Our third day in El Nido, Palawan dawned bright and clear once again and we were excited for more island hopping. This time, we were scheduled for Tour A. Most, if not all, of the bloggers I’ve read prior to this trip highly recommended this tour so that’s why I booked it for our last day in El Nido, because you know save the best for last and all. That time, we paid Php 800 per person (now it’s Php 1,200 per person). We did not feel any peso we paid was wasted because the other bloggers were right, Tour A is the miss it and you’ll regret it type!
Excited, we headed to Art Cafe again just like the previous day. After a quick breakfast, we greeted the same boat and crew who took care of us during our El Nido Tour C. Since this is our second time with them, I was feeling close with the boatmen and so had the courage to ask for some special treatment, which they didn’t hesitate giving. Thank you!
Short Cruise Around Big Lagoon
Tour A starts with a trip to see the Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon, the names of which are very self explanatory haha. The Big Lagoon was not great, it was AMAZING! Our boat crew didn’t allow us to go swimming there because apparently we just had to cruise around its inner perimeters and if we delay, we’ll also delay the other boats waiting for their turn at the entrance. The boatmen know the best short stops inside the lagoon though that allows the best possible vantage points for photographers. Even if you’re amateur picture takers like us, it’s impossible to not take at least one great photo!
Frolicking with the Fishes!
After visiting the lagoons, our boat took us to open water and then the crew announced that we’re making a stop for an hour or so. That way, everyone can swim, snorkel and enjoy the wildlife under the ocean. My gut response was: I’m staying on this d*mn boat. What if the current is too strong and drag me down by the hair? What if a shark appears and tear my limbs off? I prefer my limbs attached, thank you very much. Worse, what if a Kraken appears and drag me to depths unknown?! I’ll become an ugly, shrieking ghost in Davy Jones’s locker!
Splash! Everyone except the non-swimmer Filipinos (that’s me and my friends in case you haven’t noticed yet hehe) jumped off the boat. After a few minutes of just sitting there while everyone else disappeared under the gentle waves, I was feeling kinda bummed out. One of the boatmen might have noticed this so with his friendly and happy nature, he convinced me to jump into the water with life vest on plus rubber ring. Not only that, he said he’ll go with me just in case I inexplicably become heavier than what the life vest could keep afloat.
Convinced, I jumped into the water. It occurred to me after the fact though that I couldn’t possibly go far from the boat since there was a strong-ish current and the ocean was just so blue, so deep… Once again, Art Cafe’s boatmen did the thing that makes them wonderful – make their guests enjoy their tours to the fullest! Turns out they were carrying fish food and they tossed a good amount into my immediate vicinity. In a couple of minutes, they swarmed! No not the sharks and the Kraken. Suddenly, I was surrounded by all sorts of colorful tropical fishes ranging from as small as my thumb to as big as a grown man’s hand. There were blue, yellow, orange and striped fishes. A few minutes more and I was frolicking with the tropical fishes of El Nido and my fear of the deep sea dissipated into nothing but a memory.
Small Lagoon and the Quiet of Thoughts
We then proceeded to the Small Lagoon where we were allowed to swim. Here, the boatman in charge of the rubber ring was kinder to me and in fact towed me everywhere that day. I guess he got over his annoyance over our mistake the previous day haha. Swimming inside the small lagoon was one of the best experiences of my life. Since I was wearing a life vest, I just allowed myself to float on my back and face the bright blue sky above framed by the jagged peaks of the limestone cliffs surrounding the lagoon. There were other people there but they went off to do their thing so I floated there in silence and I swear, it wasn’t hard imagining myself just floating there endlessly enjoying that connection with nature one finds in the rarest of places.
The Most Unsecret Secret Lagoon Ever
Our next destination on this island hopping tour was the Secret Lagoon, which if given the choice I wouldn’t have bothered going there. Why? Because, not including the town center, it was the most crowded place we’ve come in our 3 days there. There was practically a line to get inside it since much like the previous day’s Secret Beach, it is sort of a small bowl shaped island and the only entrance is a small hole on the cliff face. It is smaller compared to Secret Beach though and that made the presence of the crowd there suffocating. I was glad when it was time to leave that spot.
I Steered the Boat, Oh Yeah!
After yet another delicious lunch on the beach, our tour group was headed to another beautiful island in El Nido. Ever since the previous day, I was curious how they steer our boat around and that afternoon I finally got the courage to ask. Once again, the boatmen were very accommodating and they taught me! It was pretty simple actually, guide the wheel to whichever direction you want and keep your foot on the only pedal there for speed control. I requested if I could control the boat for a while and, to my delight, they said yes. They told me I could steer once we near our next island because there won’t be any jutting corrals or stones there that I could possibly hit. And so, around 20 minutes before we reached our next island, I was the one maneuvering the boat (to the surprise and probably to the chagrin of some of the other tourists on board). Sorry folks, opportunities like these don’t come by often ^_^ Toploading moment right here!
Capped Off Our Tour at Yet Another Piece of Heaven
Our last island for the day was a sizable one with a long stretch of powdery white beach. With the limestone cliffs covered in lush vegetation standing tall in the background, approaching this island was like a dream. There wasn’t a soul around and so our group had the whole place to ourselves and it was divine. The water was very clear too and V, K, Rich and I took our sweet time exploring, swimming, taking photos and relaxing. The sun was beating down hard but the sea was cool and everything was just so wonderful that somehow even getting burned added to the charm of the whole experience.
Goodbye El Nido, It Was Great Visiting You!
Who would want their holiday in El Nido, Palawan to end so soon? Not us for sure! But, unfortunately, we had to go. After finishing Tour C, we all thanked our wonderful boatmen and went back to our lodge to freshen up. At around 6PM, we headed to the terminal to catch our van ride back to Puerto Princesa. Once again, that van ride was around 6 hours long. We were so tired and sleepy though that even the dark winding road from El Nido to Puerto Princesa combined with the the reckless driving of the sleepy driver didn’t register much in our consciousness. Arriving at Puerto Princesa during midnight, we groggily checked into the hotel recommended to us by the van driver. Upon reaching our rooms, I immediately sought the warm bed covers and happily drifted off to sleep with the one-of-a-kind beauty of El Nido now deeply branded into my core.