Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Piece of Paradise on Earth... El Nido, Palawan

There is a kind meme going around the internet for sometime now called "Expectation vs Reality", where people compare the actual outcome against what they constructed in their mind before seeing, or experiencing the outcome. Most of the time, the expectations are always above in standard against the reality. This is very true when we are going on a vacation to well known places like Boracay, Bohol, etc... We have these pictures in our head on what this place look like or how it should look like. But a lot of times, when we reached our destination, the actual place disappoints us.

El Nido, does not fit on this "Expectation vs. Reality" meme. These photos I took, even though how colorful, or how detailed, are pinch of sand in one of the beaches in one of the islands of El Nido. You have to be there to marvel on its actual beauty.

El Nido (officially the Municipality of El Nido) is a first class municipality and managed resource protected area in the province of Palawan in the Philippines. It is about 420 kilometres (260 mi) southwest of Manila, and about 238 kilometres (148 mi) northeast of Puerto Princesa, Palawan’s capital. According to CNNGo, it is the Best Beach and Island destination in the Philippines for its "extraordinary natural splendor and ecosystem."

Situated in Bacuit Bay, El Nido, covering a land area of 465.1 square kilometres (179.6 sq mi) in the northernmost tip of mainland Palawan, is bordered by the Linapacan Strait in the north, the Sulu Sea in the east, and the South China Sea in the west. It is composed of 45 islands and islets,[6] each has its own unique geological formations. The highest peak is at Cadlao Island, towering up to 640 metres (2,100 ft) above sea level. (from Wikipedia)

Honda Bay

Puerto Princesa's Gateway

Direct flight from Manila to El Nido is priced at around Php 7k (Php 6,750 to be exact) via chartered plane (flights@elnidoboutiqueandartcafe.com). However, if you want to get there on a budget, you can get a flight to Puerto Princesa then endure at least 5 hours of van ride to El Nido. Since I prefer backpacking tour over luxurious tour (since I can't afford it), I've chosen to enjoy the 5 hour drive to El Nido.

Our first stop after arriving Puerto Princesa International Airport is a local restaurant for lunch. A persistent van driver from the airport followed us to continue his failed offer to take us to El Nido. We've closed the deal before we ate our lunch, so the happy persistent driver prepared his van for us. Other than van, there are buses plying to El Nido. The bus has more leg room and you can recline your seat if you want to sleep but it will take you more than 6 hours on the road while the  van, although the leg room is not as comfortable as that of the bus, will get you to El Nido a lot faster.

Stop over along the road going to El Nido

We arrived at El Nido around 6:00 PM. We dropped our things in the hotel and went out for dinner then went back to the hotel and called it a day.

Bad news woke us up the next day or our first day of having fun in El Nido. No one is allowed to do island hopping as per Cost Guard. The Cost Guard in El Nido is active in securing the tourist's safety so everyday their advise is strictly observed by the tour guides. Don't worry if all boat tours are cancelled on the day you are in El Nido, there are other places to go like in our case, we went to Nacpan Beach.

Nacpan Beach

The other side of Nacpan Beach

The popular Twin Beach

We literally spent the whole day beach bumming in Nacpan. Its long stretch of golden brown sand and cool waves will help you relax.

Day 3: Good News! We can proceed with our Island Tours! Here are some of the photos of our 1st day hopping from island to island. We signed up for a mix of Tour A and B (There is a standard tour packages offered in El Nido. The government implemented this to control the flow of tourists in different parts of the islands. See here for more details).

El Nido Tour Map

Waiting area...

El Nido

Miniloc Island

First stop: Miniloc's Big lagoon

The famous channel to the lagoon. At low tide, boat cannot pass through this shallow channel. Tourists go on foot to see the lagoon. 

Boats are not allowed to stay long inside the lagoon due to the heavy influx of tourists. Do not expect that you'll be able to swim inside the big lagoon. However, there is another smaller lagoon on the other side of Miniloc where you really have to swim to get there.You'll have to pass under a rock formation. If you have resources, I suggest that you get a Kayak to navigate the small lagoon.

Shimizu and Inatula Island
We tried snorkeling in the middle of these islands but after getting into the water, the weather started that the Coast Guard roaming the area advised our tour guide to get our boat to safety.

Shimizu Island

Snake Island

Short trail going up to get the best view of the island.

Cadugnon Point

Inside Cadugnon Cave

Pinagbuyutan Island. Great beach with majestic limestone formation at the back.

Enjoying the beach...

Back to main land.

Day 4: Tour C, Hidden Beaches and Shrine

Road to the boat loading site in El Nido's main land.

Narrow channel going to the Hidden Beach.

The beach that inspires writer Alex Garland to write his novel "The Beach"

Matinloc Shrine

On top of one of the lime stone formations in Matinloc has one of the best views.

One of the powdery white sand beaches in Matinloc Island.

The food is already included in the tour package. So, all you need to do is show up, pay for the tour, and enjoy.

Helicopter Island

Ubugon Cove. Tourists need to swim from this point to the cove. Medium size boats and bigger cannot pass through this shallow water filled with coral formations. Swimming to the cove will not bore you as long as you keep your head under the water.

Dilumacad Island. I say the best beach in town...

This is our home for 4 nights in El Nido. They serve the best Dangit breakfast.

Our last night in El Nido at Art Cafe Restaurant. Must try!

On our 5th day, we left El Nido very early in the morning (5:40AM) to take the bus going to Puerto Princesa. It took us more than 6 hours to reach Puerto Princesa. We took the last flight out of Puerto Princesa via Zest Air and arrived in manila around 9:30 in the evening.

To wrap up:

  • You need at least 4 days to enjoy El Nido. 2 days is allotted to travel time. If you have resources, you need 3 days via chartered flight directly to El Nido.
  • There are 5 standard tours (4 island hopping and 1 inland). You can mix some of them together.
  • Bus or Van, its your choice. If you need more time to enjoy El Nido, go by van. If you need more money to spend in El Nido, go by bus.
  • Lastly, enjoy...