Saturday, June 18, 2011

Pearl Farm Resort

Surrounded by ocean in every direction, I fill my lungs with the salty spray of sea air – a welcome change from the air pollution of any big city. After twenty minutes of smooth sailing, our seemingly silent boat (a novelty in The Philippines) docked upon the shores of this sublime island paradise. Recently swallowed up by the ever-increasing city limits of Metro Davao, Samal is the perfect island for escape artists and lovers. 

Although I disembark the electric boat sometime after sunset, my first impressions of Pearl Farm are still nothing but awe and wonder. It's perhaps no surprise to me, even after dark, that this resort was designed by an artist and not an architect. It all just adds to its already abundant postcard persona. The theme is Asian tropical but this is not your standard nipa hut! Expect Balinese style high ceilings, bamboo structures, but most notably - ever present luxury.

Once home to an abundance of pink, white and gold pearls (hence the name), this beachside resort covers over 14 hectares that once played host to thousands of white lipped oysters. Unlike other resorts in the area, the buildings don't impose on the tranquil settings. Instead they were built around the contours of the island.  

Before I even get a chance to step inside my room, I'm dwarfed by the size of it all. This may be considered basic accommodation by the elite, but this waterfront cottage far exceeds the dimensions of my studio apartment (and travel writer budget!). This really is how the other half live, so as expected, the price tag reads 'splurge only.'  The moment you step off the boat, members of the staff are there to welcome you with warm smiles and open hearts. You don't just feel like a VIP here, you become one.

Something as simple as bathroom towels, become origami creations, with each day presenting a new animal. I can scarcely believe my eyes, as I spy an elephant sitting on my bed, made from about 3 bath towels and a boatload of patience. The following day, my elephant friend will be no more, vanishing in thin air to be replaced by an elegant swan.

Breakfast and dinner is a buffet affair, with world class cuisine and both Filipino and Western food available. Maranao Restaurant serves a varied mixture of cuisine, with many different palates catered for to suit a complex list of clientele. If unparalleled luxury is your goal, why not set yourself up with table and chair on the enticing water’s edge? Anything is possible – this is the life!

Hidden coves are scattered throughout Samal Island. The sand is as soft as sugar and rears a blinding shade of white at the onset of the midday sun. The surrounding turquoise waters fluctuate between green and blue throughout the day, depending on the ferocity of the sun. I sprawl myself out on a lounge chair to read a book, and notice the change of colour between each chapter. Yes, it really does happen that fast.

I opt not to wait the required thirty minutes before swimming, as the twinkling ocean rising and falling in the corner of my eyes, teases me relentlessly. The tropical climate and proximity to the equator means that it’s always hot and humid in Mindanao, making swimming the activity of choice year round. The warm waters are akin to that of a jet-stream Jacuzzi, working wonders on your peace of mind and delivering tranquillity in spades. 

Beautiful coral gardens can be seen from the jetty upon arrival, or spotted from the shore in other parts of the island. While the reefs are home to neon-like fish and shimmering shoals, those snorkelers who consider themselves a little more adventurous will find the bigger fish waiting under the resort’s main jetty. Here you will find tuna and snapper, as well as barracuda if you're lucky. For scuba divers with an itch for exploration, there are two sunken WW2 battleships less than 60m from the resort. 

Aqua Sports Activity Centre is home to many activities, both above and below the water's surface. Speed boats and outriggers can be rented out for a sunset cruise, perfect for honeymooners and those who are just hopeless romantics. Although banana boats, kayaks and wind surfing are all on offer - I can't in good logic pass up the chance to ride a jet ski.

Jet skis are available on a per use basis, and feeling like something new, I decide to give it a go. It's like mixing the 'walk on water' abilities of Jesus Christ, with the rebellious nature of 'Easy Rider.' It's bliss. As I roar across the water to a not too distant mountain, all the worries of the world are blown away. The huts on the shoreline quickly come into focus, and the ripple of waves left by my wake, provides a nice rocking action to my machine.

Home to more than just indulgence and water sports, visitors are also able to learn about the Mandaya people, a tribe native to the area of Eastern Mindanao. Adjacent to the tennis courts, I watched the intricate process of transforming a local cloth known as Dagmay, into everything from handbags to household ornaments. In the process, I was lucky enough to learn a little about their tribal folklore and spiritual beliefs, something I don't think they offer at Club Med.


By Plane - From Metro Manila, three major airlines fly daily to Davao and the flight is a breeze at only 1 hour and 45 minutes.

By Boat - Two shipping lines (SuperFerry & Sulpicio) have regular trips to Davao from various locations, scattered throughout the country, including; Manila, Iloilo City & Cebu. Travel time from Manila can reach two days.


Prices range from somewhat affordable to downright expensive. The Hilltop Room is the most affordable at $150 USD per night, while those wanting to splurge on a Malipano Villa can expect to pay $680 USD each night for the privilege.

Roundtrip transfers from the airport will set you back $20 USD, while the roundtrip boat transfers will cost another $25 USD.

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