Sunday, 21 April 2013

2012: El Nido, Palawan

This is a post that has been delayed far too long and now that summer is here, I am forced to rekindle the memories that I have of this place. Taking a trip down this particular memory lane is a bittersweet experience; it makes me happy and sad at the same time (bipolar much?). I am happy because I am so grateful that this paradise exists here in the Philippines. At the same time, I am sad because it's too far. Yep, it's the cliched statement "so near yet so far away."

As of this moment, El Nido is my most favorite place in the Philippines. I've been there twice, but if given the chance, I'd come back to it again and again if I could. I feel like I can stay there forever. Just imagine, its beauty is so spectacular that Alex Garland, the author of "The Beach," allegedly got the inspiration from El Nido's "Secret Beach" in writing his novel.

Anyway, enough ranting about the beauty of El Nido. I'll tell you most of the things I can remember about this trip so that you can also have an idea for your itinerary if ever you wish to go to this paradise. 

WARNING: Long post with lots of pictures and some boring minute details.

DISCLAIMER: All shots taken in/ under the water belong to the awesome photographer, Trish Surema! =D 


DAY 1: Manila to Puerto Princesa, Puerto Princesa to El Nido

Normally (and by this I mean you're not 'filthy rich' that you'd just ride an expensive charter plane going there), you can ride a plane going to Puerto Princesa first. Cebu Pacific, Zest Air and Air Philippines offer the cheapest flights to these places. If possible, wait for a promo fare because normal roundtrip flight rates usually cost around P3,500.00++.

Once you reach Puerto Princesa,you will have to take a 6-hour van ride going to El Nido. Ideally, you should book a seat in a van prior to your trip especially when it is peak season. You should also check the schedule of the van's trips daily. A roundtrip van ride costs P 1,300.00. Our group rode the van of Fort Wally and it was comfortable enough.

On our way to El Nido, we had the time to visit Puerto Princesa's beautiful "Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral."

This marks the start of the looooooong van ride to El Nido. For those who constantly needs to go to the washroom, fear not since the van driver is gracious enough to stop at every gasoline station along the way for a short CR break. Halfway to El Nido also, the van driver stops at a small carinderia for lunch where you can buy food that costs around P50.00++.

After several hours of being stuck in a van, this is my first sight of the beach. Don't get discouraged with what you see here since the beach in El Nido itself is used for just 'parking' the boats. It's not ideal to swim in this location since the boats secrete a lot of oil and you wouldn't want to swim on that oily sludge. 

Besides, to experience the real 'magic' of El Nido, you'll have to do an island hopping tour. (^_~)

So in our case, we left Puerto Princesa at around 10:00 am and arrived at El Nido around 4:00 pm. Needless to say, it was a little bit dark already so we spent our first night at El Nido settling down and looking for a good (and cheap) place to eat at.  I wanted to go back to a restaurant with live music that I ate at back at year 2010, but alas, I couldn't remember the name. So, we had to make do with another carinderia that sells food for around P80.00- P120.00. 

The food was nothing spectacular. The service was bad and slow. But, we were entertained because of these two; stalker mode on!!! XD

After eating our lousy dinner, we went around the town and looked for a boat that we could rent for the next day's island hopping. We found a wonderful boat shop called "Spider Pension House," whom we commissioned for two days of island hopping tour. Tour A costs P700.00. Tour B costs P800.00. But, you have to pay extra for snorkels, fins and kayaks if you want to use them. If I'm not mistaken, snorkels and fins cost less than a hundred pesos and the rent for using a kayak the whole day costs around P750.00.

We then went back to our rooms after settling our plans for the next day. We were able to get two standard townside rooms and 1 cottage at Marina Beach Garden Resort, which is a good place to stay at for budget travelers. A standard room here would cost you around 650.00/night per person with breakfast.

This is a peak inside the "Jessica Cottage." It's quite spacious and the bathroom is big. It is clean and you can hear the waves lulling you to sleep at night. It's a fan room, but you can request for extra fans if you still find it hot.

Here is a peek inside one of the standard townside rooms. It's smaller than the Jessica Cottage. See, we are cramped inside, you can't even see the beds! But, the bonus here is that there's an airconditioning unit. 

Though I must say, consider this a warning: you'd only be able to mostly enjoy the luxury of using the aircon solely at night time since most places in El Nido is powered by a generator. There's no electricity from 6am to 2pm so basically, you cannot lounge around in your room all day long; why would you do that anyway when you're surrounded with paradise islands!

DAY 2: Island Hopping Tour A 

Miniloc Island (Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon), Simizu Island, Seven Commandos Island

 Of course, we availed our free breakfast, which did its job of energizing us. We were definitely thrilled for this!

The ride to the first destination, Small Lagoon, is a looong one filled with really huge waves. So we had a really 'bumpy' and wet ride, which was further exacerbated when Tita Alma got hold of the boat's controls.

