Philippines 2011: Day 14 – El Nido island hopping tour A and sunset at Las Cabanas beach, Palawan

Date: April 30th 2011

I woke up at 6am today. Not that it was when I set the alarm for, but that’s when electricity goes off everyday in El Nido (until 2pm). As the fan stopped turning and the humidity crept in, I had no choice but to get up.

El Nido karst hills sea morning Palawan Philippines

Went downstairs to have coffee... with a view

I had plenty of time as I only needed to be at Art Cafe by 8:45am, but instead of having breakfast at Spider Pension House, I decided to have it at Art Cafe itself.

Art Cafe porch dog morning El Nido Palawan

Everybody was taking it easy

I wanted to have a light breakfast as I was going to be getting into the water for snorkeling.

Pancake Art Cafe breakfast El Nido Palawan

I ordered pancake, assuming it would be fluffy and light (Cost ₱100)

Unfortunately, the pancake at Art Cafe was quite thick and heavy. I felt stuffed by the time I was done and had my orange juice. I mean, the pancake tasted great and all, but… my tummy was already bulging!

El Nido beach outrigger boats Palawan morning

It was time for my tour A to begin

I didn’t want a repeat of what happened on my first island hopping tour in Thailand, where I slipped and ended up plunking my camera bag in the water, so I stepped into the water carefully and boarded the boat. I didn’t rush to get a spot in the front of the boat.

El Nido sea dog facing accommodation Palawan Philippines

Talk about living on the edge

El Nido outrigger boat Filipino boys holding on Palawan

As the boat reversed, these kids hung on

El Nido outrigger boat local boys holding on Palawan

The water must be second nature to them

El Nido hills in sea Palawan Philippines

The weather today looked perfect

El Nido South China sea Palawan Philippines

The seas were still calm, which meant a less bumpy ride

El Nido limestone hill boat Palawan PhilippinesEl Nido boat tour South China sea Palawan PhilippinesEl Nido South China sea karst hill Palawan PhilippinesEl Nido South China Sea limestone hills Palawan Philippines

El Nido limestone hills South China sea Philippines

First stop on the tour was Miniloc island

El Nido South China sea limestone hill in distance Philippines El Nido island beach Palawan Philippines

El Nido limestone rocks sea Palawan Philippines

The boat slowed down

Miniloc island limestone rocks El Nido Palawan Limestone rock cloud El Nido sea Philippines

El Nido Miniloc island small beach kayaks Palawan Philippines

Our boat anchored itself outside the small lagoon

Those who paid for kayaking got into their kayaks and made their way towards the small lagoon. The rest, including myself, had to swim all the way there.

El Nido Mithun Divakaran boat snorkel Philippines

It was time to jump in (Disclaimer: No work out in over three weeks + heavy breakfast = thus tummy)

As I got in the water, I was supposed to follow the guide but got caught up floating in the water and staring at the corals underneath. It was a beautiful sight… which is all I can say, because I don’t have an underwater camera. (I really wish I did)

I couldn’t float around for too long as the guide had led the group through a small opening and into the small lagoon where there is a small cave.

So I swam fast and made it past the small opening, but just then, my limited swimming experience led to my right leg developing cramps. It hurt a bit as I stressed myself to catch up with the rest of the group. The guide came back for me and when I told him my right leg felt cramped, he told me not to stress it and asked me to sit on a stone inside the small lagoon. He had to lead the rest of the group inside the cave, so he told me to swim back after my leg felt better.

As I sat there massaging my right leg, a nice old Filipino woman who sat beside me on the rock suggested that I take her kayak back to my boat as she had another kayak in her group. I smilingly said “it’s fine,” but she smilingly insisted that I ride back instead of swimming back. I thanked her, and got in the kayak. Even though the kayak belonged to another tour agency and was even manned by one of their staff to paddle, I politely asked him if I could paddle instead. For someone who has always wanted to try kayaking, it was a lot easier than I thought it would be! I rode all the way back with relative ease and thanked the staff for letting me paddle his kayak.

