There you will find Norman’s Cay, which gained its notoriety for drug-smuggling in the late 1970s. Now, however, the airstrip on the private island is an access point for carefree travelers to island-hop in the northern Exuma Cays. If you only have 48 hours to indulge, head straight to Staniel Cay and the cluster of islands that neighbor it: Compass Cay, Saddle Back Cay, Allan’s Cay and Big Major Cay.
Hanging with Sharks
The main attraction to Compass Cay is the resident nurse sharks that have been domesticated by a regular supply of food (not of the human variety). Many pet the sharks, but some feed and even swim with them. A portion of the dock is submerged shin-deep in the water (depending on the tide). When you bang against the dock with a handy wooden plank, it summons the sharks. Dozens of them gather, mainly to peacefully sunbathe. They appear docile, but the attraction is a thrill, because they are still, after all, sharks. I admit it is disputable, but my senses tell me the nurse shark knew we were having a staring contest. I positioned myself prostrate on the dock, fully submerged, and squared off in front of its face. While peering through my goggles I could see its sandpaper skin was specked in shades of brown and blue. I stared. It stared. I blinked. It stared. And then it yawned in my face, and my heart skipped a beat. The nurse shark couldn’t care less that it won the staring contest, so I took my leave, having been fully washed with adrenalin.
Relaxing and Adventuring
A relaxing companion activity is visiting the Saddle Back Cay sandbar, where you picnic in the middle of the ocean on an island of sand. Best enjoyed at low tide, this sandy plateau suspended in a sea of shallow water is a chill spot for boaters. Allan’s Cay and Big Major Cay are home to Exuma’s two other famous animal attractions: Prehistoric-looking iguanas and swimming pigs. Exuma’s swimming pigs are no mud-rolling farm animals; they are beer drinking, cabbage eating celebrities that spend most of their days slothfully on a pristine white sand beach. No wonder they became a viral sensation. The activities jam-packed around Staniel Cay provide more than enough action for island-hoppers on a weekend getaway, a long vacation, or just a 48-hour stopover, especially if you have an appetite for relaxation and adventure in the outdoors.
About this Island Hopper
Noelle Khalila Nicolls is an award winning Caribbean journalist, entrepreneur, and travel junkie. Of late, she has been island-hopping across the Bahamian archipelago as The Domestic Tourist, a blog where she shares insider tips and inspiration.
I went to the Philippines last summer and absolutely loved the variety of the islands. If you love beautiful scenery with pristine beaches, brightly coloured fish, and pink sunsets, this is the place to go.
How to Island Hop
There are three main ways to island hop in the Philippines: 1) book a 1-3 day tour, 2) charter a private boat, or 3) spend a few days on each island and travel slow. I prefer the latter, although getting around in the Philippines can be a hassle. And that's an understatement.
You get around by flying between the main islands, and tickets are mostly cheap. As general advice, make sure to book flights in advanceand prepare for delays, because they happen--quite often. Although I'd love to visit many more, I've picked out three of the most popular islands:
This place. I'm not trying to say that you should fall in love with Boracay's clear, turquoise water and insanely beautiful sunsets as hard and fast as I did -- I'm just letting you know that, for me, this island is paradise. Seriously, it's the best beach I've been to EVER. Period. You can get to Boracay by flying to Kalibo (three hours away, but cheap) or Caticlan (closer, but more expensive).
Bohol is where the tarsier lives. This little fella with enormous eyes and soft, tiny body is reason enough to visit Bohol. That, and the Chocolate Hills. You can get there by flying to Cebu and then taking the ferry to Bohol.
Palawan is probably the most popular place to island hop in the Philippines because there are so, so many islands in this area, and it boasts many attractions. Rumor has it that El Nido is the place to go. You can get there by flying to Coron (and then six hours by boat) or to Puerto Princesa (and then five hours by bus or taxi).
Philippines Islands Activities
Some of the main draws of the Philippines (apart from spending your days lazing on white sand beaches) are the water activities. Aside from diving, kite surfing, whale shark swimming and snorkeling with turtles, you can explore caves, visit the Chocolate Hills, or rent a scooter and do some exploring on your own. For me, the best experience was visiting the tarsiers; the world's smallest primate. On a scale of 1-10, I’d rank my tarsier visit in Bohol as a ten. They are just sosososo cute.
Island hopping in the Philippines doesn't have to cost a fortune. I splurged and spent $1,100 including all flights in two weeks, but I could easily have done it much cheaper. I had so much fun, and it was worth every penny.
About this Island Hopper
Miriam Risager is a travel blogger and adventurer, conqueror of fears (sort of), and a connoisseur of life. She loves far-out adventures, exotic foods, and exploring new places. Miriam blogs over at Adventurous Miriam.
Rising 1,717 meters above sea level, Mount Batur is the second largest volcano on the island of Bali. Though it’s an active volcano that releases hot steam through its broken surface, hundreds take the challenge every year to climb to its peak to watch the sunrise. This very challenge is what brought us to travel to Ubud, Bali.
Preparing to Climb
We had already been awake for 15 minutes anxiously anticipating the challenge ahead when our alarm sounded at 1:30 a.m. It was dark outside, and Ubud was peaceful and still. We got dressed, brushed our teeth, and shot back a cup of coffee before we staggered through the dark streets to meet our taxi driver.
Once we arrived at the base, we felt consumed by the darkness, even with our flashlights to break through the void. The ease of the terrain at the beginning of the hike filled us with much needed confidence as the land started to rise before us. The lights ahead seemed to be floating, creating an invisible trail up the volcano.
The Way Up and Reaching the Peak
The path steepened and suddenly we found ourselves climbing. Hand by hand on sharp volcanic rock we pulled ourselves higher. Our only source of light clanged on the rocks beside us. As the hike became more treacherous, doubt crossed our minds. Could we really do this? After a brief break and encouraging words from our guide, we gatheedr ourselves to push on with the end goal in mind.
After a series of stops and starts, time seemed lost. Little did we know an invisible finish line was just ahead. With a final heave the ground became flat and we were greeted by fellow climbers celebrating their triumph. We grabbed a hot chocolate, took a seat, and waited for the sunrise to begin.
Never had we felt so accomplished. We had completed the challenge we had set for ourselves, which was the very purpose of our travels to Bali. It’s hard to explain the feeling we had standing at the top of this beautiful volcano overlooking the mountain ranges and valleys below us. After the aches, pains, scratches, and bruises, it was all worth it. We had made it.
About these Island Hoppers
Stephen and Jess are an Australian couple who left everything behind to travel the world. They share about their adventures through daily posts as well as daily video logs as they journal their time “flying the nest.”