How to explore the vanishing sandbars of the Philippines

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During the interview round of the 1994 Miss Universe Pageant, the presenter quizzed former Miss Philippines, Charlene Gonzales, about her home country’s geography.”How many islands are in the Philippines?” asked American game show emcee Bob Goan. Without missing a beat, Gonzales quipped: “High tide or low tide?“It’s a surprisingly tricky question. The Philippines’ official count currently sits at 7,641 islands. The tally does not include the thousands of shoals and sandbars that emerge during low tide, as a landform can only be classified as an island if it remains above water at all times.But the fleeting nature of sandbars makes them all the more exciting to explore.Though the Philippines is currently closed to international tourism due to the coronavirus pandemic, when travel safely resumes tourists can visit these disappearing sandbars if they plan ahead and time it perfectly with the tides.”With so many little islands and peninsulas in the Philippines, the tides are hard to predict because the landmasses create a labyrinth for the water — it’s got to go left and right and up and down to make its way around them,” Søren Knudsen, the co-founder of not-for-profit organization Marine Conservation Philippines, tells CNN Travel.”Even just 20 kilometers apart, the tides can be very different, depending on the topography. So if you want to visit a (disappearing) sandbar, you would need to consult the hyper-local tidal charts or travel with a local tourism operator.”