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Philippines

Community + Surf + Teaching

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Discover the Philippines

1000's of tiny islands.

Often overlooked by those either heading to Australia or those who are “doing” Asia, so we're doing our bit to bring this awesome country to your attention, having spent a hefty amount of time there last year.

Firstly – it works, it’s efficient and we like that especially when it might be your first stop on your itinerary. Secondly - the people are so kind and interesting – their history is fascinating and therefore their culture is a true mix of their past. Thirdly – the country itself - gloriously diverse, made up of over 7000 islands and covered in stunning Spanish – Filipino architecture, emerald rice fields, smouldering volcanoes and beaches – of yes, the type you see in the brochures.

However, as we like to do, we are going to lead you to the remoter parts of this country where you will be introduced to real life and not the normal traveller set up. You’ll fly into the capital, Manila and catch a one-hour domestic flight onto Legazpi City, which is on the southern tip of the main Luzon island, dominated by the active Mayon volcano.

After you have settled in and explored the volcano, Jess’s team will then lead you on an adventure to explore and contribute to two creative community conservation projects, working alongside dynamic teams who are doing their bit for development. This is what we have planned...

Venture out to some of the remotest islands of the Philippines to explore and contribute whilst being immersed in the kindest of cultures.


Program Itinerary

Step way off the backpacker trail and into traditional communities for a 3 week cultural immersion. Interweave yourself with the community, teach, learn how to surf and step onto the sides of a live volcano. Frankly it doesn’t get much better.

The following is a sample itinerary.

Wk 1

Legazpi City Acclimatise and explore

Stand in awe of the volcano...

You’ll fly into the capital of Manila, before catching a 1- hour domestic flight to Legazpi where you’ll be met in arrivals by Jess and her amazing local team.

As an introduction to the country, to allow you some rest after your long travel, and to give you time to acclimatize, you will be spend your first and last 3 days and nights at Casa Simeon, a half hour drive outside Legazpi City in the small town of Bacacay.

From the comfort of Casa Simeon you will borrow Jess’s bikes (or hop on a local tricycle) to explore this little town’s beaches, markets and waterfalls. Another day you will head off with one of Jess’s team to see the Cagsawa Ruins, Daraga Church, Lignon Hill, Legazpi Boulevard, and of course the shopping centres (huge shopping centres…well worth the visit and they love to dance in the shops…just saying, don’t be shocked!)

On the last day you have to brave the volcano – there are some great quad biking tours that whizz you up the side to see the volcano in all its glory and incredible views of the town below before zip wiring back down. Has to be done, especially for closet geographers as this is a perfect cone shaped volcano.

Accommodation

Casa Simeon is a 1920s Spanish-American colonial house which has been restored into a small hotel, yet remaining Jess’s family home. It is absolutely stunning and the food here is to die for – so try everything.

2 or 3 to a bedroom. Shared bathrooms. Air-conditioning and cable TV in the rooms.

Food

3 meals a day are provided.

Wk 2

Gubat Surfing and Mangrove Planting

Surfing and Mangrove Planting

An hour and half away from Legapzi is the small beachside town of Gubat, in the province of Sorsogon. Just outside the town and tucked away on one of the most stunning beaches is a small surf club run by Noli and his team. Let me tell you this is a little slice of Robinson Crusoe paradise.

Projects:

Noli is one of those good people – a surf instructor by profession and now a surf club hotelier BUT he has taken it one step further. He has started a “School to Surf” project which encourages the local kids to attend school and keep them out of trouble and in return he will teach them to surf – a life skill which in turn could provide them with an income. This is where you come in. While here, Noli will teach you to surf, in return for helping him teach the kids English, swimming and surfing.

Noli and team are also very active with environmental projects in the community so you will help him with his little projects here and there like mangrove replanting and making roofs out of nipa, a local plant, to give to the less fortunate in the community. For the surf camp’s sustenance, Noli and team have started producing bottled local food sold and marketed to the larger cities. Given the chance, he may ask you to help cook. Better yet, you might become the next model for his ads. He is a dynamic man.

