Two perfect days in paradise.
Finally we were on the beach. After 5 days of biblical downpours where even Noah would have struggled, the sun was out in all its glory. We had skipped visiting Samar because of the weather and headed straight down to Southern Leyte to go diving and to chill on the beach.
Which was how our day began.
We had found a beautiful empty beach with a few palm trees for shade and crystal clear waters to cool off. Having an empty beach to yourself is the norm in the Philippines, unlike most other destinations in South East Asia.
As we dived into our books, a group of locals turned up and started setting up banners, balloons, tables and chairs. A party! A few minutes later one of the guys from the party came over with the cutest little boy. It turns out the party was in honour of the little boy, Theron who had just turned two. We got invited to the party and we were soon sitting under a coconut tree eating gorgeous food prepared by our new friend Dulce and sipping on Coconut wine.
Our friendly party hosts had been up since dawn. They started the day by planting mangrove trees in Theron’s honour. These trees are essential in protecting the coastline and instead of buying Theron toys they invested in his future habitat. What a brilliant idea!
After swapping stories over more food and wineit was time for dancing. Theron was clearly the star of the show. At two years of age he could copy his dad’s dance moves and expressions in every way. It was such a cute sight. But the dancing wasn’t just left to Theron. We all got up and started our own version of beach line dancing, with all of us doing the same moves. Karen managed to keep up but let’s just say I had more success at the game of football we played afterwards. It was a day that every traveller dreams of, spending time with warm-hearted locals and getting a glimpse of how they live their lives.
The next day we had another special outing in store. We were finally going to dive in the Philippines. The country is renown for its abundance of fish and pristine coral reefs. It is part of what’s known as the coral triangle – a triangular area in the sea that covers over 1.6 billion acres and houses 75% of coral species. It’s also home to over 3000 species of fish and 6 of the world’s 7 species of sea turtles. There are hundreds of great dive sites in the Philippines but with a traveller’s budget we really had to cherry pick the areas we were going to dive in. Padre Burgos was one of them. We couldn’t wait to get in the water!
We took a boat to another small island about an hour away from our place and did two dives in the area. We were not disappointed. We had been diving for over 10 years around the world and we had never come across coral that looks like it belongs in a BBC documentary. As we moved about, I was sure I could hear David Attenborough’s voice! The colours were psychedelic with splashes of reds, purples and yellows everywhere you looked. The variety and quantity of fish was heartening to see. The reef was clearly healthy and looked after.
The two days we spent in Leyte capture what the Philippines is all about, spectacular scenery and beautiful warm people.
We visited Southern Leyte in 2011. Since then typhoon Haiyan devastated most of the province in 2013 but thankfully all our friends that we met on the beach that day were all okay as are the coral reefs. We hope to go back to the Philippines sometime in 2015.