SANGAT ISLAND RESORT
If getting there is half the fun, then Sangat Island Reserve must be one of the most entertaining luxury resorts in Asia and certainly in the Philippines. First, escape the smog-choked streets of Manila in a 12-seater light aircraft. Gaze over the pilot’s shoulder and out through the cockpit window, whilst listening to the gentle cluck of the chickens in their boxes beside the emergency exit. The plane swoops over a stunning, primordial landscape of tiny karst studded islands, before landing in Busuanga in Northern Palawan an hour later. After a short drive from the dirt runway, you’re in the ramshackle provincial capital Coron and boarding a traditional Filipino Banca out-rigger boat, which takes a further hour or so to reach Sangat itself. The island surpasses all the clichés: perfect sand, crystal clear water, pristine reef, amazing views of other completely undeveloped islands and no-one else for miles around.
British owner Andy Pownall has been here for over 10 years and has slowly transformed Sangat Island Reserve luxury resort from a basic backpacker bungalow operation to a luxury dive resort. Whilst doing so, he has successfully preserved the back-to-nature atmosphere that attracted visitors here in the first place.
Bear in mind that Sangat Island Reserve is 100 percent a dive resort: either go there prepared to dive or learn to dive, since the majority of conversation at the fixed meal times will be all things aquatic. The buffet food at this luxury resort is heavy on fish, fresh fruit and coconut milk and there’s always plenty of it to satisfy divers’ large appetites.
At Sangat Island Reserve, there’s an excellent reef for snorkeling only a short swim from the beach and there are kayaks available for paddling around the bay. Really though, with a virtual fleet of Japanese warships sunk nearby, you’ll want to spend as much time below the surface as possible. Frequently compared to Krabi in Southern Thailand, Palawan does have many geological similarities, but a completely different ambiance and a genuine off the beaten track feel. For a true taste of tourism in its infancy, the area – and Sangat in particular – are hard to beat.
Accommodation at Sangat Island Reserve luxury resort are simple but spacious wooden stilt huts, which are solidly constructed and very comfortable. All have western toilets, hot water and private balconies. They’re also well spaced, which is perfect for those contemplative Robinson Crusoe moments. For the ultimate in privacy, there’s also a two-story villa available on its own private beach just a five-minute kayak paddle away from the main luxury resort. It also comes fully equipped with satellite TV and a DVD player, for those who don’t want to get too far away from the outside world.
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