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All image © Evie Farrell

Island delights

Evie Farrell and daughter Emmie discover the magic of slow travel in the Philippines.

As the sun rises over the glistening Bohol Sea and fills the sky with pastel streaks, seven-year-old Emmie traipses across the sand toward the traditional Filipino banca boat that will take us exploring for the day.

"Come on mum, come on," she yells and I put my camera away and splash over to climb aboard.

We are on Bohol Island, partway through our adventure in the Philippines and having the time of our lives.

Travelling the Philippines independently is easy and the feelings this stirs — that sense of being free and unrestricted — brings so much joy to our travels. We catch ferries from island to island, swim in crater lakes and aqua waterfalls, eat food from street stalls and stay in tiny beachfront guesthouses with local families. This is travelling. This is life.

An archipelago of more than 7500 islands, dotted between the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean, each island in the Philippines has its own appeal. We find something unique on each island we visit — from jungle waterfalls and hidden lagoons to wildlife sightings, limestone peaks and palm-lined beaches. Getting around is simple, with networks of ferries flitting between the islands and airlines connecting the more populated cities.

Coron Island

Striking limestone rock formations, spectacular waterfalls and lakes within ancient volcano craters await our exploration on Coron Island. Day trips on local boats — shade, lifejackets and lunch included — take us snorkelling over sunken Japanese warships and colourful coral reefs swarming with fish. We climb into freshwater lakes and jump from the boat into crystal-clear water, visit the deserted Concepcion Falls, hidden down a jungle path, and swing from ropes into the vivid, emerald-green water.


Tiny tarsiers stare at us with huge curious eyes and mounds of the Chocolate Hills stretch across the land as far as we can see. We swim above the Balicasag Reef in crystal-clear water and eat fresh seafood and coconuts on the beach at Virgin Island Sandbar. We cruise the Loboc River and tackle the zipline — one of us very reluctantly — which stretches 480 metres from hilltop to hilltop over a valley split in two by a roaring green river.


For decades, locals avoided Siquijor, fearful of the island's practice of witchcraft and black magic by local faith healers. As a result, the province is still relatively untouched and its waterfalls, jungle and marine parks are pristine and quiet. We stay at Coco Grove Beach Resort, swim and eat all day, snorkel over coral, jump into waterfalls and simply lay around in hammocks under palm trees.


In Mactan we stay in luxury at the Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort & Spa before travelling south to Langnason's Place in Oslob. Here we swim with whale sharks and climb the five levels of the Aguinid Falls — helped by local ladies in thongs — before jumping into the aqua pools below. We also stay in a guesthouse with a local family where we sing karaoke and Emmie runs around with the children, playing and swimming together.

Family adventuring in the Philippines proves easy: just be sure to pack sunscreen, snorkels, sarongs and the kids. The rest is waiting.

This article appeared in volume 53 of Holidays with Kids magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.

Top tip

It’s worthwhile taking your own masks, snorkels, fins and reef shoes. If you can’t fit it all in, do try to take the kids' gear as it’s sometimes hard to get smaller sizes, especially child-size fins.


Experience Philippines

Getting there

Qantas, Cebu and Philippine Airlines fly from Australia to Manila with connecting domestic flights on Cebu Pacific Air.


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