While indulging in a beachfront massage one afternoon in Dimakya Island, I steal glances at the breathtaking vista of the placid sea and the mountains from the cabana. Are these what we need to be happy? A beautiful island, sumptuous food and a little bit of pampering? For a few days the complexities of my everyday life seem nonexistent. I know I have found my paradise.
I never thought the screech-like squawks of the fruit bats dangling from the Calumpang trees would be music to my ears. Those and the rich, whistling songs of the Black-naped Orioles, whose striking yellow plumage blazes from the high branches like fire, wake me up from my slumber. Lying still in a hammock that surrounds me like a cocoon while relishing the languid salty air, I watch the bright blue skies give way to pale yellows and pinks above the mountains on the island across. The delicate splashes of the sea and the rustle of the Talisay trees nearby drown the laughter of the children frolicking in the shallows.
First Day in Paradise
Club Paradise, a Discovery World Resort, lives up to its name. Located in the sun drenched and secluded Dimakya Island in Coron, Palawan, the island resort has a 700-meter beautiful white sand beach and is surrounded by a luxuriant vegetation, an abode to the White-bellied Sea Eagles, Monitor Lizards, Rufous Night Herons and seventy more exotic animal species. The turquoise waters around it serve as a sanctuary to a wide array of flora and fauna, including the sea cows and the Green Sea Turtles, which are easily spotted in the nearby reef. Listed as one of the 10 best Scuba diving destinations in the world by the Forbes Traveler Magazine, Coron has an amazing marine life and a dozen sunken Japanese warships and freighters of depths between 10 and 40 meters off Coron and Dimakya Islands.
The beaming staff strumming their guitars breaks into a song as I alight from the speedboat, welcoming me to Club Paradise. Sipping on a refreshing cucumber drink, I am rendered speechless by the gorgeous panorama from the beachfront lounge. Verdant mountains and rugged cliffs rise up from the sparkling waters of different hues. Pardon the cliché but there’s truly nothing like kicking off my shoes to sink my exhausted feet into the warm silky-white squeaky-clean beach sand. The welcome song continues as I walk to my beachfront cottage, where another staff awaits at the foyer. “Would you like a foot massage?” she offers. A genuine smile wrinkles her sun-kissed face. How does she know I want one so bad?
Club Paradise’s unique and personalized welcome extends to my room. Imagine how pleasantly surprised I am to see my framed photographs on the wooden table next to my bed and a banner that says “Welcome Home” with my name plastered on the wall. The hospitality, served with sugary treats like homemade pastries, freshly cooked maruya (banana fritters) and biko (sticky rice pudding) brought regularlyto my porch during snack time, makes me feel like I am just visiting a relative’s gorgeous beach house. This kind of service, I learn later on, is a Discovery signature. Joegil, the resort’s manager, says they invest on their staff’s training. “We want to maintain our unparalleled quality service. As we always say, ours is a ‘service that’s all heart’.”
Unquestionably inspired by the rustic Filipino hut, the beachfront cottages look simple yet charming. Though the walls are concrete, they have thatched roofs, amakan accents and a shady wooden veranda kitted out with lounge chairs and a hammock where you can watch the magnificent Palawan sunset or the clear starlit skies at night. The 19-hectare island resort has a total of 55 rooms: 20 Beachfront cottages, 4 Sea View, 7 Hillside, 4 Garden View and 20 Island View Suites. They were all carefully designed not to encroach on the natural environment. “The presence of the exotic animals means Dimakya Island has a healthy environment. We intend to keep it that way,” says Joegil. He also mentions that there are plans to upgrade the rooms and facilities within the year.
Though I’ve visited Coron a few years ago, I still find myself awestruck by the majesty of the towering jungle-covered karst formations erupting from the cobalt blue waters. “There are 13 lakes here in Coron, but only two are open to the public: Kayangan and Barracuda Lake. The rest are protected and considered sacred by the indigenous Tagbanuas.” says Raymund, our boatman and guide. A short but exhausting trek across a dense rainforest takes some sweat-drenched American tourists and me to Kayangan Lake, which according to Raymund has won accolades as the cleanest lake in the country. The mysterious crystal clear lake, hidden by an array of steep black limestone hills, never fails to enchant even its jaded visitors. And just when you think the spectacle ends with what is seen above the brackish waters, you are rendered breathless by the stunning sharp-edged walls and stalagmite formations underneath. “It’s like the castle from The Little Mermaid,” describes a little boy as he pulls himself back onto a bamboo raft.
