The formidable looking mountains and hills of Batanes are a great challenge to mountaineers. Mount Iraya on Batan Island rises to about 1,009 meters above sea level and is the highest peak on Batan Island and its spring water is the main source of water for Basco. A good climb for mountaineers, it is also home of the Batanes pit viper, an arboreal snake found only in Batanes and one of the rarest snake species in the world. The Batanes Pit Vipers live on trees and produce their young from eggs hatching within their bodies. They are typically green in color with some others having yellow, black, orange or red markings. Mount Iraya is also home to an abundant number of endemic species of flora and fauna. Some of the flora and fauna that can be found in Batanes are the Indochinese Shrew, Ryukyu Flying Fox, Asian Water Snake and plants like the Voyavoy (a Philippine date palm which is used to make another iconic Batanes item- the Vakul- the traditional headgear for women who use them to protect themselves from the sun, and the rain; the men use the traditional vests called Kanayi and the Salakut as a hat), Kanarem, and Vuhuan. The entire province was declared as a protected landscape and seascape by the Philippine government in 1992.
The biggest religious minority are Muslim Filipinos who primarily live in Mindanao and ARMM, but also increasingly in cities such as Manila, Baguio or Cebu in the north and central parts of the country. They account for around 5% of the population. Islam is the oldest continually practised organized religion in the Philippines, with the first conversions made in the 12th century AD. Islam became such an important force that Manila at the time of the Spanish arrival in the 16th century was a Muslim city. Many aspects of this Islamic past are seen in certain cultural traits many mainstream Christian Filipinos still exhibit (such as eating and hygiene etiquette) and has added to the melting pot of Filipino culture in general. Sadly, Terrorist attacks and violent confrontations between the Filipino army and splinter militant Islamic organizations such as the Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have strained relations between Muslim and the non-Muslim Filipinos in rural areas in the south. Yet, the Muslim Filipinos are much more liberal in their interpretations of Islam, and like the Muslims of Indonesia, are generally more relaxed regarding such topics as gender-segregation or the hijab (veil) than South Asians or Middle Eastern Muslims.
Barefoot elegance is the prevailing vibe on this tiny island, where the 2 ½-mile stretch known as White Beach is often singled out for having the softest sand in the world. The 88 spacious suites feature large glass walls that look towards a scenic rock garden, but chances are you'll spend more time by the water. Take a dip in the pool, or jet-ski on the crystalline sea. For people-watching, head to the Sandbar, where they stir up delicious mojitos, infused with local flavors like lychee and mango. Sing your heart out with the recreation lounge’s selection of 1,000+ (mostly English-language) karaoke tunes.