As a Flash Pack guide, I live in the southern part of Manila, the capital, with my wife and daughter. Manila is a gorgeous city, but we also have over 7,000 islands and a mountainous region to explore. We have a varied landscape and the cultural differences are pretty diverse, too. It’s difficult describe the beauty until you’ve seen it with your own eyes.
People from the islands tend to be a little shyer compared to those from cities. But once you mingle with them over a couple of drinks, they’ll be the happiest and friendliest people you’ll ever meet. Beach life is also incredible and Palawan island’s El Nido region has the best lagoons – if you want to go snorkeling, it’s amazing.
An expedition boat brings solo travelers to a deserted beach
As a Pack Leader, I love meeting new people and I’m always eager to talk to my group of Flashpackers. Equally, I can’t wait to share the Filipino way of life – our warmth and our diverse history and culture.
I joined Flash Pack in 2018 when they told me they were creating a totally unique adventure – a two-night private-island escape, where an expedition boat brings solo travelers to a deserted beach in Palawan, one of the world’s most spectacular island regions.
It’s now day two on the longer 12-day Philippines adventure which I lead. We visit Ginto Island – which means “gold” in Filipino – and that’s exactly what you get in the form of glorious sands, a private stay and personalized service. We all sleep in mesh tents by the sea – I like to call it “million-star accommodation” because Flashpackers get to sleep beneath a night sky, filled with stars.
We bring along massage therapists and a private chef
One of my favorite moments is watching Flashpackers catch their first glimpse of the island as we approach by boat. I’d say most are speechless; they all have an expression that says “this is amazing”. It’s so beautiful, completely secluded and private.
The beers and champagne are opened on the boat over (our crew will serve you drinks while you’re sunbathing on the roof). Then, you can throw your sandals off and swim the last part to the beach – it’s an incredible barefoot experience.
There’s hardly any reception on Ginto, so you can forget all about work and emails. Instead, we bring along massage therapists, a team of caretakers and a private chef especially for Flashpackers. Kick back, enjoy kayaking in the beautiful shallows, relax with a spa treatment using island-grown ingredients like aloe vera and coconut milk, and be treated to beachside fine dining. You’ll also have a front row seat to sunrises and sunsets that will take your breath away.
We make a big effort to do everything in a sustainable way
The island stay is a highlight, but quad biking in the Chocolate Hills is also an amazing experience. We always hope for some rain when riding the quads as it’s a huge adrenaline rush to race each other while powering through muddy terrain.
People aren’t always aware that the Philippines is way ahead within Asia when it comes to ecological practices and sustainable tourism. Even on the approach to El Nido, the flight steward reminds all passengers that this region has one of the strictest policies when it comes to natural environmental protection.
We use specially made water canisters and we’re very careful to remove all our waste during our stay on the island, taking it back to the mainland. We also have lots of rules in place when it comes to ecological and natural protection. Particularly in this region, we’re making a big effort to do everything in a sustainable way.
On the way to the private island, our crew fish for dinner
When it comes to Filipino cuisine, our seafood is the best. It’s all local. In fact, on our way to the private island, some of our crew will be on the lookout for mackerel or octopus for an evening barbecue on the beach. Everything about fresh ocean seafood is delicious. We do a lot of barbecuing when we’re island-hopping – it’s incredible to grill dinner on the beach at sunset.
Because we have a private chef, being vegan or vegetarian is no problem, either. With a personalized service, we can do all kinds of fine-dining dishes on the beach, along with grilled veggies, like corn and eggplant. For meat-eaters, we might do something like a whole roasted pig.
As for the people, Filipinos are very warm: we’re always smiling and we treat visitors here as family. We don’t care where visitors come from – it might be France, the UK or the US – we just love talking to others and finding out about their culture. A lot of people here speak English, too.
Seeing everyone getting along makes my heart full
One of the things I love most about Flashpackers is that they are so like-minded and they’re very connected to each other. It goes beyond meeting a friend. By the end of the adventure, our groups feel more like family.
Flashpackers communicate and stay in touch long after their trips have ended. I am on so many WhatsApp groups all over the world that are all still very active, with people sharing throwback photos of an island sunset or even ones of a reunion. Sometimes they talk about visiting Filipino restaurants in the States or Europe.
I’m blessed with witnessing the connections people have made on trips – at least three couples have got together on the Flash Pack adventures I’ve led. One of them had a baby and another got married – I was even invited to the wedding. I love that moment when Flashpackers tell me, “I’m so happy!” Seeing everyone getting along and having fun makes my heart full.
Our aim is to make it effortless
The Philippines has always been a hugely popular trip for Flash Pack and we’ve just kept working to put the benchmark higher and make sure it stays in hot demand.
Our aim is to make it effortless for Flashpackers to travel to the Philippines. We want to make sure that when you come here, your travel is carefree and easy: everything is taken care of for you.
Join Flash Pack’s adventure to the Philippines for quad biking through the Chocolate Hills, paddleboarding through quiet lagoons and private-island glamping.
Got a story or adventure that could inspire a solo traveler like you? Tag @flashpack on social or email [email protected] to be featured.
Images: Flash Pack