Once I got back on board my boat, another one of boat staff massaged my right leg and it eased my muscles up a bit. As I sat on the boat, I felt I should have gone for the kayak option for this tour. It was a lot of fun and as soon as I got back to the boat, I felt like asking for another kayak. Sadly I couldn’t, as the tour boats can only carry the number of kayaks based on the bookings.

El Nido miniloc island small lagoon Philippines

I know you can barely see it from here...

Entry to small lagoon Miniloc island El Nido Palawan

...but zoomed all the way in, that small opening in the center -- that's how you enter the small lagoon

Words are petty compared to actual photographs, so to see what the views are like under water and the cave, check out this guy’s photographs.

El Nido snorkeling Miniloc island Palawan Philippines

Floating in the water face down is all I wanted to do honestly

Pedro Fong swimming emerald waters El Nido Palawan Philippines

He was in our tour group (but will you just look at the colour of the water!)

El Nido limestone rocks Miniloc island lagoon Palawan

Once everyone was back on the boat, we left the small lagoon

El Nido boat tour South China sea Palawan

Entering big lagoon Miniloc island El Nido Palawan

Next up, the 'big lagoon' in Miniloc island

El Nido kayak to big lagoon Miniloc Palawan Philippines

Those who booked the kayaks set off from here itself (But I know what you are thinking -- BEAUTIFUL isn't it?)

El Nido big lagoon clear water Miniloc Palawan

This part is shallow

El Nido Miniloc water big lagoon Palawan Philippines

Sigh... again.... look at those colours! :)

We were supposed to anchor here and then be allowed to do whatever we opted to do, but the boat operators were informed they couldn’t anchor their boats for some reason.

El Nido big lagoon Miniloc island Survivor set Philippines

I don't know if it was because this setting was used for the filming of some reality show (the guide told us, it was the Swedish version of Survivor)

El Nido boat reversing big lagoon Palawan Philippines

We had no choice but to turn back... slowly

Leaving big lagoon Miniloc El Nido Palawan El Nido boat tour group Palawan PhilippinesJakob Fochlder El Nido Palawan PhilippinesEl Nido leaving big lagoon Miniloc island Palawan PhilippinesSnorkeling El Nido Miniloc island Palawan PhilippinesEl Nido Filipino boat Bangka Palawan Philippines

Filipino family El Nido boat tour Palawan Philippines

The nice lady and her family who lent me their kayak earlier

El Nido Art Cafe staff boat tour peace Philippines

The staff who helped me rid the cramps I had on my right leg

El Nido big lagoon Palawan Philippines panorama

Panorama comprised of 6 shots

El Nido Filipino men on boat Palawan

El Nido Filipino boats South China sea Palawan Panorama

Panorama comprised of 9 shots

El Nido Filipino tour boat beautiful sea Palawan PhilippinesEl Nido islands banco boats Palawan PhilippinesEl Nido sea limestone rock Philippines panorama

Twin islands El Nido Palawan Philippines

We moved on to our next spot

El Nido sunny day clouds Palawan Philippines

We were heading to Entalula island for our lunch break

Entalula island private beach Palawan Philippines

This is a private beach

Entalula island public beach Palawan Philippines

This is the public beach

Entalula island El Nido tour lunch stop Palawan

The off-colours make it look a bit cartoon-ish, doesn't it?

Entalula island rock shade El Nido Palawan Philippines

We could rest here for some time before lunch, but I got in the water instead

Nose edged rock Entalula beach Palawan Philippines

Got back on shore after a few minutes

Entalula island El Nido public beach panorama Philippines

Panorama comprised of 11 shots

And if you thought: “Man, that above panorama shot would make an awesome wallpaper!”, then here’s a 1920×1080 sized version! :)

Entalula island vertical panoramaAnchor boat Entalula beach El Nido Palawan PhilippinesEntalula island rock shadow wave Palawan PhilippinesEntalula island beach rock Palawan Philippines

Spade arrow shaped rock Entalula island Palawan Philippines

Cool huh?

