I’m not one accustomed to, or know what to do when sand gets into my shoes. Call me ridiculous, but wait till you watch me prancing like I was walking on charcoal. But at least I knew even affordable luxury doesn’t afford me the riddance of every discomfort, that no resort escort would hoover sand off my feet each step I take…I did know that, right?
What luxury I received was an all-singing welcome while hand-held onto the pier of El Nido’s Apulit Island Resort, or “paradise” as the staff insisted in words and alluded with wide beams; checking into my water cottage room, suspended over water, was immediately spying a wide-angle panorama of the enclosed bay so luxuriant in its own spectacular.
But what next?
The surroundings diminished before my vision. The gazebo, the tangerine-dyed white curtains, the other massage table, the beach and sea glistening in crimson and gold: they ebbed away not only as dusk dimmed the skies, but also as my eyelids grew heavier and straitened their aperture – until no light could seep in, until even pressured rubs on my back and shoulders faded to muted blows.
It was her soft, healer-sedate voice that nudged me back to a night-fallen beach.
When was the last time I managed to relax so thoroughly my restless, frantic-headed self, I pondered. Never before, perhaps.
And opportunities to recuperate on Apulit Island were bountiful, from the inner sanctum of your own water cottages to reclining deckchairs by the infinity pool, book or cocktail in hand, soothed and worries evaporated.
And for a less stationary alleviation, getting caressed by sea breeze as I was transported aboard a Philippine outrigger made quite a reposed change of scenery; the island-hopping excursions would take you to the open waters before giving you the spare time to relax on white sand beaches you’ve barely witnessed before.
Ejecting myself off the deck, I swam away from the outrigger against a stronger current that put my flapping skills on the endurance test. Face plunged into the water, the reef was teeming with subaquatic organisms.
Every activity on Apulit Island and beyond was a combination of features. I could fall asleep from the masseur’s hypnosis, but not before listening to variations of birdsongs – and trying to determine the aviaries that made them. A hiking ascent with nature-observing focus would still break a heavy sweat. The adrenaline-pumped navigation inside the rocky caverns was witnessing where geology’s scalpel sculpted stalagmite formations.
On my final morning, before bidding farewell to Apulit, I had one last kayak trip planned for myself. Accompanied by Clark, we paddled against a challenging current around the island before anchoring behind an east-facing cliff face; we waited, current bobbing under our perch, until the sun crept up the horizon and beamed.
It was a luxury, in the form of a privilege, of a sight of a circumstance – where I didn’t mind that so much wet sand stuck to my feet, after all.
Then, on the lap returning to our boat, Clark, our marine sports guide, hysterically gestured to a dark silhouette some ten metres below us; good thing I did manage to recall the underwater hand sign for “turtle” – because I’d need it.