The beach hut is the quintessential icon of a tropical getaway. It's the daydream escape for every overworked, under-vacationed corporate employee. These days there are a plethora of luxury resorts offering extravagant over water bungalows in idyllic locations, some featuring plunge pools or butler service. But if you're happy with the traditional no-frills version aka thatched roof, mattress on the floor, ladder to the sand and steps from the sparkling sea, then look no further.
Grace Picot and Melissa Connell share a few beach hut moments from a recent sailing expedition in Palawan, the Philippines.
Prime real estate: The Philippines' western most island province, Palawan, is characterised by diverse landscapes and some of the best aquatic life in the country. Here, forest-clad islands conceal ribbons of unspoilt beaches, framed by sparkling turquoise water. This little fishing village caught my eye as I snorkelled past it. The term 'oceanfront real estate' is quite literal in the Philippines!
Getting around: Our transportation between the northern islands of Palawan was in a traditional banca outrigger, operated by Tao Expeditions. By day, we snorkelled and swam in the cerulean sea. Then just before sunset we would dive overboard, swim to a nearby island and sleep inside a simple hut like this one below.
Hidden coves: A solitary beach hut, framed by limestone cliffs and the shimmering waters of the South China Sea. Access is via kayak or swimming. The limestone cliffs at this entrance of Tapiutan Island do a good job of hiding the hut and the beach from passing boats.
View from the hut. One of the most useful items that I took to the Philippines was a lightweight travel hammock. It was the perfect size to hang in front of the hut and provided a relaxing spot to chill out and read a book whilst enjoying the sea breeze.
Laughing with the locals: Sleeping by the sea meant that we were constantly spoilt with fresh seafood and we had great opportunities to chat with local fishermen. The unbridled joy of Filipinos is truly contagious, they are some of the most friendly and hospitable people in the world!
A sustainable future: At Tao Organic Farm in San Fernando we learnt about permaculture from the local community who favour sustainable farming over out-dated slash-and-burn practices. The community is vehement about recycling and they grow vegetables, grain, herbs and fruit, as well as raising a small amount of livestock. Showering comprised of throwing a bucket into a well, heaving it up, then tipping it over our heads. The cold water gushing down my back made me gasp every time!
Postcard perfect: The ocean is slowly reclaiming its territory on this dilapidated hut. Recessed into the karst limestone cliff, this dreamy little dwelling is used as a lunch stopover by day trippers to nearby Banol Beach. We skipped the standard organised day trip and hired a local boat + driver from Coron, choosing to meander at our own pace.
How's the serenity: Peaceful evenings on the islands of northern Palawan. But it's not always this peaceful. When booking your airline ticket, keep in mind that the rainy season is generally May-October. Crazy typhoons can render the archipelago unnavigable for days on end.
Protecting paradise: You may (or may not) have noticed the lack of rubbish in each of the above pictures. We haven't just taken photos of clean places, or photoshopped rubbish out. This is a genuine representation of how clean Palawan is and the pride that locals take to keep it that way. I specifically remember one boat driver spotting a plastic bag floating in the ocean, scrunching up his nose, then slowing down to reach over and retrieve it from the water.
Help protect paradise. If you see rubbish, pick it up and bin it. And applaud the locals on the amazing job that they're doing to keep their oceans litter free!