Twelve hours before our flight to El Nido, Palawan, I was lying on my bed irritated of the noise of the heavy downpour that’s been going on for several days. I got up. I checked the outside world from the window. Still quite flooded outside, but not as worse as it was earlier when it looked like a water world mess.
The trip that I have been most excited about for the past few months finally came. On a bad weather and all. I thought of just cancelling the entire trip. Four hours later and power was out. Great. At least, the rain finally stopped. At that point, when the weather looked calm again, the travelust in me was starting to kick in. I wanted to go.
For several hours I was just weighing my dilemma: in this unpredictable weather, shall I go and take the risk or stay home and let the bad weather (and my pre-booked flight) pass? Heck. I cannot sit still.
I chose to pursue El Nido.
At 6 in the morning the following day, we were already in the boarding area waiting for the plane that will take us to Palawan, a place where it’s always summer in my mind. Mr. Sun was playing hide and seek, but I did not care, the crazy weather has already taken away two good weeks from me.
Six-hour ride from Puerto Princesa to El Nido and the El Nido that greeted us was just gloomy.
The massive rock in the heart of the town was covered with gray clouds, road was wet; and a little later, it rained. I never pictured El Nido this way. It was always summer in El Nido in pictures and magazines and in my mind.
When we finally settled in our hostel, we were constantly looking at the clouds passing by Cadlao Island. We were constantly checking on how fast the clouds were passing by, and we’re hoping that by tomorrow all the gray clouds were gone leaving us with nothing but blue skies above. Until we got hungry. We went out to eat at Art Cafe. It was raining the entire dinner. Before we called it a night, the rain finally stopped. The whole night was peaceful.
The next day was planned for island hopping tour A&C. But since our boatmen were doubting the moods of the weather, they honestly told us that it would not be possible to do tour C. Disappointed and all, yet we agreed.
First stop was Seven Commando Beach. White fine sand and clear waters. Albeit not so blue because the supposedly blue sky was all covered with thick layers of clouds, not a spot of blue can be seen. There were seaweeds on the shore. I got interested with something colorful from among the seaweeds that looked like plastic flowers. Our guide said those were flowers of mangroves. I never knew they got flowers! He said the shore was not always like that. The scattered seaweeds were just carried by the waves since it has also been raining for days in El Nido.
Nonetheless, one cannot deny the beauty of that beach place. Tall coconut trees are swaying in the background. The water is inviting even on a gloomy day. It still has that gradient of clear to turquoise to blue to deep blue. Bubbles of soft waves caressing the shore makes me forget all about the overcast sky. No summery shot of this beach, but its summer vibe is still alluring.
The small lagoon reminded me very much of Coron’s Twin Lagoon. It was drizzling when we reached this spot but we went on snorkeling and swimming and exploring the cave at its end. It wasn’t clear under the water, and fishes were quite shy (or afraid to get wet, duh, it was drizzling, silly!)
On again to the boat. The drizzling stopped, yet the thick white clouds awhile ago were now getting gray. We passed by Miniloc Island Resort, a high-end island resort owned by El Nido Resorts. They’re floating cabanas cost 20k per night, a price way too hefty for a budget traveler like me. To see the pure and raw beauty of El Nido although billeted in a budget accommodation is more than ok to me. But to stay in some cool resort such as El Nido Island Resorts for free, well, who am I too get so choosy, yah?
We stayed for lunch on an island I forget the name of. Food prepared by our boatmen were all delicioso. Having fresh seafood and tropical fruits on an island is always a delightful experience for me. And I think boatmen in El Nido have also mastered the culinary art of plating and food presentation.
And it rained. Right after we refueled in preparation for our next destination, it rained. Hard. It seemed like it was not going to stop any time soon, so we stayed under the big rocks while we watched how thick gray clouds carrying heavy rain move fast, from the open sea to behind the karsts, tagging along with the rain were gusts of wind.
It took a while. A while longer, actually, that I though we’re gonna be stuck in that small pocket of beach, under the huge rocks. So our group hopped on to the boat again. Because the weather was more moody than a woman having PMS and was casting tantrums everywhere that day, our boatmen disappointingly told us that our next stop would be the last destination for the day. And it rained again.
You won’t believe the color of the water as we approached the big lagoon.
The gray skies did not dim the glowing turquoise water of the Big Lagoon. Imagine if it were summer. It could have been otherworldly with its color highlighted by the blue sky. The water is so clear, so clean. We stayed here for snorkeling. Manong boatman toured us while we hang on to the round salva vida, because we cannot swim. Hahah.
And it rained again. So we called it a day, still happy that we were able to feel El Nido in a different way, and thankful that we are on paradise amidst the threats of habagat.
Back in town, we tried the famous Balinsasayaw Soup, just for the sake of having a taste of it. The A-grade soup, as they classify it, does not come in cheap. I believe the main reason it is expensive is because people who gather the nests risk their lives climbing on cliffs and caves just to get them. These nests are made of the saliva of a bird called Balinsasayaw–so your soup’s main ingredient is the bird’s saliva!
