RP among National Geographic’s 25 travel destinations

Best New Trips for 2010
Summit to Sea

The Philippines has a PR problem. While it harbors as many islands as the Caribbean and some of the most spectacular reefs on the planet, the nation sees only a fraction of the visitors of nearby Thailand. Even travel companies, it seems, have bought the bad rap: Other than the occasional sea kayaking trip, U.S. guides have largely avoided the archipelago. But Wilderness Travel has finally gotten wise. This May the outfit will lead clients high into the 4,000-foot Cordillera Central, then deep into the world’s most biodiverse marine environment. The trip begins in Banaue, where travelers spend days hiking into terraced mountains and nights back at the town’s namesake hotel (pine cabins, private balconies, killer views). Then it’s down to the island of Cabilao, trading butterflies for fish species of them. For the next five days, you’ll bob around reefs, scanning the area’s 350 varieties of coral (including table coral that’s a whopping nine feet wide). But don’t forget: The best snorkeling starts at dusk. “It’s like being in a train station during commuting hours,” says Barbara Banks, Wilderness Travel’s director of new trip development. “The day fish are moving out and the night creatures like octopuses and eels are moving in.”

RP among National Geographic’s 25 travel destinations

By Jerry E. Esplanada
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippine—The Philippines has been named by National Geographic as one of the “25 best new travel destinations in the world for 2010,” according to the Philippine embassy in Washington.

In its November Adventure issue, the US publication cited the country’s “ancient cultures, structures and biodiversity” as key reasons to visit the country.

The Washington, DC-based magazine described the Philippines as “harboring as many islands as the Caribbean and some of the most spectacular reefs on the planet.”

It described the Philippines and the 24 other destinations as “just right for right now” for “travelers who want their dollars to do more – for others, for the planet and for themselves.”

Among the magazine’s other must-see places were Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Costa Rica, Iceland, Ireland, Kenya, Laos, Nepal, Peru, Slovakia, and Sri Lanka.

Willy Gaa, Philippine ambassador to the US, said the inclusion of the country on the list “shows the global community is taking note of the natural and cultural wonders in the Philippines, as well as efforts to protect and preserve them.”

Last month, National Geographic-Traveler magazine named the Ifugao Rice Terraces as one of the “50 Places of a Lifetime: Greatest Destinations in the World.”

It described the rice terraces in the Cordillera Administrative Region, declared by Unesco as a World Heritage Site, as “masterpieces of agrarian art” and “natural poetry.”

Other “destinations of distinction and character” on the list are the South Pacific island of Aitutaki, Switzerland’s Mt. Rigi, the Yap outer islands in Micronesia, the Balkan country of Montenegro, the Gobi desert in Mongolia, Bwindi forest in Uganda, and the little-known islands of Lord Howe in Australia and Fernando de Noronha in Brazil, among others.

According to Gaa, the American tourist firm Wilderness Travel is organizing a trip to the Philippines next May which will “lead clients high into the 4,000-foot Cordillera… then deep into the world’s most diverse marine environment.”

The travel group is a “company of and for travelers whose members are mostly repeat travelers or referrals from past members. Its members include naturalists, ecologists, archaeologists, writers, art teachers, historians, and mountaineers.

Wilderness Travel’s 12-day trip to the Philippines costs $3,300 (about P153,800).

On its website—www.wildernesstravel.com—the Philippines is described as a country which boasts “breathtaking hikes, ancient rice terraces and other scenic mountain landscapes, cultural encounters with Ifugao people and world-class snorkeling in the country’s coral triangle.”

The Philippine journey “explores the emerald world of the Ifugao hilltribe people, steeped in ancient tradition and who have transformed the precipitous mountainsides of their homeland into steeply-contoured rice terraces, complete with ingenious irrigation systems dating back 2,000 years.”

“The trip then takes travelers to Cabilao island in the Visayas to view stunning reefs that are part of the famed Coral Triangle, the world’s greatest concentration of marine dioversity,” said Wilderness Travel.

The Philippine embassy has been working with National Geographic in “raising awaress on the importance of sustainable development and ecological protection,” according to the diplomatic mission’s website.

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