Preserving Paradise

Pico de Loro exemplifies environmental responsibility and sustainability, setting the benchmark for hotels and ecotourism

By Paola Navarette

Published 

Source: Manila Bulletin

Louis XVI famously said, “First feelings are always the most natural.” In the case of Hamilo Coast in Nasugbu, Batangas, in the first few seconds, one intuitively feels that this is going to be a beautiful experience.

Imagine this: You wake up from a restful sleep to a view of the sun rising over crystal blue waters alongside verdant landscapes and mountains as the sea breeze touches your skin. Such is the view that rejuvenates one’s weary body and soul, and such is the view that welcomes residents every morning at the premier sustainable beach resort town, where beach resort living is an everyday lifestyle choice.

Hamilo Coast sits on 5,900 hectares of land, bound by the serene blue waters of the West Philippine Sea on the west and lush mountain ranges to the east.

With a 31-kilometer coastline, it encompasses a long stretch of fine white sand beach punctuating its sweeping terrain, and 13 pristine coves, three of which are marine protected areas.

Named after Sanskrit words “ami” meaning plenty and “ilo” meaning to see, Hamilo Coast suggests that there is an abundance of things to look at. The first phase of this resort town’s development is concentrated in a 40-hectare valley within Hamilo Coast, in a protected cove called Pico de Loro, which is home to a cluster of modern mid-rise condominiums, a tropical contemporary hotel, full-service beach and country club, and exclusive club facilities that offer an active and dynamic leisure lifestyle.

The community strives to practice environmental and social sustainability in its operations, through its partnership with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-Philippines) and the SM Foundation. The use of alternative energy sources, solid waste management, ridge-to-reef management, coastal resource management, livelihood training, and local hiring of majority of staff are just some of the major efforts to achieve this goal.

Moreover, Pico Sands Hotel, a 154-room hotel nestled within this green destination, upholds sustainability practices—a comforting fact for any eco-conscious traveler.

Chemical-based laundry products and kitchen cleaners were replaced by biodegradable options. Paper straws and cups, good grade stirrers, and take-out packaging made of cornstarch are used in place of single-use plastic. The hotel has also replaced plastic bottles in the guest rooms with refillable glass pitchers that can be refilled at water dispensing stations on each floor.

Along with this, Pico Sands Hotel also offers eco-friendly activities such as diving and tour using aparawor non-motorized boat, which allows guests to enjoy a boat ride without disturbing marine life.

Here are other sustainable activities you should try when in the area:

Go bird-watching

Grab your binoculars and slip on a pair of walking shoes—the early bird gets to capture some of this sustainable community’s fine feathered treasures, both rare and common, that mark their home in the area. At least 95 of the 200 bird species endemic to the country have been spotted in areas around Pico de Loro.

“Morning is the best time to go, when birds are almost invariably active, although they can be seen throughout the day, especially during migration,” Costa de Hamilo Inc. senior manager for sports, recreation, and sustainability Wesley Caballa said.

He said the idea is to walk slowly, concentrating on the birds. “See something moving on a branch or hear a song? Take a moment to look more closely,” Caballa said.

Birding ethics, he said, include staying on trails, maintaining a safe distance from birds, and refraining from making loud noises.

One of Hamilo Coast’s best-kept secrets is a hiking adventure of the surrounding mountain range, offering both amateur and seasoned hikers a reinvigorating union with nature.

If you dare to conquer the Santelmo Eco-Trail, you can look forward to three viewpoints on the mountain, each showcasing a raw and unique sight of nature.

A path is easily visible heading up the mountain to the first viewpoint where a line of rope tied from tree to tree serves as a banister to hold on to when climbing steep paths up and down the trail. The first viewpoint offers a picturesque view of Pico de Loro Cove. From here, trekkers can appreciate Hamilo Coast’s natural beauty tucked under the dense foliage, a reward for coming out of the first leg of the climb. The second viewpoint, meanwhile, is a bit more challenging—located 114 meters above sea level, its steep trail tests one’s agility. To make the climb bearable, locals and the Hamilo Coast team built sturdy makeshift stairs made of soil, rocks, and wood.

Its third and last viewpoint takes trekkers to a whole new level with its panoramic views of Hamilo Coast. While the Batangas terrain can be seen from the northeast, the idyllic West Philippine Sea can be seen from the west.

Explore the mangrove forest

The mangrove tour in the Hamilo Coast offers nature lovers the opportunity to discover the vibrant biodiversity for themselves. In line with its commitment to sustainability, the resort town continues to preserve more than 10,000 mangrove trees which cover approximately 10 hectares of the estate, making it the largest mangrove area in Nasugbu.

The tour starts with a short 200-meter walk through the mangrove forest leading to a narrow path where the paddle boats are docked. Posters which indicate several facts about mangroves can be seen along the way in hopes of increasing awareness about mangroves and their restoration.

“What’s unique about mangroves is that they grow in coastal habitats where water meets land.

Because of their environment, mangroves are necessarily tolerant of high salt levels and have mechanisms to take up water,” Caballa said. “They also serve as marine sanctuaries, contributing to the proliferation of fish in Nasugbu.”

At the end of the short walk is a small port where boats await. You can have an option to climb aboard the canoe, which can accommodate up to four guests and two tour guides at a time. The guides will paddle and navigate you through the carefully reforested area, as they describe how the once formerly part of a hacienda was transformed into the coastal paradise that it is now. The tour ends when freshwater meets seawater and you dock at Papaya Cove, a protected deep cove which remains home to a local fishing community.

Hamilo Coast is a master-planned seaside residential community in Nasugbu, Batangas. Developed and managed by Costa del Hamilo, Inc., a subsidiary of SM Prime. It is approximately 90 minutes from Manila via Cavitex and the new Ternate-Nasugbu Road. For inquiries, call (632) 7-945-8000 or visit www.hamilocoast.com.

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