Street foods in El Nido town include 10-peso yummy barbecue, grilled fish , grilled squid, the usual Pinoy street food finds and crepes!
Our main agenda the next day is to visit the Nacpan-Calitang Twin Beach, and eat lobsters. 🙂
We got a pretty nice morning sun as we journey via tricycle to Nacpan. Lo and behold! It rained just when we were about to climb the hill for a full view of the twin beaches. Not that I hate the rain so much, but seriously? On this perfect timing? It rained for an hour and we were under a big boat for shelter. We chatted with our guide the whole time. Our tour guide is one nice fella, full of life’s wisdom at a young age. He doesn’t want to trade the life he has in El Nido to a life in the city. I wouldn’t trade mine too if I were living in such a paradise. And, hey, real properties in El Nido are cheap compared to some square meter of a property that costs a fortune in the city!
It’s past lunch time and the rain has not stopped yet, so we forgo the dream of capturing the twin beaches on top of the hill and gave in to the rumblings of our stomach. We have seen it with our own eyes anyway, we felt the gusts of wind coming from Nacpan and Calitang, we were on the middle of the twin beaches! So off we went back to our tricycle, wet and all from the rain. We stopped by Kyla’s canteen where we left the lobsters we brought earlier to cook. We ordered prawns and grilled pork chops too. The lobster was really yummy and the prawns were tasty. It maybe just me or pork in El Nido does taste differently, in a really good way.
We headed back to El Nido Town after the hearty meal at Kyla’s. No sunset to chase, but still a glorious view of Cadlao Island at the end of the day.
We’re all set to go back to Puerto Princesa and book for the Underground River Cruise. Our minds were set that we will just go back to El Nido one day (or for one week) to enjoy island hopping when the sun is not playing hide and seek with us and is capable to burn our skin.
But I wont leave El Nido without experiencing The Alternative Restaurant’s nest-lounge. Well, the “nests” were wet. It rained last night. So we just had breakfast inside the The Alternative. Nevertheless, we got this grand view of Cadlao Island while having breakfast:
The sun was pakitang gilas that day. It was shining! The clouds were clearing up. I could see the blue sky again. On the day we were about to leave. So we dropped all our things back in the hostel and went on another islands tour. Hahah. The day was promising to be as sunny as a summer day could be. I couldn’t let pass setting foot on that famous sand bar of Snake Island!
So off we hopped on the outrigger boat and head on for Tour B!
We passed by huge karsts as we sail on. It was reminiscent of Coron Island. The diffence is that, karsts in El Nido will dwarf you. They are bigger than those in Coron. Breath-taking.
Pinagbuyutan Island was the first island we set foot on that day. This island, aside from its natural charm and awesomeness has become famous because this was where one season of the well-known show, The Survivor, was held. During the entire stay of the cast and crew of the show, the whole island was closed for tourists for a couple of months.
There are 45 islands and islets in El Nido, each one is unique from the other. Gorgeous pockets of white sand amongst the huge limestone cliffs. And here is but one beach scene from one of the islands.
When our boatmen announced our next destination, I got excited! I only see this loooong sand bar of Snake Island in pictures and just daydream about walking on it! We arrived at Snake Island a little late for low tide. More than half of the sand bar was already covered by the rising water. Nonethless, it was still awesome! A long stretch of sandbar from one island to another curving a little that it mimics the movement of a snake, hence the name: Snake Island. Haha. I learned something from our tour guide: Sandbars are formed when waves from opposite direction collides in the middle. The sediments deposited in the middle creates the sandbar. I never gave it a thought before, but sandbars always make me ecstatic! Hahah.
Dark clouds were beginning to form, posing a threat of a heavy rain, yet again. So just before the dark clouds were blown to our direction, we sailed on. I was amazed as I watched the down pour on the side where the dark clouds are, while sun was shining at the far side.
We settled near Entalula Island to snorkel and swim. It started to rain, but for all I care, I love the rain after all. It made me feel El Nido in a different way. So I lay there, floating and felt the raindrops on my face. 🙂
Yes, we missed a lot in our original itinerary. But, no, we didn’t let the PMS-ing weather stop us from enjoying El Nido. I still wish to go back though, since we have a lot of unfinished business, El Nido. You didn’t let me abuse my camera for Tour C where all your hidden and secret beauty are tucked in!
Well, what can I say, I am one persistent lass.
Back home, the sun was up and shining as if it were summer. Well, almost.
Island Hopping Tour Info:
Island Hopping Tour rates in El Nido are standard and are categorized into 4 as follows:
Tour A Php1,200/ person
Tour B Php1,300/ person
Tour C Php1,400/ person
Tour D Php1,200/ person
Rates include boat rental, lunch and tour guide.
Please note that you have to pay the Eco-Tourism Development Fee of Php200/person separately.
There are lots of tour operators in El Nido. The author recommends the services of
(+63) 939-902-2216 (Smart)
(+63) 927-735-3221 (Globe)
(+63) 942-375-2441 (Sun)