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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.
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.
Everybody was taking it easy
I wanted to have a light breakfast as I was going to be getting into the water for snorkeling.
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!
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.
Talk about living on the edge
As the boat reversed, these kids hung on
The water must be second nature to them
The weather today looked perfect
The seas were still calm, which meant a less bumpy ride
First stop on the tour was Miniloc island
The boat slowed down
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.
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.
I know you can barely see it from here...
...but zoomed all the way in, that small opening in the center -- that's how you enter the small lagoon
Floating in the water face down is all I wanted to do honestly
He was in our tour group (but will you just look at the colour of the water!)
Once everyone was back on the boat, we left the small lagoon
Next up, the 'big lagoon' in Miniloc island
Those who booked the kayaks set off from here itself (But I know what you are thinking -- BEAUTIFUL isn't it?)
This part is shallow
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.
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)
We had no choice but to turn back... slowly
The nice lady and her family who lent me their kayak earlier
The staff who helped me rid the cramps I had on my right leg
Panorama comprised of 6 shots
Panorama comprised of 9 shots
We moved on to our next spot
We were heading to Entalula island for our lunch break
This is a private beach
This is the public beach
The off-colours make it look a bit cartoon-ish, doesn't it?
We could rest here for some time before lunch, but I got in the water instead
Got back on shore after a few minutes
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!
The staff were grilling meat
Grilled fish and pork cubes
I like watching food being cooked... I guess it's one of those traits of being a foodie
Postcard, isn't it?
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.
We left the island at 1:45pm
We moved on to our next stop on the tour
I don't know if this was Simizu island
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
I stared out into the blue with my feet wading in the water
My feet stayed in the water until I saw this
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.
The staff said it doesn't sting. Well he wasn't sure, it was more like "I think it doesn't sting".
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.
It was time to leave these emerald waters and head to our next stop
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.
Panorama comprised of 3 shots
It was pool of water surrounded by rocks -- so not sure it counts as proper lagoon
This is how one enters and exits the lagoon -- through an opening in the shape of Australia :)
We spent a few minutes on the beach
It gave these Germans a good chance to do something they can't do back in their country
The secret lagoon beach also has this toilet, which despite the views, people still wouldn't use
The lone shack on this beach
As the boat reversed, we saw what looked a like a ladder in the middle of the rock
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.
The 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.
Called 7 Commandos beach because seven soldiers were once stranded here
Panorama comprised of 12 shots
The stop was to give this man some business and have a drink. I ordered coconut water...
... like everybody else. Except this kid, I'm sure he's sick of coconut water living here -- he drank Sprite.
Sparsely populated island... but they still have a hoop :)
I saw two or three houses on this beach, that's it
We left Seven commandos beach after spending 45 minutes here
With that, Tour A was over.
It was past 4:30pm
My day wasn't done though, I needed to get to Las Cabanas beach quick
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).
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.
I 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.
It's a pretty rough road to Las Cabanas
Found a cashew fruit on the ground
It was 5:30pm
Attempted a panorama photograph from here
Decided to walk barefoot for a while
Orange Pearl Resort
Panorama comprised of 10 shots
I ended my walk here
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.
None the less, I began shooting my sequence of photos
(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.
Didn't come out perfectly after merging it though
I walked back to the road
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
Woke up really early today morning — like, 5am early! I left Banwa Arthouse and managed to catch a passing tricycle taxi to take me to the Puerto Princesa bus stop. It was a bit of a drive away, but I managed to get there in time. Anyway, I had called up the bus company (called Eulen Joy) the previous day and secured a seat for myself.
Now, despite reserving a seat, the bus is nothing fancy. Anything but! In fact, to get my seat right in the front, I had to walk over luggage belong to the other passengers. When I was instructed to do so, I kept looking at the other passengers with a mental “Im sorry but I have no other choice” look — but all they did was smile back.
The bus left the station at 6am
It was going to be a 6 hour long journey to El Nido
The one-way bus ride to El Nido cost ₱380 ($8/€6) and I opted to take the local bus instead of a private van (which cost more) not simply to save a few hundred pesos, but for the very same reason I chose to take tricycle taxi in Bohol — to take clear photos along the way.
I'm glad I made that decision again
Passed by Honda Bay
This is the junction from where you break off the main highway if you wish to go to Sabang
We stopped by this house for a passenger
The seas were calm
The bus stopped along the way for a check for plants and seeds, which apparently isn't allowed beyond this point. Guessing it's because of fears of alien viruses contaminating plants.
Passengers were picked up all along the way, stuffing the bus inside and out -- quite literally
Nearly 2 hours into the journey, with the sun hitting my eyes, I felt sleepy again and dozed off after keeping my camera back in.
I was woken up an hour later by the bus driver, who using the universal hand gesture, asked me if I wanted anything to eat. I politely said “no thanks”. The bus had stopped and the passengers got out for a break. I wasn’t hungry but an ice cream vendor on a bicycle asked me if I would like some ice cream. Now, I wasn’t very keen on having ice cream from a bicycle vendor in a remote village for health risks, but he had cones and buns.
I just had to order one! Cost just ₱15 and it was yum!
From here on, I shot using my Nokia E72 phone camera
By 11am, the smooth concreted roads eventually gave way to unpaved ones.
After nearly 5 hours on the road, I finally got a glimpse of the sea again
Fortunately, the dust gave way and we were back on concrete roads
The bus would stop at independent houses along the way to drop passengers who had gone to the city to stock up on goods. Moments like this made me wonder how far away from home I was!
