I woke up to the sunlight streaming through the windows, the sea breeze tantalizing my nostrils. With my companions V and K still sleeping in our shared room and Rich in his, I quickly got out to see what’s outside our lodge – the gorgeous view shrouded in darkness the previous night was now stunningly bathed in morning light.
V, K and Rich finally woke up and they joined me on the beach to enjoy the beauty all around us. We got so preoccupied that we were almost late for our 9AM-4PM island hopping tour scheduled that day. We hurried to Art Café (where we pre-booked our tour) to get some breakfast. Unfortunately, when we got there we were told it’s boarding time and we should hurry to the dock or we’ll miss our boat. So we just ordered sandwiches to go for breakfast and hastily went to the dock where our boat Amihan was waiting; the other tourists joining us on the tour were already there.
As for Art Café, they are in my opinion very organized and they provide high quality services. Our boat (seats 10-15 people) was in good condition and the boatmen were professionals, accommodating and trained to take care of El Nido’s environment. And the lunch that was included in the tour was delicious and filling. We believe the Php 1,000 per person we paid them was money well spent. (I just had a look at their site and Tour C now costs Php 1,400).
Island Hopping Starts Now!
After everyone got on board, the boatmen sprang into action and before we knew it, we were on our way to some of the many fabulous islands surrounding El Nido. The whole boat trip was all about one visual feast after another and right off the bat, we were treated to the glimmering blue expanse of the sea; its surface broken only by small karst islands here and there and the occasional fish jumping out of the water.
Tour C, by the way, is one of the 4 main island hopping tours offered in El Nido. The others are called Tour A, B and D. Uncreative I know, but oh well, this naming convention does make things straightforward. Tour C will take you around Matinloc Island and Tapiutan Island and it is highly recommended by holiday goers.
I Almost Drowned Near a Lagoon, Jeez!
Confession: I don’t know how to swim and I prefer all water levels way below my chin (because you know I need my nose and mouth for breathable air). So when the boat stopped near a lagoon and one of the boatmen announced that we need to jump into the open water and swim to the lagoon to enjoy its beach, I was like okay… Then he directed our attention to the orange life vests and announced that he also has a rubber ring for the non swimmers to hold onto and then he’ll pull us along towards the shallower parts of the lagoon.
K (also a non-swimmer) and I were feeling confident we didn’t need the life jackets and should just use the rubber ring. Big Mistake! We weighed down the rubber ring and the boatman charged to pull us along had so much of a hard time he couldn’t help getting annoyed at us. We truly feel sorry for our stupidity Mr. boatman, seriously!
Needless to say, the short distance from our boat to the lagoon became punishing for the boatman, K and me. We made it safely to the beach but on the way back to our boat, our energies were so spent we barely made it. And yeah, I kinda swallowed so much salt water at that point huhu. Despite the near-drowning experience, I thankfully did not panic (I was thinking of my dignity haha) and managed to grab the ladder and climbed back into the boat safely.
I do not regret going there however, because that lagoon was simply stunning!
Entering the Secret Beach, Oooohhh…
The next agenda on our island hopping tour for this day was a visit to Secret Beach. Now if you’ve been around the Philippines for a while, you’ll notice that so many beaches here are named ‘secret’ but they’re not really secret haha. As for this Secret Beach in El Nido, it’s actually a beach inside a ring of karst cliffs and the only entrance is a tiny hole on a cliff face where only one person can pass through at a time. Exciting!
Once again, our boat stopped just a few meters near the entrance and we were told to jump into the water again and swim to the hole. I learned my lesson so I promptly wore the life vest along with the provided snorkel. The boatman in charge of the rubber ring was nowhere to be seen though and when I looked around for him I saw he was already there at the entrance ushering other people through. I think he was still annoyed at what happened so that’s why he didn’t wait for me 🙁
Thankfully, my British colleague who was a very good swimmer offered to pull me along. Thank you, thank you very much Rich because if it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have seen that amazing entrance to the Secret Beach and I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the beauty that was inside that ring of karst cliffs!
Lunch and 30 Minutes of Solitude
After frolicking there at the Secret Beach, our boat took us to another island for lunch. As the boatmen prepared our food, V, K and I got busy swimming. By swimming, I mean wading at the shallows like children haha. Rich borrowed my underwater camera and went off snorkeling. The other holidaygoers (mostly Caucasians) in our boat also went for a swim/snorkel.
Finally, lunch was served just in time to replenish my energy, which at this point was seriously depleted by all that swimming, whew!
After lunch, we were given time to just rest and laze around. As the others in our group went snorkeling again or sunbathing, I decided to explore the rest of the beach. That’s when I stumbled into heaven. Behind some rocks was a strip of white powdery sand just waiting to be enjoyed. No one else was around so I just sat there letting the gentle waves play around my feet. For the next 30 minutes, I immersed myself in the beauty all around me while Mr. Solitude kept me company. Sigh, I wish I could have more moments like that.
Another Wonderful Island
After our rest, we all went to the last island for the day. I can’t recall its name anymore, but like the others we’ve visited so far, it was pristine and just beautiful! Jump shots and swimming were all we did there.
Back to El Nido
Finished for the day, our boat took us back to the dock. We got off and trudged back to our lodge just in time to enjoy the sky turning purple as the sun set over El Nido.
Day 02 in El Nido, Palawan – huge success!