The paradise town of El Nido (Day 205 - 209 by Chris)


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Asia » Philippines » Palawan » El Nido
April 8th 2016
Published: April 15th 2016
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Friday 8th April 2016

We were collected from our hotel at 11am and climbed aboard the Daytripper mini bus. This was very comfortable and even provided us with some water and dried banana. The journey ahead of us would take between 5-8 hours and we would be driving north along the coastal road to El Nido.

The journey was uneventful but did offer some amazing views of the sea and inner jungle. We stopped a couple of time for food and toilet breaks, but most of the time we slept. After only 5 hours of driving we arrived in El Nido and was dropped off at our hostel, ‘OMP’ (Our Melting Pot). We were welcomed by the guy on reception who seemed very happy that we had stayed at their sister hostel in Manila. He showed us to our 9 bed dorm, which was very tiny and had 3 levels of beds instead of the 2 that we’d been used to. We selected a bed for ourselves and then in walked the German guy from the same hostel in Manila. He was sleeping in the bed just below me and told us he was there for 7 days – we were there for 4. This meant that he’d be there the whole time we were.

We decided to head out and get some food. As we left, it was getting dark and we walked for only 2 minutes before finding ourselves in the beach. The place had a Thailand meets Cambodia feel to it. Thailand on account of the stunning scenery around the beach and Cambodia as it was a little rugged (a positive thing) as there weren’t an abundance of hostels, yet.

We found a bar on the beach and had a beer before buying some food at a restaurant, also on the beach, and watching a small puppy beg for food at tables. After dinner we headed back to the hostel to get an early night as we intended to make the most of our time here and were planning to get up early the next day.

Saturday 9th April 2016

At breakfast we got chatting to an Australian called Kim who arrived the previous day as we did. Gemma and I were planning on hiring a motorbike and heading to Nacpan Beach which is a 45-minute drive away from the hostel and meant to be very beautiful. Kim asked if she could join us and after paying approx. £8 for a bike and being given directions we set off around 10:30am.

The directions we were given by the guy on reception was left, right and straight ahead for 40 minutes and then take a left turn at a sign pointing to Nacpan Beach. The drive there was enjoyable and we had wonderful views of the surrounding countryside. We’d also read in blogs that the road to Nacpan was terrible, but for us it wasn’t too bad. There were men pouring cement and laying new roads as we drove and there were more sections of the road that were concrete than rubble and dust. We did have some bouncy, dusty parts but we’re a dab hand at this now given some of the terrain we’ve driven on in previous countries.

After almost an hour of driving we seemed to be heading up and away from the beach which was visible from a great vantage point. We asked a guy if he could direct us and he pointed back in the opposite direction. We started heading back on ourselves and found the sign that we had clearly driven past 15 minutes earlier. We finally arrived at the beach, parked up our bikes and headed straight for the beach. It was absolutely gorgeous! The sand was incredibly white and the blue was like a colour chart starting with white and moving through blues and greens. We settled down on a patch of sand before I got an ear full of the fine grains when the wind picked up. We then decided to take a walk to the end of the beach where there was a small bay on the opposite side. This bay didn’t have the strong winds, so Gemma, Kim and I paddled around in the surprisingly cold water with the area pretty much to ourselves. We were careful to avoid the jelly fish which there were an abundance of, and spent the next hour chatting.

We noticed a few people walking up a hill to what looked like a view point. Being in no rush we waited until everyone had climbed down and then we ventured up. The climb was very easy and offered amazing 360 views of the whole of Nacpan beach and surrounding bays. We took some pictures and then headed back down to the main beach where we found a small restaurant to order some food from. After a rest we decided to head back to town. The drive back was uneventful but watching the sun start to go down as we drove made for some amazing sights along the way. After the 45mun drive back we were all keen for an ice-cold beer and walked towards Las Cabanas beach to try and catch the sunset. Settling ourselves on the beach cushions, beer in hand, we watched the sun set over the water and chatted until we found ourselves sitting in the dark, hungry and watching the first pesky little sand flies making an appearance. We hastily jumped into a tricycle and heading back into the town to grab something to eat. For dinner we all headed to IBR, basically and Filipino greasy spoon, doing cheap local dishes. We filled ourselves and headed from there back to the bustling hostel.