Even though the bus journey is longer, and less comfortable, I still enjoyed the experience of what life is to these locals on this remote island.
By 12:30pm, my first hint I was nearing my destination. I smiled with glee seeing this :)
I finally reached the El Nido bus station as it neared 1pm. I didn’t have a reservation anywhere but I did make a list of accommodation by the beach that suited my budget.
After stopping by one or two hotels I didn’t end up liking (and some that were full), I walked to Spider Pension House — a place I had called the day before and asked for a room to be kept available in case I were to stop by. Fortunately, one private fan room (but common toilet) was still available, so I checked in. I got the room for ₱700, for two nights.
Most of the accommodation in El Nido is small and basic at best
The view from the Spider Pension House wasn't bad either ;)
Spider Pension House's location is in the middle of the beach
After dumping my bags, I didn’t waste any time and made my way to Art Cafe — the most popular and one of the earliest businesses to promote El Nido tourism.
A few diving centers are available in El Nido
I decided to take photos of other beach front accommodation in case you (my reader) are looking for where to stay in El Nido
Walked up through here
I planned to have lunch here, even though there are cheaper restaurants on El Nido beach
Besides lunch, I was also here to book a tour for tomorrow. Though there are primarily three tours on offer, I opted for Tour A as it would give me a good enough experience of what all El Nido has to offer. Paid some money as advance and sat down for lunch.
I sat by the balcony
The view was... alright
I ordered a seafood pizza and beer (cost ₱320 totally). Needless to say, I had a good lunch :)
The Art Cafe has a relaxing environment -- and free wi-fi
Shore Pass lodge, this was right across Art Cafe
Another one that's on the same lane as Art Cafe
Anang Balay Turista
There are plenty of beachfront accommodation available, but a lot of them cost ₱500 and above
Hmm, is this legal?
I chose to walk around the village a bit
Don't expect to do much shopping here. Other than the basics, there is little else to buy.
These were the type of buses I took from Puerto Princesa today morning
There are hotels a few lanes away from the beach as well
Looks like more hotels are on the way as El Nido grows more and more popular
I gatecrashed, out of curiosity
Even though it said 'family,' it was mostly men drinking beer while the women served food
But it seems the 'main event' on Family Day was cock fighting
These cocks (no, the birds)
The aftermath of a concluded match
Enjoy your freedom while it lasts dude
The "Hey mister, take photo!" shot
I left the venue
Panorama comprised of 6 shots
This is the only ATM machine I saw here -- and it was new!
Panorama comprised of 6 shots
I got back on the road which leads to the bus station
This is where you catch the van or bus back to Puerto Princesa
The El Nido airport is 7kms from here. But here's the thing, the 'airport' is apparently not a big one and only few charter flights land there, making it very expensive to fly straight from Manila.
I had gone all around and come back to the beach near my guesthouse
I walked back to the beach
You can ride a bike on this platform
El Nido Corner and Bacuit Grill Bar
I kept walking down the path to see how far it would take me
The beach extends to this side where there a few cottages here as well
Makulay Lodge was one of the places I had shortlisted; now I know where it is
Believe me when I say this is under water! The water is that clear! :)
The time was 5pm
I decided to head back to Spider Pension House
Kind of makes it look like the boat is where those locals live
Rosanna's Beach cottages
Tandikan Beach Cottages
The shadow really hit the beach like this
Darkness was slowly taking over the entire beach
Once I got back to Spider Pension House, I sat on the porch and simply stared out into the sunset, listening to the ever relaxing sound of waves crashing. I ordered a coconut milkshake (or ‘boku juice’ as per the menu) and Joy, whose mother owns the place, sat beside me for a chat.
She was curious as to where I was from as 'my kind' are not often seen in El Nido, let alone Palawan
Joy told me because of these hills, one can't see the sun set from here. For that, you need to go to Las Cabanas beach, which I planned to do tomorrow.
As it got dark, they lit up these bottles
Time was 6:30pm
By 7pm, the sun had set
Even though the sun had set, I still sat there, feeling very relaxed and drinking my second coconut juice (didn’t feel like drinking beer at all). Unfortunately, when I ordered my third glass of boku juice, the electricity went.
I was joined by another guest staying at Spider Pension House (Aldo was his name I believe). A Spaniard based in London, a regular to El Nido and one who liked staying at Spider Pension House so much that he decided to help the owners by creating a Facebook page to help them with promotion.
Eventually, everybody had coconut milkshake -- including Joy's adorable daughter!
Since there was no electricity, it was pointless to go to my dark room upstairs, so I continued chatting away to the sound of waves crashing. When it came time to make plans for dinner, Aldo told me there was so much pork leftover from yesterday, that he asked Joy to make something for tonight as well. He had bought an entire pig from the market to be roasted a lalechon style – which they did (he showed me his photos). But needless to say, there was quite a lot of meat left over.
Dinner was curried pork and white rice. And for the first time in nearly two weeks, I finally enjoyed Filipino food! The pork was simply delish!
Just as I took out my wallet and asked “How much?,” Aldo gestured “no” with his hand. It was on him, so “thanks” was all I could say.
I finally went up to my room after the electricity did come back, as I had to copy over today’s photos to my back-up hard drive and prepare for tomorrow’s island tour. I had to make the most of the electricity available, because if there’s one thing you need to know about El Nido, it’s this: electricity goes off everyday from 6am to 2pm.
Sigh, I guess I knew what time I was going to wake up tomorrow — that too with the humidity!