El Nido entalula island waves glass like Palawan Philippines

El Nido Art Cafe staff cooking lunch Palawan

The staff were grilling meat

Fish pork barbecue El Nido island tour Palawan Philippines

Grilled fish and pork cubes

Mithun Divakaran El Nido lunch bbq Palawan Philippines

I like watching food being cooked... I guess it's one of those traits of being a foodie

View from cave Entalula island El Nido Palawan PhilippinesEntalula island beach water colour blue Palawan

Entalula beach El Nido beautiful Palawan Philippines

Postcard, isn't it?

El Nido island tour lunch bbq rice Palawan Philippines

Lunch was ready

The food – grilled fish, grilled pork and sticky rice – was, well, quite dry for my liking. So I just had to gulp it all down with some beer (which the staff were selling for ₱50 a can). Post lunch, we sat on the beach while the staff cleaned up and took all the trash back to the boat.

Leaving entalula island El Nido Palawan Philippines

We left the island at 1:45pm

Entalula island small beach El Nido Palawan Philippines

El Nido boat tour islands Palawan Philippines

We moved on to our next stop on the tour

El Nido Simizu island Palawan

I don't know if this was Simizu island

El Nido open sea Palawan Philippines

The plan was to swim out into the open sea (for something, I forgot). But because I didn't feel like swimming after lunch (& beer), so a few of us stayed on board

El Nido outrigger boat in blue sea Palawan

I stared out into the blue with my feet wading in the water

El Nido jellyfish in sea Palawan Philippines

My feet stayed in the water until I saw this

Jelly fish El Nido waters Palawan Philippines

Oh look, jellyfish!

One of the women on board kept screaming to her partner in the water warning him of the presence of the jellyfish, though some only swam to get closer to it for a better look.

El Nido Art Cafe staff sitting boat jellyfish Palawan

The staff said it doesn't sting. Well he wasn't sure, it was more like "I think it doesn't sting".

El Nido South China sea water Palawan Philippines

We waited for the rest of our group to return

When they did, some of them were panting for breath. The two Italian girls in our group said the currents were quite strong and they required help from our guide swimming back. Quite a scary experience according to them.

Emerald green water El Nido sea Palawan Philippines

It was time to leave these emerald waters and head to our next stop

El Nido islands limestone Palawan PhilippinesLimestone rocks island El Nido Palawan Philippines

Secret lagoon beach El Nido Palawan Philippines

We were going to check out a 'secret' lagoon, which is on this island (I believe this was Miniloc again)

Our boat didn’t anchor itself close to the shore, so we had to swim all the way there. I wasn’t going to stay on the boat again, but this time I really wanted to take my camera with me. So the guide told me he would carry it in a plastic bag and ensure it didn’t get wet. He’s obviously a much better swimmer, so he raised the bag in one hand and still swam to the island.

Once we all swam to the island, we had to walk barefoot on prickly shells to enter the lagoon through a small opening.

Secret lagoon El Nido tour Palawan Philippines

Panorama comprised of 3 shots

Secret lagoon Miniloc El Nido island Palawan Philippines

It was pool of water surrounded by rocks -- so not sure it counts as proper lagoon

Secret lagoon Miniloc island entrance El Nido Palawan

This is how one enters and exits the lagoon -- through an opening in the shape of Australia :)

Secret beach miniloc island El Nido Palawan Philippines

We spent a few minutes on the beach

German youth climbing up coconut tree El Nido island

It gave these Germans a good chance to do something they can't do back in their country

Toilet seat on island El Nido Palawan Philippines

The secret lagoon beach also has this toilet, which despite the views, people still wouldn't use

Secret beach trees rock El Nido Palawan Philippines

El Nido beach shack Palawan Philippines

The lone shack on this beach

Secret beach shadow miniloc island El Nido Palawan

Secret lagoon beach kayak El Nido Palawan
El Nido rocky hill swallow nest farming Palawan Philippines

As the boat reversed, we saw what looked a like a ladder in the middle of the rock

Bird's nest cave guarding El Nido Palawan Philippines

The guide told us the man up there was guarding a cave where they farm bird's nest. For those who don't know, bird's nest (specifically from the cave swifts) are a delicacy in China, and are among the most expensive food products in the world, a la caviar and truffles.

