On our Philippines West tour, we head over from Teneguiban on a Bangka boat to the paradisical Darocotan Island for our very own Isla Experience. The island gives travellers a unique opportunity to escape the tourist trail and enjoy the simple thing in life while experiencing how Filipino life is first hand for the locals of the village.
Step off the boat, and you’ll get your first glimpse of the stunning white sandy beach, lined with palm trees and traditional elevated Nipa huts made from local bamboo. Caren, one of the friendly locals is usually there to greet you with warm smiles and to help you carry your bags to the resort for orientation.
The Isla family consists of two welcoming English hosts, Harry and Harriet and eight local Filipino staff from the nearby village. Not to forget, the two mischievous pigs, Betty and Wilma who like to have an occasional cheeky dip in the ocean!
“A million miles from your ever-ringing mobile, you’ll find yourself snorkelling above a shipwreck. Onshore, a ton of food, nightlife and engagement with local people will leave you enriching their lives and yours. “
A short 10-minute walk through the jungle and across the beach, leads us to the local village where Caren and her family of 9 live in a shared house. The village, set amongst farmland, lines of coconut trees and stunning beaches consists of a few family homes and two small local shops.
Walking around the village gives an authentic insight into how life is for the locals. Meet Caren’s family, shoot some hoops with the family's children and learn about how how the locals live. During the Philippines West tour, groups can partake in a beach clean - the aim is to raise awareness to the locals of how important it is to keep their environment clean and recycle plastic.
“Roaming around the village, seeing how happy they are to welcome TruTravels groups excites me to go back, to show my group how simple life is and there's more to life than 'doing it for the gram'. I'm so excited to go back cause I know that this island needs proper knowledge for waste segregation and a lot more to improve the community. The island and its people are all precious, aside from fishing/coconut copra, locals depend on tourists. My heart goes out to them; my heart goes out to Caren and her family."
“I love how the Isla Experience is focused on giving back to the environment and the locals. Isla Experience has a very loving relationship with the locals. Harry and Harriet respect the locals so much, and the locals have treated them like family in return. It was very heart-warming to have had the chance to join their little island family this year.”
Before Darocotan Island was open to tourists, the locals lived a very isolated and simple life. In the past, the community fully relied on their local resources to make a living, from fishing, to chopping down coconuts, eating and farming domestic animals and building boats.
Isla Experience employing the locals for a range of jobs, has allowed them to have another source of income for their family. Many of the villagers are recruited to help maintain the ‘resort’ as boat drivers, carpenters, housekeepers, cooks, groundskeepers, massage therapists, tour guides and builders.
Caren’s family rely on responsible tourism to help them buy food and resources, send their kids to school and to keep them employed. All of the food during your stay at Isla Experience is cooked by the local chefs and is made using locally sourced products from the surrounding villages. Dishes include spring rolls, fish, chicken and rice.
Not only has tourism allowed the locals to earn more money, but it has enabled them to have easier access to food supplies in the local villages due to the demand from the nearby Isla Experience ‘resort’. Since bringing tour groups to Isla Experience, there have been clear improvements in the standard of living, waste management on the island and surrounding areas, improved road conditions and better transport connections to larger towns. All in all, just an easier way of life.
So what’s next? Isla Experience is currently fundraising to be able to buy cement to build a proper basketball court for the kids!
“Going to Isla Experience gave me a travelling experience that is so special and incomparable to anything else I have done! The atmosphere, staff and incredible scenery all pull together for such an amazing few days. Working with the local family on the island of only around 80 people, you get to see a completely different way of life, and they are all so welcoming and make delicious local food every day. Spending the day touring the village and get involved with beach cleans to help educate locals of environmental impacts and engaging in sports and games with the kids. With such a small island comes so many amazing welcoming spirits that you truly feel like part of the Isla family after a few days.”
“I absolutely loved my Isla Experience. They care about the welfare of the locals that work there and the entire village; they do what they can to help. The locals were very welcoming, and they made me and my group feel at home the moment we arrived. Not a single day where I haven’t seen them smile. It’s such a lovely environment.”
“We are a family of 9. I was born and raised in Darocotan Island, but because I wanted to study one of my siblings and I moved to Teneguiban Island. I have been working for Isla Experience for 6 months now so I have been able to move back to Darocotan Island to be with my family. I give all of my salary to my parents because I want to help them build a more stable home. Thank you for making that possible.”
A huge thank you to Caren, her family & the local village who make a trip to Isla Experience unforgettable. Caren, thanks for the positive vibes - keep smiling!
If you missed, it check out our TruStory on Wayan & his family!
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