Sunday 10th April 2016

Today we were booked onto tour A through our hostel. The whole of El Nido offers tours A-D and are all different. We had been told that we should either do A or C and as C focused more on beaches, we opted for Tour A which was organised around visiting lagoons. The trip didn’t come cheap and we had to part with just under £20 each, but we were told that it would be money well spent.

At 9am us and 12-15 others from our hostel walked the short distance to the beach where we waded through to the water to our boat. We would spend the day on an outrigger, which is a standard long boat with stabilizers if you like, that jut out on each side of the boat and offer some support/balance against and rocky waves.

Our guide introduced himself and explained where we would be visiting and length of time in each place etc. We set off into the sun like an armada as there were lots of other boats heading the same way with their own set of tourists. We had heard that this was one of the most popular trips to do and as a result it would be busy. Thankfully though we were the very last to leave which meant that as we arrived at each spot, the first set of boats to arrive were leaving, so although we did see other people, being at the back meant we did find points throughout the day where we were alone.

The first stop on the tour was the Seven Commando Beach which was only a 15 minutes trip from where we set off. We were given 45 minutes on this relatively small beach and we had fun splashing around in the chilly, ice blue water. There were not so many jelly fish in this section, so we were able to swim around quite comfortably and had a great time. We were then called back to the boat to head to the second stop, ‘Small Lagoon’ which was the most beautiful stop of the day. The boats lined up and one by one moved into the narrow lagoon. Thankfully our boat held back until most of the boats ahead had left so that we had lots of free space around us. When we entered we were given 15minutes to swim in the water and we both played around somersaulting off the boat into the see-through waters. This area really was beautiful. The surroundings, which were made up of lime stone karsks covered in green foliage framed the stunning ice blue water. The best bit though came as we left the lagoon and we moved through a narrowing boat lane and the water got shallower and the colours much more magnificent. All the passengers aboard seemed to stop and watch as we moved through. The money really was worth it just for this view!

We then headed to the ‘Secret Lagoon’ which was a small bay with a little beach. We snorkeled here for a while and even saw a little octopus, which was about the size of my forearm. The secret lagoon itself was accessible through a small hole in the rocks surrounding it. We had to enter single file and slide through on our bums. When we entered we had great views of the sky above and was surrounded by rocks 360 degrees around. We spent a few minutes in here before exiting through the hole and then back onto the boat. We could smell BBQ which thankfully came from our boat as the crew were cooking our lunch. When we boarded we headed next to Shimizu Island which had a small beach. The crew brought ashore the food they had cooked and we all sat on the beach eating plates of bbq chicken and fish some rice and fruit. It was actually quite tasty and everyone went up for seconds. We had 45 minutes here so spent the rest of our time cooling off in the water.

When we climbed aboard the boat again we then made our way to our final stop of the day, Big Lagoon which was big indeed. We were told we could either swim around, which looked difficult as it was so large, or hire some kayaks which is what we opted to do. We paddled into the lagoon and followed the other kayaks through the water and as far into the lagoon as we could. We had almost an hour here and whilst paddling around got to see some locals jumping into the water from quite high up on the surrounding cliffs. I jumped overboard too as the water was just too inviting and splashed around in the cool water. Other than this, we generally paddled through the lagoon enjoying the views around us as they were all types of green from the plant life up on the rocks. The water was also many different shades of blue and green and we were quite disappointed when we had to head back to the boat. When back onboard though we slowly made our way back to El Nido chatting along the way with other people aboard, but mostly reflecting on the day we’d had and all the beautiful sights we’d seen. We would both highly recommend Tour A if you ever find yourself in El Nido.