El Nido island limestone rocks Palawan PhilippinesThe ride got a bit bumpy on the way to our final stop on our tour, 7 Commandos beach. I shielded my camera bag from all the saltwater that was being splashed at us.

7 Commandos beach El Nido Palawan Philippines

Called 7 Commandos beach because seven soldiers were once stranded here

Seven commandos beach Palawan Philippines panorama

Panorama comprised of 12 shots

Seven commandos beach coconut vendor El Nido Palawan Philippines

The stop was to give this man some business and have a drink. I ordered coconut water...

Boy sitting on coconut drinking cola 7 Commandos island El Nido Philippines

... like everybody else. Except this kid, I'm sure he's sick of coconut water living here -- he drank Sprite.

7 commandos beach basketball hoop boys dogs El Nido Palawan

Sparsely populated island... but they still have a hoop :)

Seven commandos beach tourist local boys Palawan Man lying hammock 7 commandos beach El Nido Palawan

7 commandos island house El Nido Palawan Philippines

I saw two or three houses on this beach, that's it

7 commandos island lady cock El Nido Palawan Philippines 7 commandos beach shack El Nido Palawan Philippines7 commandos beach bench El Nido Palawan PhilippinesSeven commandos beach weed sand El Nido Palawan PhilippinesSeven commandos beach sand tree branch El NidoSeven commandos beach trees blowing El Nido Palawan PhilippinesTourist lying on bench 7 commandos beach El Nido Palawan Philippines

Seven commandos beach woman bikini El Nido Palawan Philippines

We left Seven commandos beach after spending 45 minutes here

With that, Tour A was over.

Fat man El Nido tour boat Palawan Philippines

El Nido sunset boat ride sea Palawan Philippines

It was past 4:30pm

El Nido sunset silhouette fisherman boat Palawan Philippines El Nido South China sea Palawan PhilippinesEl Nido outrigger boat Palawan Philippines

El Nido Palawan hills blocking sunset Philippines

My day wasn't done though, I needed to get to Las Cabanas beach quick

El Nido village from sea Palawan Philippines

El Nido tour boat arriving Art Cafe Palawan Philippines

The boat anchored itself a bit away from the shore, we then got in knee-deep water and walked back to Art Cafe

I went upstairs to pay the balance amount for the tour, which cost ₱700 ($16/€12) plus the ₱50 for the beer I had. I told them I used the kayak once, but they said that’s fine.

Even though I may not have made full use of the tour (due to my limited swimming capabilities), as you can see from the above photos, it was still pretty damn worth it! Sadly, today was my last in El Nido and I so wished I had another day to do another tour (like Tour C).

El Nido island Map tour A, tour B and tour C Palawan Philippines

This is the map of the tours on offer (from Art Cafe)

I left Art Cafe, said my goodbyes to the rest of my tour group and walked on. I now needed to go to Las Cabanas beach which is a five minute drive away.

Mobile store El Nido village Palawan PhilippinesI approached a tricycle taxi and asked how much it was to get to Las Cabanas beach. He said: “₱200″. I asked if that was to take me there and back, and he said “no”. I said ‘no freakin’ way’ and continued walking. As expected, he followed me and we ended up bargaining it down to ₱80.

