The perfect setting for one of life's big questions...

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Asia » Philippines » Palawan » El Nido
December 22nd 2009
Published: January 8th 2010EDIT THIS ENTRY

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Sophie in the lagoonSophie in the lagoonSophie in the lagoon

by the secret lagoon
After the 7 hour incredibly scenic (but expensive 2,200PHP) boat ride from Coron Town to El Nido through a land that can only be described as Robinson Crusoe real estate, we all got off with our sea legs well and truly on.. it's amazing just how long it takes for the swaying sensation of being at sea to wear off!

El Nido is really small and easy to walk around in a few minutes so along with David from Israel and Dominic from Germany we set off to find somewhere to sleep for our time here. It was quite a bit more expensive here than we'd hoped, we'd all thought we'd find rooms for around 500PHP but the cheapest we could find (with rooms available) were 800PHP. This room was a lovely spanking new room on a beachfront location and owned by a super friendly family so it really wasn't so bad. We dumped our backpacks and went off to find something to eat and to sink a few beers to try and get rid of the swaying feeling in favour of a swaying feeling of a different kind!

The main attraction here in El Nido (and probably the whole of Palawan) is to go and explore the incredibly beautiful Bacuit Archipelago. This really is a stunning part of the world without any question and it is quite easy to see why this is classed as one of the best seascapes on the planet. The few people who we'd met and had been here raved about how lovely it was and it's one of those places that will never disappoint, much like most places in the Philippines we might add.

So explore the Bacuit Archipelago is exactly what we did! There are countless different ways in which you can do this depending on the time you have and the size of your wallet. You can tailor banka boat trips from one to multi days, perhaps stopping at some of the many beautiful beaches overnight, or join one of the group tours which is of course the cheapest and therefore most popular way to do it. We opted for this way and after going with the tour offered by our guesthouse we were lucky enough to have small groups for our tours with just 2 other people on board.

There is basically a choice of 3 trips to do, A, B or C with each offering a slightly different area around the Archipelago. These trips are amazing value for money at 500PHP, 550PHP and 600PHP respectively which is for a full day on the boat and includes a huge BBQ fish and salad lunch served on a beach along the way. Like most people we loved our first trip so much it wasn't a hard decision to make that we'd do all 3 and we even had a bonus trip too.

Each and every trip was incredible and jaw droppingly beautiful. We won't go into the run down of each and every trip but a little bit of information won't go amiss...

Tour A was a day spent sailing around the beauty of Miniloc Island and it's many beaches and lagoons. We also found this trip to be the best snorkelling of the 3 trips with our lunch stop being an area with so many fish it was literally like swimming in a huge tropical fish tank and the visibility was just awesome. After a great day we spent our final hour on 7 Commanders Beach which is actually part of the Palawan mainland but a beautiful beach nonetheless. This beach is so called after 7 Commanders got stranded here when their plane crashed in 1967, this was before tour groups regularly came past here so after a few days stranded they decided to climb the sheer limestone cliffs to try and reach El Nido on the other side. Sadly they all fell to their death on the rocks and hence the name 7 Commanders with this being their final resting place. True or false?! The decision is yours!

Tour B was more about the beautiful small islands and of course the beaches which matched them and it was here we fell in love with one island in particular. We also got our first sighting of an octopus on this trip which was a highlight for both of us after both being so desperate to see one since we left the UK.. it was stranded in a rock pool but great to see all the same.

Tour C this tour provided the most stunning and dramatic scenery as you get to go along the Tapiutan Strait, a stretch of water between 2 islands with limestone cliffs towering over you from both sides which we thought compared to a tropical version of New Zealands fjord land. We also got to experience what it would be like inside a washing machine as our little banka got knocked around by huge 6'+ waves which at times felt like they were coming from all directions! We ended this trip on Helicopter Island which at certain times of the year doubles up as the setting for the Survivor series in Europe.

