Summer in Subic 2015

 

Camayan Beach

Camayan Beach

The last time I was in Subic was before I got pregnant in 2010. When my parents told me that we were going there for a vacation, I was excited. It was my daughter’s first visit and I was sure she would love all the activities the bay had to offer.

The streets of East Gate Village

The streets of East Gate Village

Just a bit of trivia about Subic Bay for those who don’t know. It’s located on the west coast of Luzon in Zambales. It was formerly the site of a major United States naval facility and is now mostly an industrial and commercial area known as the Subic Bay Freeport Zone. To get to Subic from Manila, you have to pass through the North Luzon Expressway all the way to the end and then go through the SCTEX. It’s actually a pretty easy drive especially if you leave early in the morning on a weekday which was what we did. Just a lot of seemingly endless hi-ways and lots of toll gates. We arrived in Subic at about 8AM.

Just some of the townhouses/apartments

Just some of the townhouses/apartments

We used my parent’s time-sharing benefit from RCI and we booked our stay at the Eastgate Village Resort. When I googled it, I noticed it was also the place we stayed at the last time we were there. At the time, it was still referred to as the Forest Hill Villas. We asked around and heard that the owners had sold part of it to Korean investors. It’s been divided into sections now and though a bit more run-down than the last time we were there, it’s still actually a good place to stay for big families since it can accommodate a group of 8 pax. It is fully air-conditioned, with a television, living room, dining area and of course, the kitchen. We just love to cook our own food when we are out on vacation. The unit also has a small balcony facing the forests and surrounding hills and mountains.

East Gate Village Pool

East Gate Village Pool

Monkey Crossing

Monkey Crossing

Being in Subic, we fully expected to see monkeys roaming around. We were not disappointed. In the afternoon, families of monkeys came down from the forest and started climbing and roaming the lawn right in our backyard.  We also loved the location since it was not at the central district which is full of restaurants and bars and sometimes a bit crowded and noise. It’s also conveniently located near the areas of interest like the beaches, and attractions like Ocean Adventure, Zoobic Safari and of course duty free shopping.

Day 1 – Camayan Beach Resort

Since we arrived really early and could not yet check in, we decided to go to the beach. After all, that’s what Summer is for right? We’d already heard from friends about Camayan Beach Resort so that’s where we decided to go. Since we already had a place to stay, we just got the day tour rates. Rates are PHP300 for adults, and PHP250 for children 12 and below. Senior citizens, at PHP240. You can bring your own food and just rent cabanas for PHP1500. You can also opt to dine at their restaurant located right along the beach front. We ate at their restaurant and the food was not too expensive but it was quite ordinary.

The beach itself has gray sand and the management has sectioned off a large swimming area for the beach-goers. What I liked the most about the resort was the clear water and the abundance of marine life just a few steps from the shore. You can view some of the videos I took below. These were all taken using Go Pro Hero 4 with the closed backdoor. Sorry for the poor audio quality.

There were different kinds of fish, some of them quite large, just swimming a short distance from the beach. Kids and adults alike loved the experience and it is something we will definitely come back to. Just be sure to bring a supply of food for the fish so you can have them eat right out of your hand. The resort is also located right beside Ocean Adventure in case you and your kids want to see the dolphins perform. We didn’t have enough time and it was too hot so we decided to skip it this time. We had so much fun at the resort that it was almost dusk by the time we left. After that, we proceeded to Puregold for some much needed shopping of cooking ingredients for the rest of our stay.

Day 2 – Shopping and Exploring the Central District

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Inside Harbor Point Mall

Inside Harbour Point Mall

Our 2nd day at Subic dawned bright and early. We decided to explore the central district for some shopping. There are some outlet stores scattered around the area such as Nike and Adidas. There is also the newly constructed Harbour Point Mall with all the big name boutiques (M&S, Giordano, etc.) you can find in Manila. It’s like you never left the big city. But of course, we can’t forget the duty free shops. Inside Puregold you can actually purchase a lot of PX goods. There was also the Royal Duty Free which sells imported merchandise like snacks, chocolates, Lacoste bags/shoes, etc. We were actually able to get good buys at Nike (dri-fit shirts), and Adidas (shoes, clima-cool shirts, yoga pants) as well as the Signature Brands Apparel (Fred Perry, Tommy Hilfiger shirts, caps etc.).

