While Coron’s Wreck Dive and Kayangan lake entices travelers with its laid-back charm, El Nido has a different sublime beauty and enchanting retreats that will help you define “Perfect Holiday”.
While on-board approaching to El Nido Palawan I was amazed at the number of small islands visible from the air just waiting to be discovered. In fact many limestone islands are visible just across the bay from El Nido’s Bacuit Bay. If you plan on travelling here, island hopping should be a must do on your list.
The recommended method of island hopping here is by one of many motorized outrigger boats than can be easily hired from one of many providers in and around town. Our group just decided to avail a tour package which we got for only P550 or $12 on our second day in El Nido. Servant Tours allowed us to occupy the whole boat that usually sail with a maximum of 10 passengers.
Our first stop was in Small Lagoon. It is enclosed in black marble walls and can be reached only through a crack between rocks. I’m a little bit afraid of water except when I’m completely equipped with a diving gear but since most part of the lagoon is shallow, I joined the rest of the group but I left the area when I saw them snorkeling towards the deeper part of the lagoon.
Also in Miniloc Island is Big Lagoon. This lagoon is known for its deep emerald waters and mysterious rock formations. Its low tide when we reached the lagoon passage, good thing we are loaded in a medium sized boat which allowed us to explore the inner part of the famous lagoon.
Miniloc Island has an alluring hideout called Secret Lagoon that can be found few meters away from the secluded cove called Secret Lagoon Beach. To enter the secret lagoon, you have to crawl through a small hole. Just be careful, specially if you have your camera with you:)
Apart from the towering limestone walls surrounding the area, A Nipa hut can be found on the right side of the beach which serves as the quarter of the beach care-taker and his two lovely dogs.
On the middle part of the cove, a place covered by limestone walls serves as the grilling and dining area for tourists. We were lucky to be the first to arrive in the area coz theres only one comfortable dining place right beside a limestone wall with drift woods that serves as chairs and a space for a small table brought by the boatmen.
After our lunch, we then headed to another Island called Shimizu. A Japanese sounding island that became a favorite picnic place for local and foreign visitors. Surrounded by a limestone islets and limestone walls, this hideaway is also known for its beautiful coral garden that is perfect for snorkeling and sun bathing.
Our last stop was in Seven Commando beach – A long stretch of white sand beach situated at the South West of mainland El Nido and is only accessible by boat. Just like most tropical beaches, this part of El Nido is the best place to enjoy fresh coconut juice for only P30. Seven Commando is also a famous spot for photographers who wish to take sunset photos.
We realized that we still have so many islands to explore so we decided to book for another island hopping tour for our fourth day itinerary.
Our first stop was in Secret Beach in Matinloc Island – From afar, you will only see a small hole entrance which can only be reached by swimming or by kayaking. While everyone is enjoying in the secret beach, Nina and I was stuck in the boat waiting for their stories. Should I start enrolling in a swimming class? I think I should:)
After that useless stop (bitter), we headed to Matinloc Shrine – a pilgrimage site surrounded by numerous little bays along its coast with sandy beach and coral garden. Right within the towering cliff where the Cross was placed, we had a short 20 – 30 climb that gave us a birds eyeview of the neighboring island and breathtaking white sand beaches.
If you watched the movie “The Beach”, Hidden Beach will remind you of that movie because of the similar seascape. After learning that Alex Garland – the author of the 1996 famous novel “The Beach” stayed in El Nido while finishing his book, I realized that the movie will be much better if it was shot in El Nido.
The water in Hidden beach is tamed but not stagnant. Everyone enjoyed snorkeling while waiting for our grilled pork and fish lunch to be served. If you love finding Nemo (clown fish) then this beach if for you:)
Our next stop was in Helicopter Island which is locally known as Dilumacad Island. A favorite nesting site of marine turtles in El Nido, this island also attracts tourists having one of the most picturesque beach with Cadlao Island as the backdrop.
We were supposed to visit Snake Island or Vigan Island but since its too far, we decided to just have a lazy afternoon in Ipil 2 beach while waiting for the sunset. After the spectacular sunset, we headed back to the town proper for an early dinner.
If you are uncomfortable dealing directly with a tour operator, most resorts have their own craft or will set you up with a trusted or recommended tour operator. If motorized is not your style, a kayak tour of the neighboring islands could be arranged and easily accomplished due to the close proximity that the local islands have to each other.
An important reminder, make sure you find out the maximum number of people allowed on the boat so you are not surprised when you arrive at the dock. Most trips will only cover 4 sites in a day, but you will find that is more than plenty. Also make sure if the package includes snorkel gear and food or maybe ask what type of food are they serving. On our first island hopping, we rented our snorkel gear for P100 and they only served grilled fish, vegetable salad and pineapple for lunch while the other tour operator gave us a discounted rate of P75 and the food served was way better.
I found the rates to be quite affordable and consistent due primarily to the standard applied by the El Nido Pumpboat Owners and Operators Association, so you can be reasonably assured that you won’t be overcharged, though you can expect some price variations based on the services that the various providers offer.
Starting April 14, 2010, flights to El Nido will be every Wednesday, Sunday and Monday and the additional Monday flight will be available until end of June 2010. If you want to book your tickets to El Nido, visit www.FlySeair.com or call (+632) 8490100.
Seair also offers Special Tour Packages for your Summer vacation requirements, call SEAIR Leisure Escape Packages at (+632) 8437308.