Aerial view of Club Paradise
All photos by Yvette Lee
Club Paradise renewed
RENDEZVOUs - Christine S. Dayrit (The Philippine Star) - August 12, 2018 - 12:00am

If Club Paradise were a song, it would be an enchanting tune. Crystal blue waters lap against immaculate white sand and lull one to rest and relax. Coconut fronds wave at arriving guests who are so eager to experience their dream vacation of a lifetime. 

Life is a beach here — whatever the season is.

Resort manager Joegil Escobar and chef Alex Atthasarn in Club Paradise

After the Discovery World Corp. purchased the private island resort of Club Paradise Palawan in Coron in September 2013, plans were immediately put into place to renovate the rooms, outlets and other facilities as well as level up the guest services to align it with their more known properties, Discovery Shores Boracay and Discovery Suites Ortigas.

Today, all 20 beachfront Sunset Villas have been completed. Everything inside, including the walls, floors, bathrooms and furniture are brand spanking new. Ditto for the Garden Suites. Both the Clubhouse where guests can hang out at the bar and play pool as well as the Firefish Restaurant have been given a facelift as well.  

Luxuriate at the Deluxe Sunset villa.

The old pool was completely demolished to make way for a more broad and modern looking one.

The kitchen is now managed by a new Thai chef Alex Atthasarn, so keep an eye out for the curries and Pad Thai on the restaurant’s revamped menu. Make sure to try their Singaporean style sweet chili crab, as the crabs are sourced from the local market and as fresh and oozing with orange fat as can be. If you have jaded teens or visitors from abroad, arrange for a “boodle fight” where turmeric rice, grilled prawns, shellfish and pork and chicken adobo are spread out on a long table and guests are encouraged to eat with their hands. A lounge was also added at one end of the restaurant where guest can relax on a sofa and easy chairs to read a book or a cocktail or two from the bar.

Diving or snokeling with the Dugong remains a popular activity in Club Paradise.

Staying in one of the beachfront villas with an empty beach, surrounded by  gin-clear emerald waters is a luxury one should indulge in even just for a few days. I could happily spend my whole stay lying in the hammock on the veranda, enjoying the hot brewed coffee and fresh baked rolls the staff thoughtfully brings every morning and then wandering into the spa to get a little more hands-on pampering. There are numerous beach huts and beach chairs placed strategically along the shoreline to catch the sea breezes.

But if you can tear yourself away from this kind of paradise or are in the company of teens and millennials in search of a more active vacation, the resort offers several tours to the islands around Busuanga.

Verandas are a standard amenity in the Sunset Villas.

The “Island Hopping” tour means getting on a boat and visiting the three islands of Malpagalen, Dimalanta and Diatoy. Guests have a chance to walk along the sand bar at Malpagalen, enjoy the beach and snorkel the shallow, colorful reefs around Diatoy and Dimalanta.

The Coron Tour covers the famous Karst Limestone islands on the southern side of Busuanga. The four stops include Kayangan Lake, which has twice been voted as the cleanest lake in the Philippines. Make sure to snorkel the periphery of the lake as the submerged scenery is quite spectacular. Siete Pecados is a marine park and its claim to fame are the intact, colorful and varied corals and fishes. Marine scientists discovered two new species of corals just a few years ago! Twin Lakes gives visitors the chance to get up close to the sharp cliffs Coron island is famous for. After swimming through a small hole in the wall, you will find yourself surrounded by the magnificent gray walls topped with lush vegetation.

Boodle fight in Club Paradise

Calauit Safari is a 90-minute boat ride to 3,700-hectare island off to the west of the resort. It is home to various species of exotic African and endemic Palawan flora and fauna where hundreds of giraffes, elans, waterbucks, Calamian deer, monkeys, fresh water crocodiles, zebras, bear cats, bushbuck and a variety of birds roam freely. Guests can also sign up for a dugong snorkeling tour or dive as this famous marine mammal is known to graze on the sea grass in the area.

Speaking of dives, the resort’s PADI accredited dive center also offers trips to Apo Reef, the world’s second biggest contiguous reef after the Great Barrier Reef. Twenty minutes away is the WW2 wreck of the Kyokuzanmaru, often described as the most beautiful wreck in Coron due to the normally good visibility as well as the coral growth that has turned the ship structure into a coral garden.

Club Paradise house reef

The dive center also offers Discover Scuba Diving (DSD) courses for  first timers up to Dive Master level. Check out the resort’s all-inclusive dive package (“Dive in Paradise”) by visiting their website.

According to resort manager Joegil Escobar, the owner’s marching orders with regards to the  ecosystems the island hosts was CPR — meaning conserve what they have, protect the vulnerable species and resuscitate what needed a little helpful push.

A diver appreciates the Kyokuzanmaru wreck now overgrown with corals and crustaceans.

As a result, management expanded their marine conservation program by enforcing a strict no-take zone, purchasing giant clams from the Semirara hatchery in 2015 and “planting” these in shallow waters so both snorkelers and divers can appreciate them.  These originally hand-sized clams have more than doubled in size in the past three years. An old metal dome was sunk and seeded with coral fragments that are meant for transplantation.

Fish density has thus improved, with fat, lazy groupers, numerous rabbitfish (also from transplanted fingerlings flown in from Iloilo) jacks, blue spotted sting rays and other food fish co-existing in a  nursery where they can go forth and multiply. These were done to not only serve as an underwater attraction but in hopes that the coral, giant clam and fish spawn would be borne by the currents to also repopulate the outlying islands’ other barren reefs.

Club Paradise relay is part of the obstacle course guests can tackle.

Macro Critters such as ghost pipefishes, leaf scorpionfish, shrimps, nudibranchs, sea horses, several species of clownfish including the much-desired panda anemonefish are in residence. The divemaster also pointed out a “disco clam” whose bright red lips or mantle are crackle with blue strands of electricity. A school of jacks and turtles can be found just off the dive shop.

On land, monitor lizards in different sizes can be seen roaming freely on the pathways and even the beach. So prolific have they become that the staff has had to catch and release the lizards on the outlying islands. Bird watchers would have a field day looking at and hearing the numerous bird calls as they walk the different hiking trails through the island. As for me, as the sun set, the circadian flight of the fruit bats as they flew against the purple sky towards the mainland is a sight I looked forward to at dusk.

The new swimming pool of Club Paradise

A visit to Club Paradise Palawan should definitely be part of one’s bucket list. It is the song in one’s heart because this piece of paradise is an ode to the beauty of nature lent to the Philippines.

*  *  *

The resort has unbelievable low season packages at the moment so go ahead and plan that trip now. Visit www.clubparadisepalawan.com for best available rates and other incentives.

CLUB PARADISE PALAWAN
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