Rough road las cabanas El Nido Palawan Philippines

It's a pretty rough road to Las Cabanas

Las Cabanas resort sign Palawan Philippines Road to Las Cabanas beach El Nido Palawan PhilippinesPath to Las Cabanas beach Palawan PhilippinesWay to Las Cabanas beach Palawan Philippines

Cashew nut apple Las Cabanas El Nido Palawan Philippines

Found a cashew fruit on the ground

Way to beach Las Cabanas Palawan PhilippinesLas Cabanas coconut trees beach Palawan

Las Cabanas beach evening Palawan Philippines

It was 5:30pm

Las Cabanas beach evening sun El Nido panorama

Attempted a panorama photograph from here

Las Cabanas beach foot prints dog Palawan Philippines

Decided to walk barefoot for a while

Orange pearl resort Las Cabanas beach Palawan Philippines

Orange Pearl Resort

Las Cabanas beach Filipino boats Palawan sunset PhilippinesLas Cabanas sand mud shore Palawan PhilippinesLas Cabanas beach resort trees hill El Nido Palawan Philippines

Las Cabanas beach evening El Nido Palawan panorama

Panorama comprised of 10 shots

Las Cabanas beach wave ripples Palawan Philippines Las Cabanas wave ripple mud sand Palawan PhilippinesLas Cabanas beach tyre sand evening in PalawanLas Cabanas beach red leaf tree Palawan sunsetLas Cabanas beach sand crab hole PhilippinesLas Cabanas beach wave avoiding sand castle PalawanCoconut tree branch Las Cabanas beach shadow El NidoLas Cabanas beach corner sunset reflection in water Palawan

Las Cabanas beach El Nido Palawan Philippines

I ended my walk here

Las Cabanas beach sunset Palawan Philippines

I placed my bag down and found a spot from where to shoot my sunset timelapse

But it wasn’t a pleasant experience. There were mosquitoes and other bugs buzzing around me and I just couldn’t stand still, having to whack each one away. The tripod with the camera would often tip over in the sand as well.

Sunset at Las Cabanas beach El Nido Palawan Philippines

None the less, I began shooting my sequence of photos

Las Cabanas sunsetting El Nido Palawan PhilippinesLas Cabanas beach evening sunset Palawan PhilippinesLas Cabanas beach sunset El Nido Palawan Philippines(I’ll update the page with the video once it’s ready)

I took one last panorama shot and left Las Cabanas beach at 6pm.

Las Cabanas beach sunset Palawan Philippines panorama

Didn't come out perfectly after merging it though

Las Cabanas path to main road Palawan

I walked back to the road

Las Cabanas trees silhouette sunset Palawan Philippines

Frog squished flat road kill Las Cabanas Palawan Philippines

Bikes often pass through this path... as experienced by this unfortunate frog

Once I got back on to the main road, the tricycle taxi driver who dropped me here was still there and I approached him to take me back to the village. He said: “₱100″. Sigh. I told him I paid ₱80 to come here, why should I pay more to go back. He just shook his head to say ‘no’. So I started walking…. and again, he followed me and asked me to get in. Ugh!

As we rode back, I had to ask the driver to stop again when he showed me an observation deck they built for a nice view of the sea. The sky looked beautiful and I just had to capture it!

Las Cabanas sunset sky El Nido Palawan Philippines

Unfortunately there are trees obstructing the view, so this is all I took

Once I got back to the village, I went back to the ‘family day’ celebration which I visited yesterday to see if there was anything special going on today.

El Nido barangay family day kids dancing Philippines village

The men were drinking as usual, but yesterday's cock fighting ring had turned into a dancing ring for the village children

I leisurely walked back to Spider Pension House and told Joy that tonight I would like to try their seafood buffet for dinner.  Electricity was gone again, but Joy still managed to make me a ‘boku milkshake’. I was then joined by three French youths who had just arrived today, and we began chatting.

Lobster crab soup rice dinner Spider Pension El Nido Palawan

When dinner was served, it was crab soup, fried tuna, grilled lobsters, rice and salad. Cost? ₱250 ($5/€4)

After a satisfying dinner, I settled my bill and paid for everything as I was checking out early tomorrow. I asked Joy to book me a seat in a private van back to Puerto Princesa.

