Boracay in OpenStreetMap

5:28 pm PHT

 Map of Boracay in OpenStreetMap

Here’s one thing that I’d like to claim: OpenStreetMap has currently the best freely-available online map of the island resort of Boracay. Period. You can go see for yourself. It’s way ahead of the others like Google Map Maker and MapCentral.

Google Map Maker’s problem is the fact that Google emphasizes tracing over high-resolution satellite imagery of which Boracay has none in Google Maps. OpenStreetMap, on the other hand, emphasizes mapping using GPS-based surveying and so there is not so much dependence needed on high-resolution satellite imagery (though it would be nice). Users can actually map Boracay in Google Map Maker using GPS via the Overlay feature, but so far, no one has bothered to do it. Certainly, people go to Boracay to relax and have a vacation and not really to go around mapping so the island won’t be mapped as much unless one is motivated enough (and OpenStreetMappers are quite motivated).

OSM mapping in Boracay has a pretty interesting history. The island’s major roads and many of its POIs (points of interests, like hotels and resorts) have been mapped by Mike Collinson back in 2007. Mike is a British national who has stayed for quite a while in the Philippines and has been mapping the country even before there was an active Philippine OSM community. Some other details on the island have been added by Bill Mitchell, an American who retired to Boracay and who also contributes to Wikipedia.

Then earlier this year, the guys at Enthropia, who run, decided to sponsor a 25,000-peso mapping trip to the island. (See my Plurk announcement.) The lucky guy was Jim Morgan, a British expat and OpenStreetMapper, whom I’ve met back in March. He flew to the island and basically filled in the details and verified the work started by Mike. He also added some visual aids by approximating the area of each hotel and resort so that the map will not look empty.

 OSM map of Boracay’s Station 3

Shown above is how the area around Boracay’s Station 3 looks like in OSM. The one to the left is the default Mapnik map layer while to the right is the Osmarender layer. Mapnik is the more aesthetic layer but it doesn’t show all the labels to prevent text and icon overlapping. Osmarender, on the other hand, shows all labels (for debugging purposes) and easily shows how much data OSM has on the island.

To be clear, the Boracay map on OpenStreetMap definitely needs more mapping. There are plenty of walkways, paths, and more detail that could be added and the approximated shapes could use a lot more refinement. In addition, new resorts and hotels need to be added as well. But because this is OpenStreetMap, anyone can do it!

The nice thing about the map data being in OpenStreetMap is that anyone can now create their own maps of Boracay and even load it into their GPS devices or GPS-enabled phones. You don’t have to become lost looking for that budget hotel in Boracay that don’t have transportation services from the airport. Now ain’t that cool?  :-)

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