Unplugging, setting sea turtles free at Arena Island

Within a year or two, the loan on my Toyota Camry will finally be paid off, and I’ll own the car. I hope to one day own a home, and — if all goes well — maybe even a boat.

Owning an island? That’s probably not in the cards for me, but businessman Fuji Rodriguez has done just that. Fuji is the owner of Arena Island, a 10-acre plot of land located off the eastern coast of the Philippine province of Palawan.

The island resort features four cottages that are purposely low-tech and not equipped with Wi-Fi or TVs. The point of visiting Arena Island, Fuji said over dinner, is to truly unplug and recharge your body.

img_1060

The sun rises over Arena Island.

Arena Island offers guests privacy

With only four cottages, the island is perfect for vacationers seeking privacy and exclusivity.

I spent two nights at the private island, and with few distractions it’s easy to get lost in the beauty of this (mostly) untouched tropical landscape.

In addition to renting out the cottages, Fuji is developing the island as a nature preserve. While Arena Island is home to a number of roosters, peacocks and other birds, the highlight are its sea turtles.

To help boost the endangered animal’s numbers, some of the turtles laid and hatched on the island are kept in ponds until they are 4 weeks old. At that point, they are set free.

Since 2003, more than 12,000 hatchlings of the green and hawksbill sea turtle species have been released from Arena Island.

On the last day of my stay, I participated in a mid-morning hatchling release. Our group carefully plucked a few turtles from the pond for 4-week-olds, and walked toward the edge of the sea.

The turtle I picked out easily fit into the palm of my hand and weighed no more than a McDonald’s Egg McMuffin.

Once we got the OK from island staff, we lowered the turtles to the sand and watched nature take its course. The turtles scooted into the water using their tiny flippers and began swimming away from the shore.

This baby sea turtle was around 4 weeks old when it was released into the sea.

Seen here are tracks from a sea turtle that came to shore to lay eggs.

These preservation efforts are necessary because of threats from illegal poaching and destruction of habitats. “The greatest cause of decline in green turtle populations is commercial harvest for eggs and meat,” reads a sign on the island.

Proceeds from cottage rentals are used to fund the sea turtle conservation program, making Arena Island an ideal getaway for those looking to help an endangered species and — at the same time — unplug from the modern world.

The island is home to a number of birds, including this peacock.

Casita Dos, one of the four cottages on Arena Island, at sunset.

A view of Arena Island from the sea. The resort is located off the eastern coast of the Philippine province of Palawan.

Advertisements

Postcards from Panglao Island

The resort I stayed at, Amorita, has a beautiful infinity pool overlooking Bohol Sea.

Bohol province is one of the Philippines’ top tourist destinations. The resort I stayed at during my visit, Amorita, is located on Panglao Island and has an infinity pool overlooking Bohol Sea.

XXXXXX.

The peak tourism season in Bohol is from March to May.

Fishing is one of the top industries in Bohol province.

Fishing is one of the main industries in the province.

XXXXXX.

Alona Beach has become very commercialized and is full of restaurants and bars.

XXXXXX.

On a clear day, you can see Cebu province off in the horizon. Traveling by ferry from Bohol to Cebu takes about two hours.

Behold Bohol’s otherworldly Chocolate Hills

One of the more unique landscapes in the Philippines can be found in Bohol province, home of the Chocolate Hills.

The hills, which range in height from 40 to 120 meters, jut out of the ground like camel humps. Scientists say they were formed by the “uplifting of ancient coral-reef deposits, followed by erosion and weathering,” according to Lonely Planet.

DSC_0113

This phenomenon can only be found in two or three other places in the world (one of those places being the island of Java, in Indonesia). Continue reading

Balancing act

DSC_0070A group of women prepare for a dance performance at Intramuros, a colonial-era walled city in Manila, Philippines. The centerpiece of Spanish Manila (1521-1898), Intramuros was heavily damaged during a battle to recapture the city from the Japanese during World War II. Today, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Manila.

Postcards from Tagaytay

trees

Coconut trees along a highway outside Manila.

A group of police officers on an early morning run in a small town near Manila.

A group of police officers on an early morning run in a small town near Manila.

A brand-new Catholic Church. Around 80 percent of Filipinos are Catholic.

A brand-new Catholic church. Around 80 percent of Filipinos are Catholic.

The inside of a church under construction near Tagaytay.

The inside of a church under construction near Tagaytay.

tagaytay

Tagaytay is located about 65 km south of Manila. Because of its high altitude, temperatures are mild, and many people from Manila come to Tagaytay to escape the heat and humidity.

The area around Taal Volcano is regarded as one of the most attractive spots in the Philippines.

The scenery around Taal Volcano in Tagaytay is stunning, and is regarded as one of the most attractive locations in the Philippines.

My heart will go on

After a lengthy attempt to lower the quality of my life, hypertension died last week. It was 1 and a half.

Hypertension was declared dead in an email I received from my doctor. “Great news. You don’t need medications now. This was a good ‘scare’, so you will have a healthy lifestyle now!” she wrote.

It is survived by the half empty boxes of blood pressure medication scattered around my apartment: 30 mg of Adalat, 12.5 mg of Carvedilol and 5 mg of a generic beta blocker.

I met with a doctor in Beijing for a follow-up checkup earlier this year.

I met with a doctor in Beijing for a follow-up checkup earlier this year.

Hypertension was born in my body in January 2012, after a doctor in the Philippines discovered my blood pressure was dangerously high following a severe bout of lightheadedness. Its interests included wrecking havoc on my body, including heart palpitations and anxiety attacks. Continue reading

What, there are still stars?

Needing a break from Beijing’s cold, dry winter, I traveled to the Philippine city of Puerto Princesa for Christmas. It’s located on an island called Palawan, a place where Chinese families migrated from the mainland in the early 20th century in search of a better life.

The Immaculate Conception Cathedral is near the Puerto Princesa port, which gave the city its name, meaning "Port of the Princess."

White-sand beaches outline the island. The seas are rich with grouper, snapper and blue marlin. And no matter the season, sweet mangoes and fresh coconut milk are just a short climb away. Continue reading