I’ve traveled to many places outside of the Philippines but I rarely get to travel within my home country. This year, though, I got to check off (from my bahket lest) one of my most sought after Philippine destination : El Nido, Palawan!
It has been so long since I’ve pined away at friends’ photos of the clear blue green waters, of the limestone rock formations, and the unbelievable sunsets! But this year, I got to experience it all! Well, minus the unbelievable sunsets… but I’ll get to that later!
Now, let me show you my El Nido Experience!
It was a lengthy drive to get to this cozy little municipality (5 hours straight from Puerto Princesa International Airport) but El Nido is way worth the trip!
The town was bustling with activity when we arrived around 4 in the afternoon, but we just passed it all by because our resort was located on the outskirts of town. We stayed at El Nido Cove Resort, a ten to fifteen minute ride from El Nido town. It’s a beach front resort with the most magnificent view of El Nido’s Cadlao Island and Bacuit Bay.
Here are some photos of our rooms taken from the resort’s website. I, unfortunately, could not take good photos because of the gloom and the rain.
We didn’t do much when we arrived. It was basically a whole day of traveling for us. The next day, however, was a full day of experiencing El Nido via their famous Island Hopping tour!
We got up early and rode a van back to town. It dropped us off near the beach and was told to wait for our boat there. The beach was lined with colorful shops and there are rest houses for rent, and the water was littered with dozens of ‘banka‘, or boats.
As you can see in the above photos, there’s a rather ominous looking grey cloud covering the tops of the distant mountain, and what we hoped and prayed for not to happen, happened. It rained. HARD. So, before we even got to ride our boat, we were already soaking wet and shivering from the cold.
Our boat arrived eventually and we boarded it but had to wait a while before we were given the go signal to leave the beach. They were very strict about the rules, which I appreciated (but which my parents did not).
We rode off to the first stop of El Nido Island Hopping Tour A, racing against the rain. The first spot was a beach called the 7 Commando Beach. It’s a white sand beach with clear waters, a rope swing, and 7 commando standees. I decided not to take photos here because it was really just a normal white sand beach for me, and it was pretty crowded. Also, we only had around 30 minutes to an hour, I think, to enjoy that stop. I saved precious phone battery for photo taking at our second stop, The Small Lagoon.
The Small Lagoon is one of the beautiful lagoons found around Miniloc Island and is also one of the main attractions of El Nido. We dropped anchor somewhere near this little beach, together with dozens of other banka.
[TIP : The boatmen highly suggest renting out a kayak before leaving for your tour. It cost us P1,000.00 for a kayak that we could use all throughout the tour. I also suggest getting one because it’s the best way to explore the lagoons you will be visiting.]
The captain and his crew helped unload our kayaks and, since we were a party of seven, we took turns sailing towards the lagoon. To find the lagoon (yes, you have to kayak or swim towards it first), just follow where all the swimmers and kayaks are going!
The ‘entrance’ to the small lagoon is actually a small gap between two limestone formations. It’s easy enough to kayak through, and even easier to swim through. Once you pass this gate of sorts, you’re in for a breathtaking view!
The water is clear and calm, which makes the lagoon a perfect swimming area for people who don’t know how to swim. Just pop on your lifejacket and float around the clear green waters. There are little to no waves or currents here because the limestone ‘gate’ prevents the waves of the open sea to disturb the quiet waters of the lagoon.
Once we’ve had our fill of (and taken selfies at) this beautiful lagoon, our boat got out of the ‘banka‘ parking area and we headed for lunch.
The typical island hopping fare was served right there on our boat. Grilled pork, grilled chicken, grilled fish, and crabs! Add in a platter of beautifully prepared fruits for dessert, and we were all good to go! The crew prepared all this on the boat while we were out and about in the beach and the lagoon. Plus, props for the awesome details they added to our fruit platter!
After our quick lunch on the boat, the captain informed us that we would not have time to go to one of the lagoons in our itinerary due to the strong winds and large waves. Instead, we headed for the last stop for our trip:
The Big Lagoon.
I think the Big Lagoon is one of the most photographed stops during an El Nido island hopping tour. The vastness of the ‘entrance’ to the lagoon is overwhelming and it can take your breath away!
[TIP : Conserve your camera/phone battery before you get to the Big Lagoon. The entryway to the lagoon is very picturesque, especially if the water is shallow and you can actually walk around the passage to the Big Lagoon! I am positive you can’t stop clicking away, just like we did!]
The looming limestone cliffs on both sides of the entrance seem like sentinels guarding a hidden oasis, deep in the forests of the island. The shockingly clear waters can entrance you!
I rode a kayak, alone, towards the lagoon! It was a bit tiring having to row the kayak by myself but it was rewarding in the end. At some parts, I lay down on the kayak and just soaked in the quiet and the stillness together with the background music that is mother nature. It was a magical experience. I experienced a sense of calm that I normally wouldn’t have experienced anywhere else.
Once you enter the lagoon proper, you’ll notice that the water color here is way darker than the water in the passageway. This means it’s waaaay deeper in the lagoon. Boats usually travel to, from, and around the lagoon, but our boat parked quite far from the lagoon, and there weren’t any other boats during that time as well. I fully enjoyed the peace and quiet that the lagoon offered me!
And then it was time to go. It’s always bittersweet when it’s time to leave, but El Nido really tugged at my heartstrings. I didn’t want to leave!
I hope to experience El Nido’s magic again soon!
If you want to experience some El Nido magic for yourself, head on over to Borderline Travel and Tour‘s facebook page and inquire about a package trip to Palawan! Our trip was smooth sailing from start to finish all thanks to the Borderline team!