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Beyond Boracay: Nature-Tripping in Aklan

) Katrina Gadong |

Aklan, an underrated province found on the northwest tip of Panay Island, has experiences to offer other than the world-famous paradise of Boracay and its Mardi Gras-like festival, Ati-Atihan. With its prime seaside location and mostly-untouched natural wonders, Aklan has an abundance of hidden gems in the great outdoors waiting to be discovered--and not to mention, a wide selection of sumptuous yet affordable seafood to be savored. 

Photo by Nalbaytar

Here are two suggested side trips you should include in your itinerary.

Photo by PAV Mahusay

Bakhawan Ecopark in New Buswang
What was once a muddy shoreline in the 90s and now considered as the country’s most successful mangrove reforestation project, the 220-hectare Bakhawan Ecopark (bakhawan means “mangrove” in the local dialect) serves as a sanctuary for its visitors along with the trees, birds, crabs, and other marine life. 

Photo by Gian Carlo Jubela

You can walk along the 1-kilometer long bamboo trail, crossing over a portion of the scenic Aklan river and passing by several fish and crustacean farms. The makeshift bridge ends with a stunning view of the Sibulan Sea with a canteen and cabanas in the area. You can also taste the tamilok (woodworm) after watching how it is harvested from the crevices of dying wood.

Photo by Christian Lucas Sangoyo

Jawili Beach and Falls in Tangalan
Take a dip approximately 45 minutes away from Kalibo at the crystal clear waters of Jawili Beach, said to be "the first Boracay" of locals. Although it doesn't have the powdery white sand of the famed island, Jawili's long stretch of creamy white to gray sand is the ideal setting for the peace and quiet, reminiscent of Boracay around a decade ago. 

Photo by Ree Dexter

The nearby Jawili Falls, however, is a delightful sight to behold with its seven mini-falls pouring from one rock pool to another, and forming into what seems like a massive staircase made of limestone that is 100-ft high. The basins can reach as deep as 10 feet so be careful should you wish to swim in these natural pools.*