The Twin Lagoon, not far from the Kayangan Lake, is just as beautiful. Here, two lagoons converge through a small cave-like opening at the base of a limestone cliff. During low tide, one can easily swim from one lagoon to the other. When the tide is high, one may use a wooden ladder built on the cliff to get to the other side. “You will notice that the water is a mixture of warm and cold. That’s because it is in this lagoon where the freshwater and seawater meet,” says Raymund.
Myth says that long ago, seven children drowned at the sea while looking for their parents. Seven rocky islets arose from the area where the tragedy happened, and it is now known as the Siete Pecados. Excited to have a glimpse of Coron’s renowned underwater wildlife, I hastily slip on my snorkel and a pair of flippers before splashing into the water. As I settle into the cadenced pattern of my breathing, I am taken aback by the profusion of life radiating beneath me. Large coral tables, densely surrounded by soft and branching corals, serve as playground to vibrant fishes. Startled by my presence, a parrotfish and a school of angelfish glide past me, looking beautiful and shiny. A clown fish storms back and forth from its bright pink anemone, as if threatening me not to swim any closer to its home. It is easy to lose track of time when you are surrounded with an extraordinary sight like this. Surfacing briefly, I realize that I have been carried far away from the boat by the subtle current.
“Don’t jump into the pool right away! The water’s temperature can sometimes go as high as 40 degrees,” warns a caretaker of the Maquinit Hot Spring. The warm and soothing water cascading gently on my shoulders from a small elevated pool is the rejuvenescence I need after an exhausting day of island hopping, snorkeling and trekking. Surrounded by lush mangroves and lofty flowering trees, the spring has a natural heat that is said to come from a nearby underground volcano.
Club Paradise also offers escapades to some of its neighboring islands: Isla Walang Lang-aw (Island Without Trees) and Isla Walang Tao (uninhabited island). Devoid of any vegetation, Isla Walang Lang-aw has stunning rock formations adorning its 300-meter sparkling beach and luminous waters. Here, only the splashes of the sea and the squawks of the seagulls can be heard. Located ten minutes away from Dimakya Island, the islet is a favorite among couples who want privacy and an isolated picnic. “If we see a beach umbrella on the sandbar, we avoid getting close to the island. We respect our guests’ solitude,” says the boatman.
Snorkels are practically useless when you reach the glass-clear waters of Isla Walang Tao, a quiet and charming islet with soft white sand that sinks my feet and a few Puzzle Trees that cover my head from the harsh midday sun. A vast coral garden starts right at the shoreline, almost immediately below the water surface. Sightings of Black Tip Sharks, Napoleon Wrasses, Bumpheads and Eagle Rays have been reported in this area so I make a vain attempt to look for them behind the large Cabbage Corals and Elephant Ear sponges. It may not be my lucky day, but the schools of colorful reef fish darting around me are just as entertaining.
Besides island hopping and snorkeling, Club Paradise also offers activities like kayaking, paraw sailing, diving and bottom fishing. Its leisure and adventure facilities include the Dugong Dive Center, a clubhouse and bar, an entertainment room equipped with karaoke machines, a spa, swimming pool, tennis court and an activity area for children. Joegil, the resort’s manager, says there are plans to add watersports facilities at the nearby Diatoy Island, also under the jurisdiction of Club Paradise.
On my last morning in Dimakya Island, I find myself strolling along the beach, often stopping to peer beneath the crystalline water to spy on vibrant fishes darting in the shallows. Afterwards, I sit on the cool powdery sand for a while, admiring the glass-like surface of the sea, which shimmers with hues of orange and purple in the morning light. The breathtaking colors stretch out toward the distant mountains and the West Philippine Sea. Evidently, every aspect of this tranquil island conspires to create a relaxing and blissful atmosphere. Now this is exactly how a vacation should be.
How To Go To Coron:
1.) By air to Busuanga Airport via Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and Skyjet
2.) By sea to Coron Pier via 2GO
Club Paradise Manila Sales and Reservations Office
41st Floor, Discovery Suites
ADB Avenue, Ortigas Center, Pasig City 1600
Telephone: (+632) 719.6971 to 6974
Trunkline: (+632) 719.6988
Dimakya Island, Coron, Northern Palawan