Accommodation

Beach side surf camp in simple thatched stilted bungalows - beds are mattresses on the floor on a raised platform. 4 volunteers per bungalow.

Shower block and a restaurant on site selling delicious local food.

Food

3 meals a day provided.

Wk 3

Ticao Island Marine and Teaching

Marine Conservation and Teaching

Next stop - Ticao Island, an island community in the Masbate province. Approximately one hour by traditional motorized boat from the mainland. BTW this is another stunning location and a great contrast as the culture here is unique.

The people of Ticao have learned to survive based on what the land and ocean can provide. Very little government support comes to this area and the main developments on the island are a result of donations and strategies from Ticao Island Resort which has become popular in the past 10 years with the scuba diving community because of the Manta Bowl, a dive site which is the highway for large marine creatures like Manta Rays, Whale Sharks, and Thresher Sharks.

The Island resort now helps support the community and marine life through its NGO called LAMAVE and this is where your help is needed. Through LAMAVE you will help collect data and identification analysis on the marine life – through snorkelling or diving whilst teach English to the local children. There is no need to be able to dive but courses are available if you would like to complete a course though the dive school at Ticao.

Optional PADI Open Water Diver Course = PHP 20,000 (£320) per student (inclusive of learning materials, instructor/DM services, diving equipment rental, 2 days boat use to nearby reefs for training dives, certification upon completion of the course).

Accommodation

3 nights village home stay then you will move into twin rooms at the dive school, on the beach

Food

3 meals a day are provided.

Program Details & Costs

We have three departures for the Philippines throughout the year: February, May and October. This program combines perfectly with Cambodia. Just get in touch to discuss your options.

Options and costs

Feb, May & Oct programs start on:

Whats included?

Dates Don't Suit?

Don't worry - we can work around this, just get in touch and we'll chat through options more suited to you.

Budget

Flight: £800 (depending on time of year and availability)

Spending money: £50 per week approx

Social Life

Guaranteed. You will be part of a tight team of like minded volunteers, who will be on your journey from start to finish.

Cultural Exchange

Through living and working beside remote communities who will welcome you into their society.

Contrast

Combines the heights of the Mayon volcano with the beaches and island paraside of Ticao.

Physical Challenge

A journey which mixes home-stay living with community development and beach recouperation.

Program Days

Expect to carry out project work 5 days a week for 6-8 hours per day however each phase will vary depending on the work ethic and culture of the community.

Free Days

Free days will be interspersed throughout the itinerary when you are free to explore.

Backpacker favourites:

  • Snorkeling and scuba diving
  • Wildlife tours.

The Philippines is very well-connected to other countries like Indonesia and Singapore – all great add-ons if you plan to extend your stay in the region.

One of the most off grid

This program is managed by our lovely friend Jessica Noelle Wong who runs Donsol Eco Tours. Each team will be led by a local project leader, who speaks

English, Filipino and local dialects. All I can say from spending a lot of time with Jess and her team last year - they are awesome, interesting and oh so kind.

Jess is hugely connected in this area and has pulled these two projects togther for us through her friends and contacts. Both projects are dynamic and make a huge difference to the local communities and environment. You will love them all and will want to carry on exploring this fantastic country which is so overlooked, so don't rush off.




Leaper's Highlights

Have a read of what our volunteers have been getting up to...

Living the Island Life in Ticao Ellie Walton

The current destination is rich in landscape and spectacular views. Ticao Island is providing us with great insight into local life and treating us with great customer experience within the resort.

The first few nights were spent in homestays with local families where we were immersed in the community by partaking in cooking meals, mending fishing nets with the fisherman and a celebratory dinner party for one of the hosts birthday. We certainly got a feel for island life throughout our stay in the village!