So which was our favourite trip? All of them! For us each day was so incredible it would be hard to say that one was better than another. This area is so beautiful you could never get tired of seeing it and every time you set sail you discover new beaches and secret lagoons. Expats we met who lived in El Nido said that they still love going out there after 5 or more years in town. Our pictures could never possibly do this place justice in all its enormity but we hope they give you a little taste of just how beautiful it is.

So after doing all 3 of the trips and on our last day, Dale had a little surprise in store for Sophie in the shape of a private trip just for the 2 of us and it really was the trip of a lifetime. We went to our favourite island, Pinabuyutan Island, this is one of the more photographed of islands and for good reason because it is simply stunning. Split into 2 huge limestone cliff faces, these tower over a coconut grove below and then a pure white sand beach at the front. Dale had organised for us to go to this island after all the day trippers had left so we had it all to ourselves which was the perfect setting for a perfect surprise...

We watched yet another amazing Philipino sunset and as we walked back to the boat Dale stumbled upon a half open shell and asked Sophie to take a look. Sophie picked up the shell and inside was something sparkling away... 'a ring'! Sophie said in stumped amazement, then with no hesitation Dale got down on one knee and proposed! For those that know us we don't really go in for the whole romantic thing but on this occasion it was perfect and even though Sophie doesn't like surprises unless she's arranged them herself,
Dale's catchDale's catchDale's catch

sort of!
she loved this one! Of course she said yes! But it didn't end there... round the corner Dale had also organised for Felix our boatman and his brother the chef to set up a romantic beach dinner, so we dined on fresh crab washed down with a few San Miguels to celebrate this amazing end to our time here in El Nido. As we sailed back to town in the star lit sky we both saw a shooting star streak across the sky... aaahhhhhh!

As well as our water based activities we did also squeeze in a few land day trips around El Nido. Palawan is such a wild place and mostly undeveloped so it would be shame not to see the land side as well as the sea side. On one afternoon we did the 6km walk to Corong Corong Bay to watch the sunset next to one of the posh resorts, this was well worth the effort as the sunset was perfect and we got to see some of the other beaches along the way as we walked there taking it all in.

On another day we hired an off road bike and made the 30km ride up to Bucana Beach which is towards the far North end of Palawan. The ride there was a very pretty but bumpy one though lots of farmland and rice paddies with friendly locals waving us on our way. We struggled to find the beach when we got to Bucana so had to ask a few people who directed us towards a tiny dirt path through some trees which did eventually lead to a huge golden sand beach which was completely deserted for the entire 2km stretch. Well it was deserted as far as we could see but there were people there because after spending a few hours enjoying this area all to ourselves we got back to the bike and found one of our helmets had been stolen. We couldn't understand why they'd just taken one until we returned the bike and found the one they'd taken was about 3x the price of the other one and of course we had to foot the bill which tainted our great day a little but these things happen and we were just thankful it was a helmet and not the bike!

After 6 perfect days here in El Nido we had to leave as Christmas Day was nearly here and we'd booked a room in a little island a bit further south in Palawan to spend our 2nd Christmas away from the UK. El Nido has probably some of the most stunning scenery we have seen in the whole of South East Asia and will always be special to us for obvious reasons, but even without this it is a really beautiful part of the world which still retains an undeveloped charm. Something that no doubt will change in upcoming years as the Philippines becomes more and more popular as a holiday destination...

Additional photos below
Photos: 171, Displayed: 28


Dale in the lagoonDale in the lagoon
Dale in the lagoon

on Bucana beach
Beach in Bacuit ArchipelagoBeach in Bacuit Archipelago
Beach in Bacuit Archipelago

on the Tapiutan Strait. The coral along the sheer drop off was great here.

