Entalula IslandAt the outset, I thought it would be a nightmare of a holiday. We booked cheap airline tickets for our family (and friends) of 9 pax early on. Then I spent a whole week scouring for lodgings. I was on my 10th already as the previous 9 hotels, B&Bs, hostels, inns were all fully booked! Finally found 3 beachfront cottages but they didn't come cheap for an otherwise unremarkable beach hotel. Well, it's that time of the year when everyone's on a holiday mood and have Christmas bonuses to burn! Then when all's set, a typhoon threatened to hit Palawan. In fact it did, on the eve of our arrival. That day weather authorities announced the typhoon is moving out of Palawan and Philippine territory, we were at the airport waiting for our flight. Nine souls praying hard the skies would clear for a long dreamed vacation in El Nido. Mercifully, we were allowed to fly and land safely in Puerto Princesa after a 2 hour delay. The scheduled Underground River Tour --- one of the New 7 Wonders of the World --- was cancelled. We promptly rebooked the tour for the day of our return flight to Manila.
Lunch was served here.
From our beachfront cottage.....
Aren't we glad the typhoon moved out in time to make this a wonderful family vacay!
Instead, we boarded our private van and drove straight on to El Nido. Not a drop of rain, thank God! There were choices. Tours A, B, C and D, priced at an average of P700 per pax. Our group combined Tour A and B for the price of P900 (about US $22) covering some 10 islands. That meant spending the WHOLE DAY hopping from island to island. Fine. We slept early after that 6 hour butt-numbing ride from Puerto Princesa Airport to El Nido to prep for the next day's adventure. First off was Miniloc Island's Small Lagoon. Big pleasant surprise. If we didn't remind ourselves there were 9 more islands in our paid boat tour, we could have stayed here the whole day! My only regret was forgetting to rent kayaks. I'm not a swimmer, but my grandchildren are. Imagine us getting off the boat in waist deep waters, walking through a hole, then feeling insecure upon losing connection between the sand and your soles, swimming towards the small lagoon and an equally small cave. I had my life vest on. My granddaughter took hers off, donned her goggles,
Both kids and adults enjoyed feeding the fish.
threw her vest and snorkeling stuff towards us, and swam excitedly towards the cave. Poor grandma left behind, with flailing arms and legs. Who cares if we lost one of the rented snorkeling tubes? I forced my body to float and back stroked my way towards the kids. Getting into the cave was another ordeal. I gashed my knee while my friend had cuts on her hand gripping those sHarp rocks. Oh my. We're hopeless. But it was fun, scars, cuts and all. And it was just as much fun in the same island's Big Lagoon. More boat traffic though as the low tide forced many to moor near the mouth of the lagoon. As we waded in, we took care avoiding sea urchins embedded on the sand. This was also where the tip of our boat's outrigger broke as it crashed against another boat. Our boatman, clearly sleep-deprived, was red-eyed with anger. All facial sharp angles displayed. For a moment, we worried he'd get into a fight as he lectured other boatmen about "proper boat parking". Well, the younger boatmen gave him a lot of respect. More senior, more experienced, must be the
veteran among them. His assistant told me he's also the best swimmer, so that's some assurance. Because we spent too much time in Small and Big Lagoon, it was nearly lunchtime when we reached Shimizu Island. Too crowded though. Our boatman decided instead on lunch in the even lovelier Entalula Island. It was likewise crowded but who'd mind? Both kids and adults enjoyed feeding the fish, rolling with the waves, building sand castles, rolling in the sand, and gorging on a barbeque and seafood lunch. Aaahhhh, life is a beach indeed. We refused to be rushed and simply enjoyed ourselves here. By the time we reached Snake Island, the tide has risen and the waters choppier. The sandbar connecting the 2 islands was midcalf-deep in water. There was a resident canine crossing the sandbar and welcoming those getting off the boat to climb the small hill for a better view. Us? We were too lazy after that sumptuous lunch. Besides, the water's far from calm now and we were eager to cover as many islands while there's still light. But there's Cudognon Cave to
explore. I was not into it anymore but the kids may like it. A good intro before their Underground River Tour in Puerto Princesa a couple of days from now. They explored the cave while me and my friends basked in the sun and sand. Indeed, we were lucky the typhoon moved out of the country to let us enjoy this family vacay. After this cave, it was more like a boating-sightseeing trip for us. We approached the rest of the islands but decided not to get off anymore. Besides, who'd dare swim against the current towards Cathedral Cave? That one's only for strong swimmers and there's none in our group. We clutched our life vests closer to our bodies as our boat sailed over the swells and rolling waves, careful not to be lifted towards the limestone rocks. There was a chance to wait for sunset in Seven Commandos Island. But we were eager to get back to base. We can always have our sunset view from our beach cottages. Better, with a piña colada or a cold bottle of beer. We did this every night we were there. From our beach cottage, or
I Should Have Kayak'ed My Way In!
My one and only regret. Felt hopeless clutching my life vest the whole time while my granddaughter excitedly swam around the lagoon!
from Bacuit Grill Restobar beside El Nido Corner or up from the 2nd floor of El Nido Boutique and Art Cafe or from Aplaya Restaurant. We tried all 3, each time amazed that we were the only locals dining in those places. We feasted on seafood while my elves stuck to their pizza and pasta and frothy fruit shakes. Me? I never grew tired of grilled stuffed squid every single day!
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