Dream a little dream

What do you get when you combine the understated cool of Dedon furniture with one of the world's best surf breaks and a pristine island in the Philippines? The dream barefoot luxury retreat. Ondine Cohane escapes reality at Dedon Island Resort.

Surfers tend to find the best beach spots first. They also like to keep their hideaways secret. It is perhaps because of this, and the fact that getting to Siargao used to involve an uncomfortable overnight ferry (a new air service debuted in 2011), following an oft-cancelled flight from Manila to Cebu, that this gorgeous island in the southern Philippines, stayed off the radar for most travellers.

But the opening of the Dedon Island resort in 2012 put this teardrop-shaped, coconut swathed paradise on the map for intrepid insiders looking for true luxury within a very isolated and pristine environment. Nine palatial villas face the sea with huge custom beds draped in white muslin, open showers that are the centrepiece of perfectly designed bathrooms with original and repurposed wood, and swinging daybeds that sit on terraces among the tropical gardens dotted with wild orchids and gently shaded palm trees. 

 

Luxurious rain shower | Dedon Island

 

Seasonal and local produce from the property’s organic farm – not to mention seafood from the fishermen that arrive daily in bancas, traditional Filipino fishing boats – provide the basis of the simple but gourmet meals whipped up by the private chef alongside wines from the private cellar. Meanwhile, communal areas with oversize sofas, coffee table books, fire pits (and a screening room) provide the perfect nooks to wile away rainy days. And a beachside trampoline, pool and volleyball net, alongside waiting kayaks and surfboards, provide the outdoor entertainment right outside the front door.

If it all sounds a bit like a curated slice of barefoot paradise, there is a reason. This is the personal dream and hideaway for Bobby Dekeyser, a former soccer star for Bayern Munich. After a career-ending injury in his 20s, he created a hugely successful furniture company also called Dedon, with installation worthy pieces like hanging “cocoon” chairs and huge lattice-backed sofas, favourites of the fashion and interior design set. Dekeyser discovered Siargao on a side trip from Cebu a few years ago (the Philippines is famous for its high-quality rattan weaving) and decided to create his own luxury bolt-hole as well as the perfect showcase for his designs. 

 

Barefoot luxury at Dedon Island Resort

 

Luckily he also opened the getaway to other visitors two seasons ago. Despite the great beauty and understated chic of Dedon itself, it is ultimately the island’s own natural attractions that are the main draw and provide the heightened sense of barefoot idyll for travellers here. Cloud 9, for example, is one of the best waves on the global surf championship circuit, a fast tube of a break created by the Philippine Trench (a canyon between tectonic plates that is the world’s third deepest point). The break, first discovered in the 1980s by intrepid Australian surfers who were looking for the next big secret ride, now hosts Quiksilver and Billabong tournaments, but there are plenty of other surf spots around the island that are appropriate for even amateur wave riders. 

Small thatched fishing huts suspended over the water’s edge stand alongside deserted white sand beaches where travellers can have long picnics under shaded palapas (traditional open-sided thatch roof huts). Channels of mangrove lagoons are the gateways to secluded canals to kayak on sun-dappled days. Mountain biking, stand-up paddle boarding, deep-sea fishing and diving, wakeboarding, and surfing are only some of the activities Sean, the Kenyan-born activities coordinator for Dedon, arranges for clients. Boat rides through the outlying islands lead past tiny uninhabited powder-white pieces of land amid a sea that turns from turquoise to emerald green. 

Meanwhile, on the interior of the island, rides in the resort’s jeepney lead through unspoiled tropical forest punctuated by fluorescent rice paddies and gentle carabao (Filipino water buffalo) plowing the land. The jeepney is a white and chrome take on the ubiquitous bus meets tricked-out former army jeep that you see throughout the country. 

But perhaps Siargao’s greatest assets are of an even more subtle nature. In a world where it is hard to find somewhere laid back and naturally spectacular, Siargao still feels completely off the grid and down to earth. There are no gated compounds here and despite the mix of simple surf lodges alongside five stars like Dedon, visitors mingle all together on the beaches or in sand-road towns where local fishermen mend nets and kids bike to the surf with boards on their backs. There are plans to turn Siargao and the adjacent islands into an ecological reserve —so it should well remain an idyllic getaway. Plus with Dedon as the digs, one could stay here forever.

 

Relax with a spa treatment | Dedon Island Resort

 

In a world where it is hard to find somewhere laid back and naturally spectacular, Siargao still feels completely off the grid and down to earth.

Staying here

Superior villas are priced from US$522 (about A$562) per person per night and deluxe villas from US$783 (about A$843) per person per night. Rates include all meals, beverages, massages, excursions and activities (excluding diving and deep sea fishing). dedonisland.com

Getting there

Philippine Airlines flies to Manila four times a week from Sydney and three times a week from Melbourne and Darwin. Return economy fares are priced from A$914 and business class fares from A$2,637. Flight time is four and a half hours from Darwin and eight and a half hours from the east coast. phillipineairlines.com

From Manila, Cebu Pacific (a budget carrier) is the only airline that flies to Siargao. Flights operate from Manila via Cebu six times a week. Return economy fares are priced from PHP9,847 (about A$242) and there is no business class on the route. Flight time is around two hours plus stopover.

When to go

Dedon Island is open all year round, but the best time to visit is during the dry season from April to October.

 

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Weather to go

The Philippines has many regions that are good to visit in all seasons, like Cebu and some of the provinces in the Visayas.  November through February are characteristically the best times to visit, while July through September is typhoon season.  The average temperature in the Philippines is around 30 degrees Celsius.

 

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