During our stay on Ticao, in addition to the excursions and relaxation time, we also took part in two projects. They consisted of a clean-up of the school before the commencement of term, followed by the making of a connection path that was safe for motorcyclists to use to cross the island. Luckily we had done similar projects in Borneo prior to this island visit, so we were ready to get stuck in!

Day to day structures would vary from working in the morning to taking a dip in the afternoon. Three members of our group were keen to take advantage of the surroundings and facilities at Ticao, as they dived on every opportunity that arose! The rest of us were able to snorkel around a few islands when we went island hopping, as this was Hannah's and Sacha's last day, we wanted to make the most of their remaining time in the Philippines. The water was so clear, we were lucky enough to see some black tip sharks roam around the coral. After one of my favourite days of the trip, the day arrived where we had to bid farewell to another two members of our Leap family, they'll both be missed greatly by the rest of the group!

Our little pocket of paradise Sadie Traylor

Melvin and his sister Madalyn – members of our new host family – stood to greet us as our boat slid up to shore on Ticao Island. He then took those of us staying with him down the beach a little way to his village. Along the way we picked up several children, all anxious to see what we were up to. They seemed to know only one English phrase: What’s your name? And they used it plenty!

This village sits right on the sea. Dinky fishing boats bob up-and-down in the water while anchored to shore; pigs oink from inside make-shift kennels; the men and older boys play pick-up games of basketball in the village square; women sell dried fish on the paths. The central location of our homestay allowed us to experience village life in its entirety.

We spent a few days at the local school taking on our latest construction project: paving a pathway into the entrance of the school. We’ve mastered cement mixing and laying by now, so everyone around was impressed by how quickly and skilfully we got the job done. But that’s not to say it wasn’t hard work. As always, mixing the cement – perfecting the ratio of concrete to sand to water – in the heat too, is no easy task. The prospect of giving the kids the ability to walk to school without having to stomp through mud is what kept us going.

The second portion of our time on Ticao Island had me wondering whether I’m taking a gap year or on vacation — or maybe dreaming. Having moved from our homestay into the resort with the beach in our front yard, hammocks hung between palm trees, mango smoothies ready to order — we were in for a treat.

The highlight of this time was a day-long snorkelling adventure. Yanking at the elastic on our mask to haul it over our heads and positioning our snorkel in our mouths, we couldn’t wait to see what sea life buzzed beneath us. Turns out there was lots: sea stars, urchins, sea snakes, clown fish, sea turtles, puffer fish, and even a few black-tip reef sharks.

Over our final meal on Ticao Island we brainstormed schemes that would allow us to stay. Needless to say, we’re going to miss it here…

Salt water crocs and cheeky monkeys Chloe Ring

After 3 buses and a short boat trip we arrived at Kinabatangan River. As soon as we got there we were taken off on a boat safari. We weren’t sure what to expect or how much we’d see but other than birds the first thing spotted was a salt water crocodile! As we continued we saw some monkeys high up in the trees, however the most beautiful aspect to this particular tour was the amazing sunset, the first we’d seen since arriving in Borneo!

We stayed in a group of lodges with a really quirky setup. They would sound the dong for meal times and whenever we needed to be ready. Everyone staying there would then come to the eating area to all have meals together which made the camp have a really nice atmosphere.

We then had the early morning boat safaris at 6am, it was very wet and foggy but this didn’t dampen our mood! Unfortunately, not many animals were out but we made up for this in the evening safari as we saw monkeys less than two metres away from us. There was even a baby clinging to its mother. We couldn’t believe how close we were to the wild animals! We also took a day hike through the forest on a nature walk.

The next day we had a couple of hours coach ride to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. We stayed in a longhouse with very cool hammocks to chill in. The following day we went to the orangutan centre and saw the baby orphans feeding time in the nursery who were so cute and funny to watch!

