‘Rugged’ is usually the word you hear associated with these two eastern Visayan provinces, separated from each other by the narrowest of straits near Leyte’s capital, Tacloban. It’s an apt tag. The interior of both islands is consumed by virtually impenetrable forest. This naturally creates opportunities for adventure, although you either have to learn advanced backcountry navigation or scrounge up one of the region’s few qualified guides to take advantage of it.
The coastlines of both islands serve up a few gems of their own, most notably tourist-free whale shark viewing in southern Leyte. For fanatical surfers, the eastern seashore of Samar offers a coastline of unexplored breaks facing the onslaught of Pacific currents – getting there is the only problem. There’s history here too – in 1521 Magellan first stepped ashore on what would become Philippine soil on the island of Homonhon, off Samar. In October 1944, General MacArthur fulfilled his pledge to return to the Philippines on Red Beach south of Tacloban. And who can forget the notorious Balangiga Massacre?