On our way to the Small Lagoon, we passed by some really breath-taking sceneries like this huge stone in the middle of the vast ocean and the secluded beach of Miniloc Island.

Anyway, here is the entrance to the Small Lagoon. As you can see, there are lots of boats outside mainly because it wouldn't fit inside. Basically, you have to swim all the way inside to see the cave and I'm telling you, it's a loooong swim; around 15- 20 minutes of swimming in deep water. If you're not a swimmer, I suggest that you use a lifevest or better yet, just use your kayak, if you rented one. 

The water here is so clear! Outside the Small Lagoon, it is a little bit hard to swim because of the strong sea current, but once you get inside, it is much easier to swim, like swimming in a pool!

Photo by Trish

 Photo by Trish

This is what it looks like inside the Small Lagoon. You're gonna have to swim through these calm waters. Small Lagoon remains my most favorite island in El Nido because it's just so peaceful inside. You can hear the birds singing, see the green foliage of the surrounding trees while swimming in gentle waters. It's just so perfect. Anyway, you might be wondering why you'd want to swim all the way inside; it's because there is a small cave inside the Small Lagoon, which is worth seeing.

Photo by Trish (Thank you for your underwater camera!)

Photo by Trish

Here is Kuya Weng, our trusty boat driver. 

As much as I hate to leave the Small Lagoon, we had to move on to our next destination, the Big Lagoon. Your boat's just going to pass through it. No swimming/ snorkeling whatsoever, just sightseeing.

What's amazing in this place is this rock formation. It looks like Mama Mary praying!

After The Big Lagoon, the boat driver would bring you to Simizu Island where you can have your lunch, which is already part of the payment for the whole day tour. The boatmen are the ones who are going to prepare your yummy lunch. It usually consists of grilled fish/squid, pork, vegetable rice and fruits. 

 photo by Trish
Simizu Island is a beautiful island, perfect for taking pictures! I'm not really a photo addict, but we just had to take advantage of this picturesque place!

 photo by Trish

 photo by Trish

 photo by Trish

Different shades of blue, where the sky meets the sea and the mountains. It is truly a breathtaking place! But, the waves here are quite strong so you'd probably get a lot of pounding from the waves if you try to swim here.

After eating a hearty lunch, we snorkeled around the waters of Miniloc Island. There aren't a lot of coral formations here, but there were definitely plenty of fishes hungry for some bread!!!

photo by Trish

The last island for our first day of island hopping was Seven Commandos Island, which is a really idyllic place. There are lots of coconut trees; there even used to be a small nipa hut here that sells some refreshing coconut juice, but I didn't see the store anymore on my second visit. There is also a real washroom in this island.

After all the excitement that this day has posed for us, it was time for some relaxation, which we were able to get from this island, much like what these two are doing.

At moments like these, it reminds you that we are only a small part of the vast universe. You'd feel so in tune with nature here!

The sand here is not as powdery as Boracay's sand, but nevertheless, it is still beautiful! What I love about the beaches in El Nido is that there are almost no rocks and not much itchy seaweeds! Most of all, there aren't too much people here so if you're tired of crowded beaches, better try El Nido!

Successful first day of island hopping!

Coincidentally, Kuya Weng, our trusted boatman, was able to determine the restaurant I was talking about based on my poor description of "it had live bands singing" and "there used to be a small museum there." Apparently, the name of the place is Balay Tubay where Kuya Weng actually sings!

Tita Alma was also able to perform on stage, singing her own rendition of "Part of Your World."

The place is beautiful in a rustic sort of way with lots of pictures of artists. The local bands also play beautiful reggae songs. What's better is that the food tastes great! Though not exactly cheap, it is still affordable. Food here costs around P300.00++ 

DAY 3: Island Hopping Tour B

Pinagbuyutan Island, Snake Island, Cudugnon Cave, Cathedral Cave and Ipil Beach

Despite our exhausting first day of island hopping, we were still hyper and energetic-- still excited to see more of the beauty that El Nido offers! 

The water here is just so clear and clean!!! You can practically see the corals underneath...

Our first destination for our Tour B is the snorkeling place near Pinagbuyutan Island. Here, we discovered Tita Alma's "floatation flirting device."

There weren't a lot of fish in this area, but there were some corals... The water here is also deeper than the snorkeling area at Miniloc Island, but the sea current here is much stronger.

photo by Trish

I feel so envious of Trish! She's able to go down deep in the water whilst I can only duck my head underwater. Hahaha. Curse my natural buoyancy!

 photo by Trish

photo by Trish

I don't know why, but this pictures makes me smile. Probably because of Tita Alma who looks like a superhero (complete with a cape) lost underwater! Her pose is similar to the flying pose of superheroes also!

