During a ride home, I was talking to my friend about taking a break from the hustle bustle of the city and just unwinding in a resort. I wanted to go to Palawan. She then mentioned that she had heard of this newly developed private island in the Calamian Islands. It was called Ariara Island.
I immediately searched for it and was impressed by the pictures of the white sand beaches and the surrounded by coral reefs and azure waters. I immediately emailed them to ask them more questions about the place. I was simply intrigued.
I learned that Ariara Island in Palawan was a six-year project of British owners, Charles and Carrie McCulloch. Their idea for Ariara was to be the perfect place to go to for a private and luxurious retreat. The place will be a perfect escape from your busy lives while communing with nature and going on exotic adventures with friends and family.
“However stunning a location, I have always disliked the lack of freedom and individuality imposed by hotels”, says Charles. “The continual reminder that your bill is imminent, having to sign for everything from a bottle of water to renting a snorkel and the inevitable compromise that comes with sharing your space with others really gets to me. Our most favourite travel experiences have been staying in African lodges which retain the feel of a private home and are fully staffed by the owners’ personal staff. Nothing is too much trouble and yet it’s informal and intimate enough to truly relax with friends and family. Why not apply this idea to a tropical island? Something without the commercial feel of a hotel, more personal, more real, more private yet still with all the luxuries.”
The project is now completed thanks to the talented Jorge Yulo, a renowned Filipino architect and Peter Ponnet, the multi-talented Belgian expatriate. We now can enjoy this 25,000 ft2 of luxurious accommodation.
For your accommodation, Ariara has eight spacious villas and cottages located along its 600m main beach with uninterrupted views out to the sea and neighbouring islands. All bedrooms have private terraces and gardens, scattered with hanging chairs and hammocks. Many have vaulted ceilings, four-poster beds, walk-in wardrobes, spacious bathrooms and open-air showers. Every item of furniture on Ariara has been designed, made and upholstered in-house using Filipino carpenters and craftsmen in the island’s own workshops, which I am truly impressed by.
Materials to build Ariara were all sourced locally and all furnishings were created with traditional skills: huge marble baths carved from single blocks of Romblon marble and wooden baths crafted using traditional boat-building techniques, local wood and rattan sourced from sustainable supplies, cushions made from tribal fabrics, woven by craftspeople from Mindanao in the South, and intricate wooden chests carved by indigenous Palawan woodcarvers. Ariara’s striking wall hangings, heliographs and ceramics are made by a talented Filipino artist, Ugu Bigyan.
Ariara has a dining and entertainment area called The Lodge. With a 12m high ceiling, marble flooring, a cinema projector and oversized sofas, this area is a cozy hangout area which leads onto the beach with an infinity pool and the deck area.
Their are no rules in Ariara and each party of guests has exclusive use of this 125 acre tropical island and its 30 staff that includes a European Manager, two PADI Dive Instructors, Spa Therapist and Private Chef. Chef Jonnel Sotto, formerly head Asian chef at Amanpulo, creates menus for a truly personalized approach to entertaining. His Euro-Asian style draws on fresh local ingredients and traditional Filipino delicacies combined with an innovative flair to appeal to a western palate. Favourites include: Seared Tuna, Pomelo and Arugula Salad, Spicy Pumpkin and Coconut Soup, Mango Beef Stir Fry, Balinese Chilli Squid, Soy Sake Shrimp and Ginger Aioli, Homemade Banana and Cashew Nut Ice Cream and Pineapple Sorbet.
Pre-dinner cocktails can be served in different places each evening such as lounging cozily in beanbags in the pier cabana or a romantic candlelit spot on the beach. Sophisticated dinners can be enjoyed around the huge mango wood dining table at The Lodge, laid out under the stars for a moonlit barbecue banquet or a beach party of succulent Lechon (spit roast pig).
Looking for activities to do in Ariara? Each party of guests has unlimited use of Ariara’s six different boats including a beautifully refitted 100ft traditional Filipino tri-maran, the Karen-Joy. I am excited to try this out. Karen-Joy is one of Ariara’s biggest highlights for guests to enjoy island-hopping excursions, over-night cruises and live-on-board dive trips to the more remote islands. Visit deserted islands, local villages, or the remains of a 17th century Spanish fort being swallowed up by the jungle. Venture further to the northern tip of Palawan to see paddy fields, trek to waterfalls and bathe in the beautiful hidden lagoons in Bacuit Bay where striking limestone rock formations are reminiscent of Halong Bay. From the protected waters of the island’s house reef to exhilarating wreck diving on WWII Japanese and US wrecks, the Calamian Islands offer some of the most pristine diving in the world teaming with spectacular corals and a huge diversity of marine species that thrive in these clear warm waters. Additional watersports include fishing, wind surfing, jet skiing, kayaking, water skiing, wake boarding, knee boarding, ringo-ing.
Back on Ariara, relax on the beach or by the pool, laze in a hammock in a private spot, enjoy spa treatments with Ariara’s resident therapist or kick back in The Lounge Cinema. Personal trainers, yoga instructors and professional nannies can be organized on request.
Doesn’t this intrigue you? For those raring and daring to try out the Ariara experience, you can read more information about Ariara on http://www.ariaraisland.com. For reservations, pleaes email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rates: Ariara Island (www.ariaraisland.com) is priced from $19,000 (small group of up to 6 guests in low season) to $41,000 (large group of up to 17 guests in high season) per week. Price includes exclusive private rental of the entire island and its 30 staff plus all meals and the use of all watersports equipment including:
100ft tri-maran, 33ft speedboat, 2 high power Jetskis, dive boat, a RIB, kayaks, windsurfers, waterskis, wakeboards, fishing and snorkeling equipment. Price excludes drinks, fuel, spa and diving which are billed depending on usage.