“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Martin Buber
It was a pity that I didn’t get to visit El Nido the first time I traveled to Palawan. There just wasn’t enough time to squeeze everything in. I loved my stay in Puerto Princesa — from the fabulous dining experiences to the thrilling zip line adventure, from the fantastic marine life in Pambato reef to seeing the world-famous underground river. Yet, Puerto Princesa remains to be just one of Palawan’s gems. I am still thrilled to see other towns such as El Nido, Coron and Culion.
So when the opportunity to go back to Palawan presented itself, I grabbed it. I took the chance to visit El Nido, almost without thinking if I could afford it. El Nido is dubbed as paradise here on earth, so it probably would be worth all the money you spend on it.
After five long hours of winding road and rolling hills from Puerto Princesa, we arrived in El Nido at night. I have to admit that my first encounter with the town of El Nido left me disappointed — I expected a small quiet town yet I saw a tiny town cluttered with small shops whose streets are bustling with foreign tourists. Tomorrow would be a better day, I said to myself.
I woke up feeling refreshed, ready to embrace the sunny day ahead of me. I took the chance to take the view from the hotel’s balcony, seeing the shore filled with fishermen selling their freshest catch, tourists queuing up to pay the environmental fees, locals loading boats of products from town, and tourists boarding the big boat bound for Coron.
Rovel, our tour guide, showed up on time. As we boarded the boat, the captain told us that we’d be doing Tour C that day. The sea was “calm” (I can’t even imagine what turbulent seas are).
Our first stop was Helicopter Island, named after the shape of the island which really resembles a helicopter, except that it had no blades. We got down, tried to snorkel, yet the waves were too strong for me to swim, and the water wasn’t clear enough to see anything.
We left soon and headed to Matinloc Shrine. Built to be the residence of a priest (or maybe priests — as this is definitely not a showcase of their vow of poverty), the building is a white elephant due to its distance from the town proper. As I climbed the rock formation in front, I was stunned by the great view ahead of me. It was the first fantastic view I’ve seen in El Nido, and it definitely took my breath away. The blue green waters of the sea were surrounded by rocky cliffs dusted with bits of flora as the sun shone against the water. Wow!
It was time for lunch. We settled for a spot in Kulasa Beach, where the pristine waters of El Nido meet with peach-colored sand. As Rovel, Kuya Rudy and Kapitan prepared our lunch, we went snorkeling. It was definitely better than Helicopter Island, though after some time, there were unseen organisms that made my skin sting! I went back to the shade and soon found myself basking in gastronomic goodness of grilled meat and fish and very juicy watermelon slices. Yum!
Our timing was perfect that, after lunch, we were the only group in the beach. I took the chance to feel the fine grain of sand against my skin, lie along the stretch of sand and feel the waves hit me. Soon, it was time to leave.
The next stop was Secret Beach. Unfortunately, the waves were too strong, and we had to dive just to get inside. I was too scared so we decided to skip this. Sigh. Maybe next time.
Our last destination was the back of Miniloc Island. Miniloc is a private island, where a luxury resort stands. At its back sits one great snorkeling site. There is an abundance of fish with different shapes and sizes. This was the second amazing view I had in El Nido! Though it wouldn’t compare to the beauty of Pambato Reef in Puerto Princesa, it was the best snorkeling experience I had in El Nido. Too bad that the underwater camera’s battery charge was already depleted, so I couldn’t share the sights. 😦 Note: Typically the tours will bring you to the Hidden Beach, but due to the strong waves we were brought here. It was really a blessing in disguise. 🙂
That was it for our first island hopping day. I’ll post about El Nido Tour A next time.