Ilocos Sur is perhaps best known for Vigan’s Spanish-period architecture. But two hours away from the capital, in the windswept shores of Narvacan, an adventure camp is fast becoming a word-of-mouth gem. Narvacan Outdoor Adventure Hub, or NOAH, was founded in 2005, known only to a small circle of thrill-seeking explorers. They would drive seven hours to Narvacan to windsurf and paraglide at Bantay Abot hill, then later on, to scale the vertical walls of Via Ferrata. In February this year, NOAH’s management decided it’s time to extend its small family.
Fresh from a three-hour shuteye in nearby Top V Hotel, our sprightly crew of bloggers boarded a van to NOAH for a crash course on its four activities, each representing an element: water for windsurfing, air for paragliding, earth for rock climbing, and fire for a 4×4 ATV ride.
That February day kicked off with a breakfast of Ilocano delicacies at Arko, a beachfront dining outfit also managed by NOAH. Boasting one of the best on-land views of Bantay Abot hill and Narvacan Beach, Arko was built to cater to NOAH’s hungry visitors, and its backyard as a camping site (P150 per tent). Campers have their own “sustainable” bunk for bonfires, as well as bathing cubicles for doing one’s business.
The La Paz sand dunes is perhaps the most famous in Ilocos – nay, the Philippines. But while the latter features larger expanses of golden sand, Narvacan’s version is unique in that it overlooks the sea.
Buggy rides start in front of Rock Garden – a luxurious event space by the shore, also owned by Narvacan Outdoor Adventure Hub – continuing toward three-kilometer off-road slopes that span from the Sulvec port to the Narvacan river. The fantastic view, fresh sea breeeze, and suited-for-first-timers sand dunes make NOAH’s ATV adventure worth a try.
Drivers must own a driver’s license, but if you don’t have one, tag along a friend who drives and enjoy the backseat cruise. A 4×4 only costs P2,500 and can be split into 5 persons.
Vertical rock climbing + zipline
Taking place in one of Narvacan’s most prominent feature – Bantay Abot hill – NOAH’s zipline stands out from the rest. While most zipline facilities are rather straightforward, at Narvacan Outdoor Adventure Hub, one needs to climb 150 meters of a craggy rock in order to reach the zipline. Though fitted with steel cables to ensure climber safety, the short trek will surely come off as a test for acrophobic people.
Halfway through, you will find the zipline platform, where you will be strapped in for a thrilling plunge down to Arko (although a bit slow near the end). My climbing journey ends here, and I decide to no longer push through with Via Ferrata due to my fear of heights.
But if you’re more of the adventurer type, instead of taking the zipline, you can continue on to the Via Ferrata trail, which features a 100-meter vertical section on an adobe rock. Designed for tourists with no climbing experience, the trail requires minimal leg power.
The zipline costs P300 and going up the Via Ferrata trail, plus the zipline (on your way down) costs P800. Both include safety gear and expert guides.
Windsurfing + kitesurfing
Because Narvacan beach is strategically positioned next to a hill, the water has a steady side sore wind and is thus, perfect for kitesurfing, windsurfing and hobie cat sailing. The waves are gentle, so you don’t need to worry about being buoyed into the middle of the sea (in the unlikely instance that you do get blown, NOAH povides a safety vest and guides).
From a distance, windsurfing looks like a pretty easy feat. “It seems pretty doable”, I told me self after our briefing. On water though, it’s a different story. The mast is doubly heavy when wet and it is much harder to control the boom and pull it back to your body when the wind hits. Still, I had so much fun, and I look forward to more windsurfing in the future.
Hobie cat (with pilot and intro to sailing) – P800 for 30 minutes, maximum of 2 pax
Windsurf lessons – P2,500/hour; minimum of P1,500
Windsurf board rental – P800/hour
The highlight of our day was tandem paragliding with a trained pilot from Sarangani. Some of us flew in the morning, and some, during late afternoon. The wind conditions above Bantay Abot hill change throughout the day, so there are more windows of opportunity for a successful launch.
Even with my fear of heights, the contraptions felt very safe, and knowing that I was in the hands of master flyers who are trained by international pilots, made me at ease. There is no better way to cap a day than flying at sunset. As I watched the sun set at sea from hundreds of feet above, I heaved sighs of awe, grateful for being in Ilocos Sur to explore this lesser-known destination.
Vitalis White Sands
Our two-day journey ended at Vitalis White Sands, a Greek-themed resort straddling Sabangan Beach. One of many burgeoning Santorini-inspired resorts in the country, Vitalis White Sands is fitted with intricate Grecian details and luxury villas that afford one the best of both worlds: Philippines and Greece.
As I savored toothsome Greek dishes (and the best hummus) with my fellow writers, I became filled with happiness, having rediscovered the north. Truly, Ilocos Sur is more than just cobble-stone streets and heritage structures. It is a province brimming with possibilities for everyone – the history buff, the the luxury traveler, and thrill-seeking ones – yes, even those who fear heights.
Narvacan Outdoor Adventure Hub (NOAH)
Brgy. Bantay Abot, Narvacan, Ilocos Sur
Contact numbers: +639193498473/ +632 734 8883
Vitalis White Sands
2207 Santiago, Ilocos Sur
Contact number: +632 373 3333/ +632 404 4784