Sometimes, I have to wonder. Of all the most beautiful places I have laid my eyes on, Boracay is one of them. As a matter of fact, recently, I contemplated moving back to the island. After all, I did live there for five years.

Since I returned to the city 14 years ago, not once did I look back. In other words, I never visited the Boracay nor thought about my life there. As fate would have it, I had a chance to visit not too long ago with my family.

Boracay Beach
Boracay is one of the most beautiful islands in the world. – Photo credit: Saiko3p

Once there, the same white sand beach is there. But somehow, the island is no longer the paradise that I fell in love with and knew. Because of the massive development, Boracay now seems like a city on a tiny island.

Still, I thought hard about moving back and almost did. Such is a testament to how beautiful the island remains today. As such, imagine what it was like before when it was pristine.

It is impossible to count how many pristine beaches I have seen all over the world. To clarify, I am referring to photos and videos. Yes, I have been to many places all over the Philippines. Even if I have had the opportunity to visit other countries, nothing compares to home.

Lately, though. I have to wonder.

Gran Canaria

One of the websites that I am managing is a travel site on one of the top destinations in Europe.

Have you heard of the Canary Islands?

It is an archipelago of seven main islands administered by Spain. Of the seven, one, in particular, has caught my imagination – the island of Gran Canaria.

Integral Natural Reserve of Inagua Gran Canaria
Integral Natural Reserve of Inagua in Gran Canaria. – Photo credit: Tamara Kulikova

My impression of the Canary Islands was that it was a cluster of small islands. But that was before I worked on the Canaries website. To my surprise, Gran Canaria alone is ONE HUNDRED FIFTY TIMES bigger than Boracay. Furthermore, half of that island is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.

So, I wondered.

If we had preserved Boracay, would it also be a UNESCO protected reserve?

Gran Canaria receives around 3.6 million visitors each year as of 2014. Boracay, as small as it is with an area of 10.32 km2 is about to reach 2 million visitors by 2018.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Boracay but seeing the destruction brought about by commercialism is painful. It becomes worse when I see how others have protected their treasures.

I love the main white sand beach and the clear waters, but it is now getting crowded. Not to mention, vendors offering this and that is annoying.

Is the old Boracay gone?

Maspalomas Sand Dunes

One of the places in Gran Canaria that caught my eye is the Natural Reserve of the Dunes of Maspalomas. I find it irresistible to take my eyes away from the vast expanse of golden sand hills.

Maspalomas Sand Dunes Gran Canaria
The golden sand dunes of Maspalomas in Gran Canaria. – Photo credit: Andrey Starostin

Now, some of you may be wondering.

What does the sand dunes have anything to do with the sea?

We will get to that later.

From what I gathered, the natural reserve covers an area of 4 km2 – that is almost half of Boracay. As soon as I found out, the first words that came to mind are too vulgar to write here.

What if Boracay was a nature reserve?

Back to the sand hills of Maspalomas in Gran Canaria. From photos, it is hard to comprehend the vastness of space as well as towering hills. Suffice to say; the higher dunes dwarf people. Even more fascinating is that the shape of the hills change daily, or even hourly, as the wind blows.

And then it hit me.

Vast Space

The Boracay I knew had space – a lot of it, in fact. But last May, I saw how much narrower the coastline is now. Compared to 1991 when I first visited the island, the coastline is now down to at least 30% of what it was back then.

Looking at photos of Maspalomas dunes, two things come to mind. One is that it is too beautiful that staring at it is an instinctive action. Another is the vastness of space and how I miss the old days of Boracay, back when it was a real paradise.

Today, it seems to me that Boracay is out of control. As such, can the end be near or there is still hope?

About the relationship between the dunes and the sea, here is the thing. The vast desert dunes extend all the way to the clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Maspalomas Sand Hills Atlantic Ocean Gran Canaria
A scenic view of the Atlantic Ocean from the sand hills of Maspalomas. – Photo credit: Marako85

The golden sands of Maspalomas, for sure, cannot compare to the white sands of Boracay. But the space that I crave for in a beach, that is what the beaches of Maspalomas offer.

To be a little more specific, the extensive shoreline of Maspalomas is a series of small beaches. Some do have more visitors but never in the scale of Boracay. There are also others that are almost empty or devoid of people. In fact, they also have beaches for nudists and naturalists. And if I find myself walking on that shore, I may take everything off for the sake of doing so once in my life.

Where Is the Next Boracay?

Gran Canaria and the rest of the Canary Islands is a great escapade, especially for Europeans. Clean beaches, spectacular geological formations, and proximity are among the main reasons why. But for Europeans coming to the Philippines, it is the incomparable natural beauty.

Despite the sad state of what Boracay is today, it remains beautiful. As a matter of fact, it was the 2016 best island in the world, according to Condé Nast Traveller.

Boracay White Sand Beach
Boracay used to have a wider coastline. – Photo credit: Simon Gurney

But we still have thousands of other islands.

Which one is going to be the next Boracay?

Already, there are a lot of local travel bloggers posting about this and that mysterious islands. I have seen some posts on spectacular places, but for the life of me, I cannot remember where and their names now. In a way, that is good as these little-known gems will remain pristine until the massive influx of tourism.

One day, they will come.

When they do, I only wish that the locals will not repeat the mistakes of Boracay.