Bat Kingdom

Bat Kingdom

We also explored the central district at night and went down by the bay-walk which has long since changed into a hotel and restaurant district. All along the street were new hotels and restaurants which we didn’t see the last time we were there. There were also a number of bars and nightlife places scattered around the area. We tried one of the more popular coffee shops in the area, Xtremely Xpresso Cafe which was jam-packed with patrons. They serve a wide choice of food and drinks aside from coffee and the food was actually quite good. They had a very nice ambiance and served unique food like giant pizzas and burgers. Xtremely Xpresso Cafe is located along Dewey Ave. cor. Sta. Rita St. and is open from 6AM till 12 midnight.

Day 3 – Jest Camp Magaul Bird Park

Big Trees of Subic

Big Trees of Subic

Early on our 3rd day, my brother and I took a walk around the East Gate Village and explored some of the nearby forest. We took a walk to the water tank located on one of the hills around the village. From there you could see most of Subic Bay and see some of the large trees that I have only ever seen in Subic’s virgin forests. Being very early in the morning, it was really quiet and you could clearly hear different species of birds. It was a good introduction to the next attraction we visited.

We took about a 15 minute drive to the Jest Camp which houses a number of different attractions such as the bird sanctuary, jungle survival demonstrations, aviary, etc. Admission is PHP350 for adults. Kids under 3 feet are free of charge and for senior citizens, admission is at PHP280.

Free roaming birds that are very friendly

Free roaming birds that are very friendly

For this particular visit, we decided to focus on the Magaul Bird Park which boasts of being the only one of it’s kind in Luzon. We were able to catch the Wings of the World show which showcased a number of different bird species from all over the world. Being summer, it was quite hot during the show since it was held outside but none of the audience seemed to mind. It was done in a very imaginative and entertaining way, getting the audience to participate by having them interact with the birds. My daughter was one of the lucky volunteers and you can see a quick video of her here: Magaul Bird Park Show (please excuse the loud cheering from the proud parents)

Here are some other photos from the bird show:

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Feeding the ostrich

Feeding the ostrich

We also visited the bird park area itself which was also quite impressive. They had an aviary with birds roaming freely on the ground and in the trees. There was a wide range of species and it was a delight to see for us adults and the kids. There were a few other animals in the mix as well, like the iguana we found sunbathing in it’s cage.

Our favourite part was accidentally going into the love bird enclosure. I noticed that some of the birds were flying a bit too close (like near my head) and I thought it was just coincidence. It turns out that they were actually quite unafraid of people and they started landing on our head, shoulders and arms. You could just hold out your hands and they would land on them. Apparently, they were used to being hand-fed and for a fee we could try it out.

 

Here are some of the photos:

For a fee, the kids were also able to experience feeding the ostrich and even seeing their eggs. For a bit of trivia, each ostrich egg weighs an average of about 3.5 to 5 lbs. and it will take you about 1.5 hours to hard boil one. The shell is so thick that we were invited to stand on it just to prove how tough it is.

Jest Camp offered a lot of fun activities and the kids loved it. There was a lot of things to see and the staff was quite friendly. The park was very clean and the lay-out, well-planned. I guess the only thing I didn’t like was the heat but that is a given since it’s an outdoor park. Just ensure you bring a lot of water with you and stay in the shade if you can or you might suffer a heat stroke.

Overall, we really enjoyed our stay in Subic and we will definitely plan the next trip soon. I won’t provide a review this time but I will provide some recommendations on what attractions to see especially if you are staying in the area for more than a day.

  1. Visit the Jest Camp, particularly the Magaul Bird Park. Try to see the show if you can. Check out their jungle survival demonstration and drink water from the bamboo 🙂
  2. If you want to go to the beach, try Camayan out. It’s a very relaxing place and the waters are teeming with life just a few steps from the beach. Fish feeding is a must!
  3. Go see the bat kingdom at night! It’s an amazing sight.
  4. Go shopping at the duty free shops for great bargains on branded clothes and imported goods.
  5. Go visit the Zoobic Safari. I didn’t include it in this post since visited it the last time we were there but they also had a nice animal parade and we got to see the tigers free-roaming while we were inside an enclosed jeep.
  6. Watch out for the monkeys 🙂

Till my next post! Enjoy the summer!

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