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Long strips of white sand for the parents, adrenaline surging ziplines for the kids; lime cocktails for dad, massages for mum and purple coloured ice-cream for the rascals, also sometimes referred to as children. Why wouldn’t you want to vacay in the Philippines?! If you need a little extra temptation, here are our top 6 family things to do.
1, Camp Sabros, Davao
Pioneers in Philippine ziplining, Camp Sabros was one of the first adventure camps to ‘set up shop’ in the highlands of Sitio Barras. An outdoor course and mountain resort, this nature retreat lies two hours from the city of Davao and boasts breath-taking views of Mt Apu, the Philippine’s highest peak. Big thrills include two 380 and 400 metre zip lines, 180 feet above the ground, and a whole host of amenities such as a billiard hall, picnic tables, bar and charming log cabin restaurant. Smaller thrills include tandem zip lining and a cable lift - perfect for those who don’t want to see their lunch again (obviously the woosy parents, because kids don’t care).
Insider’s tip: Upon arriving at the car park you can ascend to the main camp by hiking, horse or habal-habal (motorcycle).
2. Camsur waterpark complex (CMC), Bicol
One for the older kids in your clan, CMC is a six hectare watersports complex offering world class facilities for all levels of water junkie, from amateur to veteran. The selling point is its cable ski system which allows water skiers to be pulled along by an overhead network of cables, suspended 8-12 metres above the water’s surface. From water skiing to wakeboarding and even knee boarding, this is the first complex of its kind in the Philippines, and one that’s an adrenalin rush for partakers and spectators alike.
Insider’s tip: Watersports are bought at an hourly rate, half day or full day, with overnight stays also available. There’s also a volleyball area, swimming pool, cabana rentals, skate park and get this, lake side massages. Mum suddenly looks interested, doesn’t she?
3. Snorkelling with whale sharks, Bicol
When the sighting of a shark encourages everyone to get into the water, you know you've found something quite unique, and that would be whale shark snorkelling in Donsol, Bicol. Granted the whale shark is actually a fish, but it’s a sizeable beast at that, and can often be over ten metres in length. Whale sharks frequent the Donsol bay between February and May to feed on the area’s rich nutrients, making it the ideal time to grab your goggles and jump off a glorified catamaran into the water. Whale sharks are friendly to human beings and on a good day, snorkellers can swim with as many as a dozen.
Insider’s tip: Jeepneys and air-conditioned mini vans run from Legaspi to Donsol, with several flights arriving into Legaspi from Manila. Snorkellers don’t need a diving certificate but you must be able to swim.
4. Tabon Caves, Quezon, Palawan
We all know kids love a few goose bumps and spooky tales to regale their school mates with, and the Tabon Caves offer the perfect combination of nature, history and eeriness. A collection of 215 known caves, the Tabon in Quezon is one of 29 that have been explored and one of only seven open to the public. It’s the size of a concert hall, echoes with the swoosh of its resident bats and is where many great remains have been excavated, including the ‘Tabon Man’s Skull’ which dates back an incredulous 22 thousand years. Yes kids, that’s older than Grandma. The limestone formations make for some really exciting exploring, with damp caverns, steep steps and creepy tunnels, but definitely take a torch – who knows what (or who) lurks in the dark, it could be the rest of Tabon’s ancient body!
Insider’s tip: Getting there by boat makes the entire experience even more thrilling, the ride provides a scenic tour of exotic islands, crystal clear water and Jurassic land formations.
5. Enchanted Kingdom, Laguna
The Philippines first and oldest theme park, Enchanted Kingdom, is just 39 kilometres outside of Manila and an excellent full day trip for parents with younger children. What’s nice about EK (as the cool kids say) is that it offers a full array of rides, a resident mascot (Eldar the Wizard) and various themed zones, including a Victorian era, Amazon jungle and 1940s New York, but there’s also something satisfyingly nostalgic about the place. Parents will like the traditional aspect, with water swans, ferris wheels and big swings. There are a few big thrill roller coasters, but Enchanted Kingdom is more about the time-honoured classics such as water rapids and carousels.
Insider’s tip: Enchanted Kingdom has its very own shuttle service, with return daily trips from Manila.
6. White Beach, Borocay Island
There are countless stunning beaches freckling the Philippine’s seemingly limitless islands, the majority of which are astoundingly pretty, but for families, we always recommend White Beach on Borocay Island. The main attraction is its beauty; snow-white sand and an emerald ocean, but it also boasts plenty of watersports and adjacent dining venues. The water is calm with almost no current so it’s ideal for swimming and banana boats occupying up to ten people at a time are a cheap, fun and a safe way for the entire family to scream together.
Insider’s tip: White Beach is divided into three sections; station one, two and three. Stations one and two are both luxurious and ooze serenity, but families tend to avoid station three, which is the realm of the budget backpacker and the water is a lot deeper here.
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