El Nido private islands lights at night

Joy told me the glowing in the distance is from lights from resorts and other private islands

I couldn’t have asked for a better ending to my Philippines journey. Coming all the way to El Nido for these beautiful waters was worth it! If these 159 photos (out of the 861 photos I took) don’t tempt you to take a vacation to El Nido, well, then try this video — it’s all real!

(It’s available in 720p HD)

P.S: There is still one final post left in this series

Previous posts in this series:

Philippines 2011: Day 13 – Puerto Princesa to El Nido by bus

Philippines 2011: Day 12 – Puerto Princesa Underground River tour, Palawan

Philippines 2011: Day 11 – Arriving in Puerto Princesa, Palawan

Philippines 2011: Day 10 – Bohol tour: Chocolate Hills, Loboc river cruise, Tarsiers, churches

Philippines 2011: Day 9 – Cebu: Fort San Pedro, Basilica of Santo Niño, Taoist Temple

Philippines 2011: Day 8 – Manila tour: Rizal Park, Intramuros, Manila Cathedral, China Town

Philippines 2011: Day 7 – Leaving Angeles City for Manila, Mall of Asia

Philippines 2011: Day 6 – Good Friday in San Fernando, San Pedro Cutud Lenten Rites

Philippines 2011: Leaving Sagada for Baguio, and arriving in Angeles city (Days 4 & 5)

Philippines 2011: Day 3 – Sagada’s Lumiang burial cave, Sumaguing cave, Hanging Coffins of Echo valley

Philippines 2011: Day 3 – Banaue town; heading to Sagada via Bontoc

Philippines 2011: Day 2 – Banaue rice terraces; trekking to Batad village

Philippines 2011: Day 1 — Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Fort Bonifacio

Philippines 2011: Flying over South China Sea for the first time

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11 comments

  1. Great post Mithun, El Nido still the no.1 best place I’ve been to in my country… oh and the sunset, simply amazing! one thing I hate about El Nido is leaving it!

    a PTB member here…expect more comments from the group. :)

    Glad you have wonderful time in the Philippines. :)

    [Reply]

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Thanks, can you link me to the PTB community website? I want to know from where all these Filipino bloggers are coming from! :P

    [Reply]

  2. and then im breathless…
    im sure everyone is convinced to visit el nido too. you’re awesome.

    [Reply]

  3. Man, I missed this paradise. I really like your posts.

    [Reply]

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Thanks Sarah.

    [Reply]

  4. Just discovered your blog by accident and I’m glad I did. Read every page which I very much liked. I have not yet visited some of the places you have been to (El Nido and Sagada for instance), but your great pictures and nice words sure made me want to.
    Thank you for enjoying our beautiful Philippines. We have a wealth of natural beauty which makes up for the lack of tourist facilities. Hope you come back and be sure to visit Batanes.

    [Reply]

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Thanks Ervin. Yes, I am trying desperately for a job in Philippines because I want to stay at least a year in your country. It’s the only way I can explore the whole country :-/

    [Reply]

  5. Hello Mithun, I read through your details and it’s amazing. Thank you for uploading the photos. Could you please help me with the below questions answers:

    1) I always scare in a speed boat, just wanted to know, is there any big boat island hoping tour in EL NIDO? Is the journey scary or it was smooth?

    [Reply]

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    If by big boat you are referring to modern speed boat as supposed to the traditional boats you see in my photos, I believe you will have to contact Art Cafe themselves and ask. I much prefer these traditional boats as the ride is smoother and from my experience, I hate the big speed boats because of how bumpy the rides are! :) As for safety, considering these boats have two floats on either side for balance, I’m going to say they are quite safe.

    [Reply]

    Arindam Reply:

    Thank you very much. I was not referring to speed boats but the big boats where you have place to seat inside or looks like ships. However, you are saying that it’s pretty safe and ride is not bumpy so it will be fine. I do not know swimming so bit scared.

    [Reply]

  6. Hi,

    Nice photos – they gave me a clear idea of what to expect during these island hopping tours (there is a strong semblance to Hundred islands).

    [Reply]

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