By Michelle P. Soliman, Reporter
PALAWAN’s Dimakya Island is a tiny green jewel floating in a sea of deep blue that turns a clear aquamarine just before it touches the beach’s white sand.
The island — a 20-minute trip by land followed by a 30-minute boat ride from Coron — is where one finds the appropriately named Club Paradise resort.
It was towards the end of the lean season when we visited, and the resort was tranquil and the view was picturesque from any direction.
We were welcomed by the staff — mostly Palawan locals — waiting for us at the shoreline, greeting us with their hands to their chests.
“If you treat the staff as a family member, they would treat our guests the same. We invest heavily on keeping the staff happy,” said Club Paradise general manager Joegil M. Escobar.
The 19-hectare property, previously under German management, was acquired by the Discovery Group in 2013.
“We have staff engagement activities for them every year. We send them off to different properties of Discovery for exposure and activities in Manila for rest and recreation,” he said.
Since the Discovery Group’s acquisition of the resort, they keep up the motto: “Service That’s All Heart.”
“We want everyone to feel at home,” he said.
WHILE ON THE ISLAND
To keep up with the increasing number of tourists — the Department of Tourism reported that 6.6 million tourists visited the country in 2017 compared to 5.9 million in 2016 — the resort is currently focusing on developing its facilities.
The resort is currently doubling the number of rooms to 96. Mr. Escobar said that the rooms will blend with the look of the existing property.
The resort offers a variety of accommodations: the Sunset Villas, which face the sunset at the west of the island (additional villas were recently completed); Sunrise Villas which are at the eastern end of Dimakya; Garden Suites and Garden rooms.
“When we build something on the island, we try to make it a point to not cut trees. We adjust the design so that no trees are affected because we want to keep the natural landscape of the island,” said Mr. Escobar.
The resort also recently renovated the swimming pool with a mix of fresh and salt water.
The menu at its Firefish restaurant has also been revamped with Pan-Asian dishes care of Thai chef Alex Atthasarn who joined the kitchen four months ago.
A second restaurant offering a Mediterranean cuisine will also be opened soon, as well as a “make you own menu offer” packages for guests who want their meals personalized.
The expansion of facilities comes with the improvement of bandwidth around the island.
In addition, upcoming projects and courses of action in line with the resort’s EcoConserve program (implemented in 2017) will include the reduction of use of plastic products, the use of organic bathroom amenities, and the installation of water refilling and bottling stations in the resort. Eco-bricks will be used as an alternative to hollow blocks in building terraces for the nearby Taranuman Farm where certain vegetables are planted.
The resort is currently testing the waters with the use of solar panels at the restaurant.
“We are very heavy on environmental protection. It is our share of giving back to the island,” Mr. Escobar said.
The developments are targeted to be implemented by the third quarter of 2019.
WHAT TO DO THERE
While one can always just laze the day away in the comfortable rooms, that would be a shame as there is much to do.
Island hopping tours are offered to the three nearby islands of Malpagalen, Dimalanta, and Diatoy.
Then there is the full day Coron tour which includes a swim at Kayangan Lake and Sieste Pecados marine park and viewing of the sharp cliffs in Twin Lakes.
One can also take a boat ride to the west of the island to visit the famous Calauit island where a private safari park was set up during the Marcos regime for the pleasure of the ruling family. Today the descendants of many of the original African animals — from giraffes to antelope — still make their home on the island alongside native Palawan flora and fauna, and one can take a half day Calauit Safari tour to see them (you can also feed the giraffes).
One doesn’t have to leave the island to enjoy the Palawan wildlife — you can always snorkle or scuba dive in the area as the waters around Dimakya Island whose “house reefs” have been protected for the last 15 years, and thus teem with sea life (and if you come at the right time of the year, you can see sea turtles lay their eggs on the island). The resort can also arrange for diving expeditions in nearby areas, from dugong watching or diving expeditions in Calauit, to a 1.2 kilometer reef at nearby Diboyuyan Island, to a day of at APO Reef National Marine Park.
After all that, relax with a massage at the Glow Spa.
To end the day, take a 15- to 20-minute hike up to Eagles Point, the highest point on the island, and watch the sunset. Then go back down to the resort for cocktails — there is a wealth of choices as the resort has the Dugong Bar, where one can also play billiards, table tennis, darts, and foosball; the beachside Shack bar; and, even closer to the water, the Sand Bar.
For more information, visit www.clubparadisepalawan.com.