NEW YORK — The 2019 New York Times Travel Show showcased new travel trends, eco-tourism and exotic destinations from all over the world. In focus this year are Hungary, India and South Africa. Thrill seekers are in the hunt for new places to explore. A date in Budapest can easily make its way to Bucharest, for the legendary Bran Castle outside Romania.
Bucket list travelers set their goals each year. A growing trend is for solo travel, which may be attributed to a rise of adventure-seeking singles unwilling to compromise their plans. Millennials find greater sense of independence while traveling solo. The trend continues to grow even for baby-boomer singles and women travelers in their quest to explore off the beaten paths.
Exploration of the world under the sea presents an astounding alternative to usual Asian cities or European tourist capital. Scuba diving offers extraordinary opportunity to know more about the planet, and experience a close encounter with one of its gigantic creatures, coexist with the tiniest beings, spend time to be alone with nature, while gliding along vibrantly colored reefs like the school of fishes passing by.
The Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) announced, “Destinations like Australia and the Philippines are well positioned to attract the growing population of solo travelers.” PADI Travel website provides expert resources for those wanting to explore uncharted waters, and remote islands where there are no resorts, with options for those wanting to stay in resorts, for both divers and snorkelers.
Liveaboard is a diving tour that accommodates 16-24 passengers living on board the vessel, with a crew of 10 people serving buffet, cleaning cabins and providing expert guide to divers, complete with computer and image editing equipment. It is a mini version of river cruises providing land excursions to see additional wonders, such as the world’s smallest primates, the tarsiers at Bohol.
A recommended place to visit tarsiers in their natural habitat is the Philippine Tarsier Foundation. There are more than 200 of this species left. They are very territorial, hence, the Foundation is raising money to buy additional land for tarsiers to mate and give birth to offspring. It is important to help spread awareness and education on how to treat them, and not patronize the roadside vendors who capture tarsiers in a cage for tourists to scrutinize. These primates are known to commit suicide after the extreme stress.
A diver’s bucket list, the Tubbataha Reef National Park, is a UNESCO World Heritage site, the only marine heritage site in the Southeast Asia, located off the coast of Palawan. Sightings of the famous whale shark endemic to Oslob, Cebu and Donsol, Sorsogon and the wider headed guitar shark are documented. National Geographic published breathtaking images that placed this site in very high demand.
Located 170 nautical miles southwest of Manila, Coron Bay, part of Palawan serves as the underwater memorial for 24 Japanese ships sunken by the American forces in World War II. The ships vary from 25-meters long to a massive 180-meters, mostly in good condition, with depths ranging from 25 to 45 meters, with visibility as shallow as 7 meters, depending on the tide on a full moon or a new moon.
Deck penetration of the vessels is possible for experienced divers, according to Andy Pownall, a British diver who came to the island over 35 years ago, and became a Filipino citizen, now owner of Sangat Island Resort. German dive master Joachim Lorenz can take experienced divers to the warship Irako, 143-meters long sunken 45 meters deep, or the 180-meters long cargo ship Kogyo Maru, sunken 36 meters down.
For beginning divers, Anilao in Batangas remains a favorite choice due to its visibility and abundance of coral reefs and a variety of fishes, perfect for underwater photography. Ronnie Corpuz runs an Open Water Diving course year-round at AnilaoDiving.com, watch Inquirer contributor Porsha Seechung, in a very engaging technical underwater training: https://www.facebook.com/ronnie.corpuz/videos/1761223313100/
For those who love to swim with sea turtles, it is highly recommended to go to Apo Reef. From there, one can make their way by boat to Oslob Island off the coast of Dumaguete to experience swimming with the giant, genteel whale sharks. There are rules to be observed for a sustainable tourism. Swimmers are not to touch the turtles or the whale sharks, and a certain distance is to be observed so as not to block their natural path way, but to swim in parallel position at the same speed in order not to stress the animals. Feeding is not allowed as it disrupts their natural nutrition from the wild.
Dumaguete is a ferry ride away from Cebu City, or 3-hours by car. It is the home of famous dried mango chips and homegrown cacao de bola. Stop by The Chocolate Chamber for a demonstration by Raquel Choa, and a generous sampling of her cocoa products. Depending on the season, she introduces new lines including chocolate facial masks and natural cocoa butter bars.
Now, if you are still in the mood for more shark diving while in Cebu, head to the Northern tip, and board an outrigger boat to Malapascua Island, a tiny 2.5-kilometer long by 1-km wide island where you may be lucky to spot the thresher sharks at an early morning dive. Take a look at these long-tailed giants: https://youtu.be/P6IhtMrW5D4
The magazine Condé Nast announced last October 2018 its readers’ top three choices for islands in Asia. Nearly half a million Condé Nast Traveler readers submitted a record-breaking number of responses rating their travel experiences to provide a full snapshot of where and how we travel today.
In a ceremony attended by Philippine Department of Tourism New York, Condé Nast Traveler announced the results of its 31st annual Readers’ Choice Awards, recognized as the # 1 ISLANDS – ASIA: SIARGAO; #2 ISLANDS – ASIA: BORACAY; #3 ISLANDS- ASIA: PALAWAN. Philippines once again garnered the top honors. The reopening of Boracay, after an intensive clean-up, is sure to entice more visitors in the coming years.
Philippine Department of Tourism created a specially guided tour accompanied by US-based ambassadors and tourism directors from various states, dubbed as VIP (Very Important Pinoy) Tour. See the destinations that will include a chartered flight to El NIdo: https://youtu.be/Hduh9EJPjRU
Philippine Airlines is currently running a super sale promo for those “snow birds” who want to escape the frigid winter weather of New York. Flights from New York to Manila nonstop, is only $750 for economy, it will be running on a daily basis soon. It takes only 14-15 hours for this direct flight, another first in international aviation. Truly, it’s more fun in the Philippines!
Psst, Balikbayan, shipwreck diving is best in Coron
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