MANILA, 28 November 2019: Boracay wins when you count visitors but Carabao Island just a 30-minute boat ride away is fast building a reputation as the next up-and-coming beach destination in the Philippines.
The entire island spans about 2,205 hectares featuring secluded white-sand beaches and limestone formations according to a report the Philippines News Agency.
Carabao Island, or Hambil Island, is the southernmost island of Romblon province and officially known as the Municipality of San Jose.
Its mayor, Ronnie Samson, told the news agency: “We cannot compete with Boracay now, but we strive hard to improve the island and if possible best Boracay on development and preparation.”
He made the comments to the media during a visit to Carabao Island hosted by the Department of Tourism as part of its media familiarization tour of Romblon province last week.
DoT is keen to open up new island destinations in a bid to disperse the benefits of tourism beyond popular resorts and gateway cities.
Boracay’s fall from grace, closure and restoration is now the textbook example for other beach resorts in the Philippines can avoid pitfalls. The watchword is sustainability, and the focus is on implementation of environmental laws and the management of sewerage that was largely ignored on Boracay until the country’s president stepped in and closed the island for a six-month restoration.
Carabao has a long way to go according to the PNA report that estimated that in the first quarter of the year it attracted just 30,000 visitors which was a massive increase of 17,000 tourists recorded in 2018.
Carabao Island is a long way off competing with Boracay, but it’s an example of the vast potential of the country’s lesser-known island to attract foreign tourists.
Carabao Island is a 45-minute boat trip from either Tablas or Caticlan the two nearest airports.
In early 2017, Cebu Pacific launched its Tablas flight, the only airline flying directly from Manila.
Philippine Airlines has daily flights to Caticlan Airport from where passengers can take a boat to San Jose.
Philippine Airlines also has flights once a week to Tugdan Airport in Alcantara, Romblon, where passengers can then transfer by jeepney to Santa Fe and take a boat to San Jose.
Carabao Island is also a perfect side trip for those already in Boracay since it is just a 30-minute boat ride away.