EL NIDO is truly one of the best kept treasures in the province of Palawan. It has a lot to offer from Big and Small Lagoons, to the intriguing Snake Island, Hidden Beach and Secret Beach among others. The BACKPACKERS were very fortunate to have a complete El Nido experience. For two days, we set out on its clear waters to discover its beauty.
Here are the islands, beaches and lagoons that we visited during our island hopping adventure:
We had a nice first stop in one of the nearest island. The name of this island is a no-brainer. You will easily identify the chopper figure as you approach it, hence the name 'Helicopter Island'. During our visit, it was still open for public tours. However, our guide said that it has been bought by a known big corporation and will soon be privatized. He said we were lucky to set foot on its fine cream sand as it is quite possible that in the future, it might be treated with exclusivity.
Positioned in the far west of El Nido where the sky meets the ocean in the horizon, no one would suspect its existence - Hidden Beach. One has to brave the massive waves in order to see its beauty. It was ironic that despite being surrounded by angry waters, it was so serene and peaceful once you get to it. This is the beauty of Hidden Beach - it is a precious jewel hidden to unsuspecting visitors due to being masked by the nauseating wave action that surrounds it.
If you need to battle and wade through giant waves in the open sea to get to the Hidden Beach, you will face a different obstacle to get to Secret Beach. You need to swim against the current with moderate waves through a narrow opening to get inside it. You will notice the circular cliffs that cover the area once you are inside Secret Beach.
Secret Beach is the inspiration of the writer of the novel and film "The Beach" which starred Leonardo DiCaprio. This is one testament on how awesome and inspiring the Philippine destinations are. Thumbs up!
A shrine can be found in the island of Matinloc. There is a religious and political controversy surrounding its once active regime. And we will leave the guides to tell you this while you marvel in its paved hall ways and abandoned hostel. But the major attraction in this area is the Matinloc Cliff which offers a breathtaking view of some of the islands in El Nido. A short hike will get you on top of the cliffs. Not a fan of 'cliff' climbing? Don't worry, the marvelous views on top will be ten times worth it.
Simizu Island was our 'lunch island' during our first day of island hopping in El Nido. While our guides were preparing our sumptuous meal, we spent our time snorkeling and kayaking in the area. It was so beautiful and peaceful that we couldn't help but try these water activities. By the time we were done and went to the makeshift dining area, we were thrilled to notice our guide's creativity. He made our meal more special with the decoration and carvings on the fruits.
Fastforward to our day two 'lunch island': Entalula Island! We had an equally good quality time in this island, though smaller than Simizu, but as enticing. Simizu's water was quiet, Entalula had more waves. Some of us put on our snorkeling gears and braved the waves. Our guides prepared another batch of delicious food. We ate while basking at the beautiful ocean highlighted by its dramatic color contrast. What a way to treat both our eyes and stomach!
Pinagbuyutan Island is one of the islands used by a foreign franchise of the reality show Survivor. It has clear blue waters, fine sand and magnificent rocky landscape enough to amaze the castaways and crew that borrowed this island for a couple of weeks.
Beauty after beauty after beauty - this is the trend once you get on an island hopping escapade in El Nido. Morning of our second day, we were treated to the beautiful Snake Island. Its namesake does not imply the presence or abundance of snake in the area. Rather, it pertains to the snaking or S-shaped sandbar that protrudes connecting two islands in the wee hours of morning. There is also a nice vista of this sandbar which can be reached by a short hike. Moreover, the presence of the sandbar makes it an amazing swimming destination. It is so crystal clear that we even saw big rays swimming and playing around near us. Amazing El Nido!
We parked at the mouth of Cathedral Cave for some photo ops. One can use a kayak and go explore inside it. We didn't bring our kayak on day two so we settled in viewing it from the outside. While the photo ops was happening, we saw a local bird on a nesting ground on its cliff.
One cave that we explored was Cudugnon Cave. We passed through a narrow opening as the start of the caving part of the trip. Despite the narrow passage, we were surprised to see how spacious its body was.
It is best to visit Big Lagoon in the afternoon when the tide is just right for the boat to pass by. Oh, and that is not the sole reason for its visiting hours. It is said that early morning, sharks convene here to feed and mate. You do not want to disturb these fellas on their most intimate time, do you?
El Nido is famous for its beautiful lagoons. And if there is a place called Big Lagoon, there surely is a room for another one to be called the Small Lagoon. Small Lagoon is best visited with a kayak so you can roam around the deeper and bluer stretch of the lagoon surrounded by lush canopy and astounding cliffs.
One of the best lagoons and a personal favorite to many of The BACKPACKERS: Cadlao Lagoon. Everything in El Nido is picturesque, but there is this magical effect coming from Cadlao Lagoon's cliffs and waters. It is beyond picturesque. The sight of it will put you to a trance where you put out your cameras and dive to experience its enticing beauty.
By the time we got to Paradise Beach, we were beyond satisfied with the line up of beaches and lagoons already. We still spent some time swimming around as Paradise Beach is a good snorkeling spot where you can see underwater living better than the other 'sandy' but equally stunning islands. A few hundred meters from the coral reef is the drop off point of the ocean which could make a nice diving spot.
A popular last stop to an El Nido island hopping tour is 7 Commandos Beach. Unlike the above mentioned beaches and lagoons, 7 Commandos Beach is actually a resort and has commercial facilities and stores. The island is named after the seven Japanese soldiers who were stranded on this island when their ship sunk a long time ago. Now, it is one of the most accessible beach resort near El Nido port. This is our last stop where we witnessed a beautiful sunset.
The province of Palawan is said to be Philippines' Last Frontier, and the town of El Nido is definitely in front of the pack which supplies the province its irresistible charm and beauty. If you are planning to go to Palawan, you wouldn't want to fly out without visiting El Nido. We tell you, it will be worth it.