ONCE famed for its glorious white sands and being a peaceful idyll, the Philippine island of Boracay was shut down after turning into, what the president referred to as, a “cesspool” complete with flowing raw sewerage and a party scene to rival Koh Phangan.
In a bid to return it to its once pristine ways, President Rodrigo Duterte enforced a six-month closure of the island.
Well, the wait is over and headline-grabbing Boracay is once again open for business – with a few tweaks and changes.
Here’s what’s different and what’s back to its former glory on Philippines’ most famous holiday island:
The party’s over
While Boracay was once a place where you “could party any time you want” on the beach – in the words of dive instructor Michael A Martillano – the island will now be restricting this.
Drinking is banned on the beach, along with smoking and interestingly, vomiting.
And the famous beach rave “LaBoracay” that once drew tens of thousands of tourists in May, is now a thing of the past – banned, most likely forever.
Also, fireworks are banned after 9pm, so don’t go getting any ideas.
Beachfront is all beach
The once hectic and busy beachfront has now been cleared. All of the masseuses, touts, and even the creators of giant novelty sandcastles have been removed.
Deckchairs and umbrellas that once dominated stretches of sand have also been banned.
All of the buildings and businesses within 30 metres of the water’s edge have been bulldozed and pushed back to create a clear buffer zone.
Watersports no more
The days of racing through the formerly-tranquil waters on the back of a jet ski are over.
All watersports, including kiteboarding and jet skiing, have been banned. Even scuba diving is off limits until the surrounding waters have recovered from the decades of abuse.
A team of marine biologists and divers are currently carrying out an assessment of marine life, only after this will the diving ban be re-evaluated.
Gambling’s a goner
On Duterte’s orders, the island’s casinos have had their doors closed indefinitely.
Government officials confirmed on Friday that all three casinos have had their licenses revoked. The plan is for Duterte to sign an executive order banning casinos on the island, but for the time being the doors have been padlocked and there’ll be no gambling taking place.
No booking, no stay
One of the biggest changes likely to affect travellers is the limit to visitors. Authorities hope to limit the number on the island at any one time but restricting the number of hotel rooms.
Almost 400 hotels and restaurants have been ordered to close after they were found violating environmental laws. Airlines and ferries are also restricted.
In the past, Boracay could top out at 40,000 visitors in high season. That has now been limited to a maximum of just 19,200 tourists allowed at any one time.
Given that Boracay measures a mere 10 square kilometres, this seems a fair number