White, sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, and the promise of a seaside getaway well spent. That’s how Boracay was once sold to travellers and tourists looking for a beach break off the beaten track. Unfortunately, once the secret was well and truly out, tourist infrastructure overtook the sleepy island paradise, and it suffered at the hands of the masses. After being closed to tourists six months ago for rehabilitation, the island reopens today, but if you’re considering being one of the first to venture back, these are some of the important things to keep in mind.
Though the island is open to tourists again, numbers are capped at 20,000 people per day. While this hardly sounds like a return to remote island living, this number encompasses all of the people on the island. If you're one of the expectant returning travellers, bear in mind that there will be a daily quota of just over 6,000 per day. If you are set on travelling back to Boracay, be sure you book ahead to avoid disappointment, as these places are likely to be filled early for peak season travellers.
With the reduced number of visitors comes a likely reduction in flights to nearby airports Caticlan and Kalibo (Boracay is accessible by ferry from both locations). If you’re connecting from afar or looking to travel over specific dates, this is also something to consider, as fewer flights will likely lead to increased prices. To gain access to the island, you'll need proof not only of your departing flight, but also a confirmed hotel reservation.
Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte was quoted as saying Boracay had become a cesspool owing to the effects of over-tourism and environmental degradation. Thoughts on the politician aside, he had a fair point here – raw sewage was being dumped straight into the sea! A nauseating thought for any swimmer, this also left a serious impact on natural marine life. Consider how much impact seven months marine rehabilitation can make before you plan a trip.
If you’re looking for an all-night, beachside rave, your best bet is a full moon party in Thailand. While Boracay may have developed a reputation among revellers in recent years, local authorities have now implemented a ban on drinking alcohol and smoking not only on beaches, but in all public spaces. Jet skis and other motorised water sports are currently prohibited too, so adrenaline junkies and thrill-seekers are best off looking elsewhere.
The island has placed a ban on single-use plastics – from bottles and straws to shopping bags, welcome to a new era of BYO Boracay. With a serious waste management problem in recent years, compostable and biodegradable alternatives help to curb the issue for the island. Cue applause.
Boracay has experienced a shortage of fresh water, and with tourists expected to return in their droves, this is likely to occur again. If you do venture back to Boracay, shorter showers and a conscious approach to its finite resources will help you travel ethically and limit your impact.