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Spend the summer with the Camaras in Anilao

Summer is fast approaching if not here at all already and people are starting to make their plans for this season.

And more often than not, a beach will be a favorite destination of many, for this writer, summer came a bit earlier as I brought my wife and grand daughter for an overnight stay in Anilao in Mabini, Batangas, a known diving spot here and abroad but in actuality offers a lot of adventure beyond scuba diving, and by the way, scuba is an acronym that means self contained underwater breathing apparatus, a piece of trivia to impress friends while relaxing on a beach with family and friends.

Since we had a two year old with us, we decided to get a nearby room at Tanlak Beach Resort, just a few steps away from my friend’s place, The Boat Camp & Gardens where we stayed for the day and ate our meals, this cozy place is not a regular hotel but the actual living place of our couple friend Val and Didi Camara who have decided to spend the rest of their lives living the lifestyle they want in the open air and near the water.

Val and Didi pioneered kayaking in the Philippines starting in 1993 while they were operating a ater sports concessionaire in Ternate, Cavite and among others, offered kayaking adventures to guests, knowing from personal experience the high one can get from kayaking, whether in the open sea, a lake, or even a raging river, all of which they have done.

In fact in 2009, the Department of Tourism, then under Sec. Ace Durano tasked the couple with exploring more kayaking trails in different parts of the country as a niche attraction for adventure or sports tourism and the couple even came out with a book documenting their kayaking adventures, Didi also started a kayaking series both for recreational and competitive kayakers and this writer was able to cover some of these eco-tourism events of hers like the Corregidor Crossing, a round Taal Volcano, Verde Crossing from mainland Batangas to Verde Island, and the most ambitious , a Cebu to Bohol kayak race .They also did livelihood projects fro LGU’s where they trained kayaking guides as they did in the Hundred Islands.

But now in their mid 60’s, the couple had to tone down their lifestyle and so the decision was made to move to Anilao , renting a small beach side place supposedly for the two of them and for their grown up kids for family bonding, eventually, the entrepreneur that she is, Didi made it into The Boat Camp & Gardens and started operating it as a water sports concession again catering to the numerous resorts around the area.

“ We have no plans of converting or building a resort, what we have are simple lodging facilities, all native materials, we sleep on a papag ( bamboo bed ) with a mattress and mosquito net,plus tents, eat fresh sea food everyday which i buy from a nearby seafood market using my kayak, and just started my own organic gardening for salad vegetables.What we offer are the basic necessities, plain but comfortable particularly suited for families and small groups of friends looking for a place to enjoy the outdoor, “ related Didi.

And true to what she was saying, we were eating heartily home-cooked food, and yes, guests can bring their own food, Didi has a small kitchen there complete with staff, or she can offer a customized package that will include lodging, meals, and various activities, even an organic gardening experiential activity, we all got a kick out of harvesting our own salad veggies and in a few minutes, were eating them definitely fresh.

For adventures, Didi has a tie up with a former national team windsurfer Arlie Juarez who like the couple has opted to relocate to Anilao, he is now an internationally certified divemaster and he offers intro dives as he knows the waters off Anilao and maybe the whole of Balayan Bay at that like the palm of his hands.

When we were there, we used the glass bottomed boat and went snorkeling, feeding the multi coloured fish, swim placidly, and for a companion, he went scuba diving to view the beautiful corals underneath, on our part, we contented ourselves viewing the underwater attractions through the glass bottom to the delight of my grand daughter who was looking in vain for Nemo and Dory.

For lunch, we went to the white sand Sampaguita Beach, in Bauan and partook of lunch consisting of fresh fish, veggies, and chicken, and again swam for awhile in the calm waters, for the patient ones, hand line fishing is an option, while for those who would not want to venture out too far from The Boat Camp, an aqua trike is available.

Since this writer has not done open water kayaking for quite some time, we took the opportunity and with another writing colleague, we used a tandem kayak and for around 45 minutes, just paddled ourselves to wherever we wanted, no waves to worry about, just make sure one puts sunblock before venturing out, a banana boat for small groups is also available but people have to make sure they are ready to get wet when Val revs up the speedboat puling the banana boat.

Watching the starts on a clear night and enjoying the cool night sea air will always be a treat for city-bred folks anytime.

Now for those who may want to be more comfortable when they sleep at night, as we did, book yourselves in Tanlak , contact number 043 4101846 or The Boat Camp & Gardens, 0949 2002783, and with the recent developments in Boracay‘s environmental concerns, Anilao may just be a good replacement.

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