8th January 2010

Looks like paradise there! Nice video clips, I've enjoyed a two minute sunny holiday from all the snow here at home!
8th January 2010

hi guys !
I'm really glad that you guys discovered this gem in the Philippines. At the same time, your blog scares me a lot. Knowing our country's corrupt governance and culture of greed, once tourist starts to come in, you can give it 10 years max and everything will go down the drain from there. Boracay was once a true paradise, even Puerto Galera once had live corals very near the shores. I hope Palawan will not be spoiled too by our greedy government and selfish people wanting to have quick cash at the expense of nature.
8th January 2010

that was so sweet. thank you for describing the proposal. thats incredible romantic
8th January 2010

Love your pix and blogs!
Hey guys I just want to say I love reading your blogs and seeing your pix especially through your journey in the Philippines. One of my fave places in the world is El Nido and seeing your pictures brings back so many memories dear to me. I'm an aussie born lad who's mum happens to be Filipino and dad Kiwi and I have to thank you for embracing the Philippines the way you have. I often get asked by people here why go to the Philippines, with a constant comparison to Thailand, Bali and even Vietnam. Well I guess your pix and blog speak for themself, I have travelled extensively myself and there is quite something about the Philippines which makes it unique. Thanks so much guys enjoy your trip. P.S If you get the time head to Iloilo end of January after Ati-atihan for Dinagyang, awesome festival, Guimaras island is gem too!
9th January 2010

i like all your blogs but definitely love this one! I love how you described EL NIDO been there once though not visited all the spots/islands... EL NIDO is just amazing! hey guys, you're already married right? you did not really propose to her? tell me!! :)) if not what really is the fiction :D looking forward to your next blog... hope you enjoyed visiting the Philippines.
9th January 2010

Nice one you two - Rosy
Glad to hear you found the right place to pop the question, I'm sure the lads at work will be pleased for you both. The pix around El Nido look stunning, good luck for the rest of the journey, look forward to meeting up sometime in the furture
9th January 2010

stunning pics! never ending gorgeous beaches. been to palawan once and was already impressed with the islands around puerto princesa, i've seen pics and read about bacuit archipelago, but these pics that you took all the more gave justice to what travelers are raving about. and what makes it more special and memorable is because these islands are almost empty and deserted, you feel like your taking in these natural wonders by yourself. I am a fan of your blog, always looking forward to your next philippine destination. congratulations on your engagement you guys!
9th January 2010

The way you describe the place just makes me jealous, I definitely should go back to Palawan. ... and congratulations for the engagement!
9th January 2010

How I miss that place
Hey guys, just wanted to say thanks for that great entry. It brings back very fond memories of my time there (which seems ages ago already). I wish I could have spent more time there, especially if someone had proposed to me :-) I really can't think of a better spot for that!
11th January 2010

guys.........that was so lovely..........
12th January 2010

A sunset. A deserted island. A dinner by the sea. A ring under a shell. Someone seems to know how it's done perfectly. Congratulations to you both! The perfect setting indeed. Those pictures are FANTASTIC! I miss that place! Happy 2010!
15th January 2010

Great Blog
Hey guys Have just been catching up on your blogs, and this one is brilliant. You are giving me so much to look forward to and my list of places I want to visit it getting longer and longer! El Nido looks absolutely amazing, keep up the good work :-) Vicki
31st January 2010

Just catching up with latest blogs as haven't been on in a while! Great proposal Dale... sounds perfect! Glad it was the right answer from Sophie!! Couldn't imagine any different, you've had such an amazing time together... See you in a month!! Wow!!! xxxx
2nd February 2010

Amazing pics and how awesome to have the beaches all to yourself, which is quite a luxury nowadays. Truly rustic charm and stunning views make for a great adventure and memorable backdrop in popping the big one. Godspeed and good luck on your eventual voyage as partners in life.
10th February 2010

thank you for writting such a great article! have to go there myself one of this days. conratulations on your engagement!
23rd February 2010

Great dude! .. thx for the detailed blog.
16th March 2010

Can you tell me where you stayed in El Nido, and whether you'd recommend it (decent bathroom facilities, etc.)? Thank you!
19th March 2010

name of the ...
hi, do you remember the name of the "lovely spanking new room on a beachfront location and owned by a super friendly family"? that you paid 800 php for? thanks!!!!

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