After we’d showered Gemma and I headed out to a restaurant called Art Café which had very good reviews. We ordered a pizza and a beer and ate ourselves to sleep almost. Kim arrived at the restaurant just as we’d ordered and had 2 English girls in tow who she introduced as Bobbie and Alice. They were put off by the price of the food (which wasn’t cheap but overall not that bad) and we said we’d meet them in the Reggae bar after dinner for a few drinks. Arriving at the bar 30mins later and with no sign of the group, we admitted defeat after an exhausting day of sun and headed back to the hostel, which turns out to be exactly what they had opted for too!!

Monday 11th April 2016

At breakfast we got chatting to the 2 English girls, Bobbie and Alice and decided that we would head to Las Cabanas beach which is where they had gone the previous day and told us how they’d seen turtles and massive jelly fish. We flagged down a tricycle driver and haggled for 4 of us to be taken as most tricycles only fit 3 in. The 3 girls sat in the side carriage and I squeezed on the back of the seat with the driver which made for an uncomfortable 10 minutes as I had my head bent down due to the roof of the tricycle being very low down.

When we arrived at the beach we put down some towels and relaxed and chatted. We went into the water a few times, but the sea was quite rough and was churning up sand, which wasn’t good as you couldn’t see where the jelly fish were, and there were lots out there. We then decided we’d stay out of the water and headed down the beach to some seats under a tree and next to a beach side restaurant. We spent the remainder of the day relaxing in the shade and chatting and had the best tuna sandwich ever made for lunch. We stayed until sunset and watched as the sun dropped behind the land across the water and made a run for it as the sand flies came out. I’d already been bitten a few days ago by the bloody things and was keen to avoid them this time.

We headed back into town and went to the Art Café which is where we’d eaten the previous night. We had some amazing penne pesto pasta and very randomly discovered that we’d met the same person in different countries. Bobbie and Alice had only recently left Vietnam and had travelled south to north and along the way kept bumping into 2 guys who had bought motor bikes and were travelling up the country ala Top Gear. They were explaining how these guys spent the next 3 weeks with them and were hilarious and great people to travel with. As with the episode of Top Gear set in Vietnam, these two guys bought each other ridiculous gifts to carry on their bikes more as a hindrance than anything else. They then showed us a picture of the 2 guys with their huge presents, one of which was a piñata and Gemma quite calmly chuckled and said to me, “oh, look, he looks like Mike” then Bobbie exclaimed quite loudly “what name did you just say!? Did you say Mike”. It turned out that the Mike they had travelled with for 3 weeks was the same Mike that we had spent time with in late January/early February whilst in Myanmar. Now I’m not sure what you make of that story, but we all found it massively weird and goes to show how small the world actually is. The night ended soon after as we were all very tired from the very relaxing day we had and all headed to bed at a sensible hour.

Tuesday 12th April 2016

Our final day in El Nido was the only day we’d been alone whilst here, which was quite odd. Bobbie and Alice were heading to Puerto Princessa that evening so were planning to relax in the hostel and not get up too much that day. After spending a lazy morning chatting & drinking tea, Gemma and I decided to hire a kayak and explore some small beaches as there are quite a few little islands scattered around. As we set off on our kayak the clouds started to roll in and when we turned into the first bay we headed straight into choppy water. Playing it safe, we decided we cut our losses and head back to dry land. It was a shame as we’d seen people the previous day out at sea on kayaks experiencing uninterrupted views of the sunset and that is something we had in mind too.

Back on the beach we had lunch and then headed to a cliffside bar which was meant to give amazing views over El Nido bay and directly faces the sun set. We arrived there about 3pm and spent the next few hours drinking beer and eating some really nice tapas. We watched as the sun set in the distance and discussed how much we’d enjoyed our time in El Nido. How much we loved the scenery, the unbelievably beautiful lagoons, water, sand and natural beauty all around. We also met some really fun people too who we were able to spend this time with. The Hostel too, despite being very basic was a nice place to be too and everyone we met there seemed to be out for a good time and this gave the place a friendly feel.



In the evening we packed our bags and I left Gemma in the common area chatting away to a group of girls as I got myself an early night ahead of the 7am bus we had to catch the next morning to take us to Port Barton where we would be sleeping in a tree house for the next 2 nights. That should be interesting!


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