ($10 usd). When I paddled up to the powerboat, I was greeted in surprised English by the guys lounging onboard. I explained I was about to row back across to the ‘mainland’ but would pay for a ride.
Within 2 minutes, my kayak and paddle were pulled into the seating area of the powerboat and we were zipping across the water heading straight toward our resort. It literally took five minutes. The kindly guys dumped me back into the water about 500 feet offshore and I handed over the $10. What a deal! No paddling and I was home for sunset.
Eventually, we expect to go back and visit White Beach on Boracay once our quarantine is lifted and the island reopens to tourists. It will be neat to walk around and swim and sunbathe and dine there. I’m confident the place will still be pretty empty while life and the economy restarts. But I’ll also always remember my completely deserted “coronavirus castaway kayak trip.”
As always, be thankful and generous, happy trails, & more beer.
Life is NOW!
Thanks for reading, “What Boracay looks like in pandemic days.”
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Tedly and Ellen post something every day during the lockdown – usually they alternate days. Earth Vagabonds advocate for travel, once border reopen and restrictions are lifted. Until then, they are enjoying their time at the Hangout Beach Resort.