Waves rolled across the pristine beach, unfurling a gorgeous carpet of bright blue water fringed in foamy white. I was standing in a bed of fine sand in Boracay, the Philippines, one evening last month, thinking to myself how it was one of the cleanest beaches I had ever seen. Then, an apologetic voice remarked: "Sorry, the beach is a little messy right now."
It was my tour guide, Mr Juanito Flores, standing next to me, gesturing at some bits of seaweed left behind by the tide on the otherwise spotless sand.
I stared incredulously at the 41-year-old, who works for the Malay Tour Guide Association and took care of me during my five- day visit. To me, Boracay's beaches are better than any I had come across, especially back home, where cigarette butts and other debris often litter the coast. No wonder it has been named one of the top beach destinations in Asia by international media such as American television networks CNN and NBC.
Located 315km south of the Philippine capital Manila, it is about 10 sq km and about 7km from the north to the south end.
The island is located in the Philippine municipality of Malay in the province of Aklan. It has a population of about 16,000 people.
According to Mr Flores, this island shaped like a dog bone is popular with tourists from South Korea, China and Russia. Backpackers began heading there in the 1970s and it has since grown into a hot spot for families, honeymooners and adventure seekers because of its beaches and reputation as a one-stop destination for water sports.
The best time of the year to visit is during the dry months from November to May.
Unfortunately, in recent decades, there has been an outcry against the environmental problems caused by tourism, such as pollution and the destruction of natural habitats.