Idyllic North Pandan Island (P150 entrance fee), ringed by a halo of fine white sand, coral reefs and coconut palms, lies two kilometres off the west coast of Mindoro. In 1994 a sanctuary was established around the eastern half of the island so the marine life is exceptional; with a mask and snorkel you can see big grouper, all sorts of coral fishes, even the occasional turtle.
If you want to visit the island it’s easy to arrange a boat to Pandan (20min; P600 return for a boat which can hold 15 passengers) from the Sablayan Eco-Tourism Office. You’ll need to pay a P75 fee to set foot on the island.
The island is the site of the well-run Pandan Island Resort (t0919/305-7821, wwww.pandan.com), a back-to-nature private hideaway developed by a French adventurer who discovered it in 1986. There are four types of accommodation at the resort: budget rooms (P500–999) standard double bungalows (P1500–1999), larger bungalows for four (P2000–2499), and family houses for up to six (P500–999). During the diving season (Nov–May) the island is so popular that all rooms are often taken, so it’s important to book in advance. Guests are required to take at least one buffet meal at the resort restaurant every day, and this is no bad thing: the chef dishes up excellent European and Filipino cuisine (try the tangy fish salad in vinegar) and the beach bar serves some unforgettable tropical cocktails.
On most days the resort’s scuba-diving centre organizes day-trips to Apo Reef, and longer overnight safaris both to Apo and to Busuanga off northern Palawan if there are enough passengers. Even if you don’t dive, there’s plenty to keep you occupied on and around the island itself, including kayaking, jungle treks, windsurfing and sailing.