Next up is our stop at Snake Island. During low tide, there usually appears a small and winding sand strip in the middle of the blue waters. Here, I'll show you a picture of the Snake Island during my first visit on year 2010... I'll probably make a separate photo blog on this 2010 travel.

During low tide... See the white shallow strip of sand?

Unfortunately for this 2012 trip, we arrived during high tide; the water was shallow-- only up to our hips though at some parts, it's up to our shoulders-- but, it was hard to wade in the water as opposed to just walking in the sand!

photo by Trish

During high tide... See the difference?

photo by Trish

Nevertheless, we still had lots of fun in this place!!! It was such a joy shooting in the shallow waters... We got so many wacky shots!

 photo by Trish

Introducing the bloated family! ^_~

 photo by Trish

photo by Trish

See, you can practically see the sand beneath... That's how shallow it was!

 photo by Trish

Postcard- worthy pictures of Trish and Sir Rem!  

The Cudugnon Cave is our third destination for Tour B. To get inside, you'll have to squeeze through this small space... It's a tight fit so you'll really have to contort your whole body in order to fit in this hole!

A peek inside Cudugnon Cave. Just beware: The first 'chamber' that you'll find yourself in is filled with a puddle of sea water mixed with the bat's urine. Understandably,it smells bad, but it's worth braving it since the rock formations inside are just a must-see!

Tita Alma and Trish were brave enough to follow Kuya Weng to the top of this jagged and steep rock formation... While they were doing that, the rest of us were in the ground, watching their ascent.


But, Kuya Weng was not done showing off impressing us. He climbed this high rock formation that barely had any foothold! No one in our group would be able to follow him even if we wanted to!

Our serious and astig "El Nido Clan" group picture. Hihihi!

And of course, here are some wacky pictures... I don't think that wearing goggles and shades inside a cave is a smart thing to do. Haha!

Aaaand, here we are 'meditating' just outside of Cudugnon Cave.

On our way to the next destination, we saw this cute island that looked like a turtle!!!

The next destination is called Cathedral Cave, which you'll just pass through. 

Just by judging the color of the water, it is obvious that this area is quite deep. At first, I wanted to jump in because the water looked so inviting. But, common sense told me to ask Kuya Weng if it was OK to do so. What he said frightened me enough not to even try. According to him, there were really big fishes in this water (he said the name, I just forgot what it was) that drags you down underneath. You know, I love watching films/ documentaries about monster fishes, but I wasn't ready to die because of them!

Anyway, we were able to see Survivor Sweden filming in one of the islands on our way to Ipil Beach!!!

The last island stop for us is called "Ipil Beach." At first, I was apprehensive to even stop out of the boat because of this sign. But, it was OK since the 'island guards' did not stop us from going there. But, I just read a comment in tripadvisor that this island is apparently owned by Manny Pacquiao now... Is this true??

It's OK to stay here. See, I even 'vandalized' on the sand. Haha!

I feel most rested on this island probably because it was the last one on our list so we were more laid- back... It is also a very tranquil place; there were no other boats or visitors in this island when we were there.

While Trish and I were on a quest to find bizarre sea cucumbers, our other companions found a better use to occupy their time with. SLEEP! I knew this big rock would come in handy!

We stayed here until sunset. Perfect!

I think I really need to practice doing the jump shot. According to Trish, "mukha kang binato ng dagat!"

Ikaw na Trish, ikaw na! Hahahaha

We're glad that Kuya Weng and Kuya Noy, the boatmen, did not make us hurry up in leaving. They were kind enough to extend our island hopping tour up to 6pm even though it was supposed to end at 4pm. Thus, we were able to immensely enjoy our last stay in the wonderful islands of El Nido. Sadly, it's already finished.

On our last night, we ate at a restaurant called Habibi. The food was really yummy, but the service was kind of slow. Or, we were just really famished. =)

Trish and I planned to fully enjoy our last night on El Nido by strolling around on the beach, having a massage or by going back to Balay Tubay in order to listen to more live Reggae music. But, I'm sad to say that I was unable to fulfill this promise because by 9:00pm, I fell asleep with my ina! So exhausted!

Day 4: El Nido to Puerto Princesa, Puerto Princesa to Manila

Day 4 was mainly spent on traveling. If by chance you're reading this blog, I suggest that you should at least have 6 days in order to visit all of the islands offered by island hopping tours since there are 4 tours all in all.

 If you'll ask me if it's worth it to visit El Nido, 100% I'd say yes. El Nido is so beautiful that even though I suffered weeks and weeks from my skin asthma due to being exposed to sea water, I'm willing to suffer from it again if it means that I'd get to see these islands once again. I've been to El Nido twice and I hope that I'd still be able to come again. And again. And again. If possible, I'd LOVE to live here!

1 comment:

  1. Perfect. Superbly perfect!

    Thanks for this BLOG ;)

    Cosmic travels await....

    Shalom :)