In the afternoon, we visited the rainforest centre where we walked along a canopy skywalk, saw the botanical gardens and learnt more about the animals here in the discovery exhibition. Following this we saw the next feeding for the orangutan and even saw two parents with their baby. It was amazing to see these animals from just ten metres away, feeding on fruit as they would in the wild. It is the sanctuary’s aim to make the orangutan independent enough to be released back into the wild soon. Salt water crocs on safari and cheeky monkeys in the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

10 days in Mentu Naomi Hughes

Two weeks into my trip to Borneo and already I know I will be sorry when it ends. The group and I have just returned to Kuching after 10 days in a small, remote village called Mentu. There we were immersed in the local culture which was quite a shock for most of us. Conditions there are very basic but the people there were amazingly friendly and always had a smile on their faces.

While in Mentu we undertook the construction of part of Auntie Sendi’s house. Both she and her husband are 78 and her husband has such severe asthma that he only leaves the house to go to their local clinic for check-ups and medication. The house was dusty and their wooden walls were barely standing. Our mission was to build proper concrete walls in replace of the old wooden ones. In addition, we levelled ground and cemented a drain so their small garden patch doesn’t get waterlogged during their frequent downpours. It was hard work. The cement we mixed by hand. Work in the heat for the first day was difficult but by the second or third day we had acclimatized and were cement mixing machines. Although it was hard work, it was rewarding. The thought that Auntie Sendi and Lungko couldn’t have done it without us makes me feel like I’ve truly touched someone’s life.

In our down time, we were able to swim in the river and one day we walked to have a BBQ picnic by a waterfall. The scenery was breath-taking but be prepared to get a bit muddy.

While I enjoyed my time in the village I am ready to get on the flight tomorrow to see the amazing Gunung Mulu national park and all of its beauty!

Until next time!

Watch our videos

The Philippines

2019

" Madagascar leap program SUPERB"

Experience of a lifetime, met people I would never have met and now consider them as my closest friends, gave me a more humble and appreciative view of life and provided me with memories that I can never replace and will never forget.

Highly RECOMMEND!!! (Make sure u like rice and beans and chickens in your room).

- Georgia Burgess

"The most incredible experience"

This 10 week programme was truly the most incredible experience, where I have made amazing friends and immersed myself in getting to know a whole new place and culture.

The camp itself has members of all different volunteer programmes, allowing you to develop incredible relationships with people from all over the world in such a unique environment. I did a month of marine conservation and a month of teaching. The marine conservation was beautiful, and being able to get an advanced open water PADI in marine protected areas of Madagascar was very special.

As for the teaching, this was something which was so special to me, it allowed me to become so connected with the community, and I created bonds with people that I will truly never forget. Seeing students progress over time was so rewarding and allowed me to develop such close relationships. The staff members are super relaxed and it really feels like your own community! Honestly the best experience!!!

- Izzy Proud

"​I highly recommend first time travellers to use the Leap"

The trip to Madagascar is incredible as you get to experience such a diverse, beautiful island. The locals are super friendly and life on camp is great as you start to feel like a family. As the leap is one of three volunteering schemes on the same camp it’s easy to make lots of friends. Scuba diving was the most amazing experience.

Teaching was very very rewarding and made it easier to make friends with the local community. As I was ill whilst out there I can honestly say that The Leap was definitely worth the price as I was cared for very well and had someone come to hospital with me and translate everything as well as being very kind and caring. Overall, Madagascar was an amazing trip and I will definitely go back.

- Lucy Newman

"Incredible experience"

I wanted to say a huge thank you to you and your team !

Ava returned yesterday via Peru and had such an incredible experience in Ecuador. It was all very well organised and the people were amazing .I am still to hear more.

- Amanda Howard

"​Amazing, emotional and I would do it all again "

Communication was very good before and during the trip, it was nice to know that the leap would reply quickly plus I felt very safe, the 24/7 security relaxed and settled me in. Stella matias and jimmy were amazing, they made my trip!

The programmes and schools we visited were life changing and made me appreciate what I have. The fact that we actually made a difference by raising money for an orphanage to build a well is so exciting and rewarding! And the relationships I made with the children and the other leapers I will never forget.

- Bethany

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