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Philippines Part III: El Nido

Idyllic islands in the big bright blue

This place has the potential to go big like Kuta beach or Koh Phan Ngan, but I hope it stays just how it is. Sailing into port had the feel of approaching a thriving dock in the old days. A few bars, places to sleep and eateries formed a crescent overlooking the bay. We had a warm re-unite with Steve & Mads, accompanied by some cold beer and hot food. We plotted through some jungle paths to find a beach just for us. We sat with our beers soaking in the scene of a beach shared only with the fireflies and the moonlight flickering off the calm water. They say that it’s all about how you get there and not the destination, but sometimes I think that the destination can be just fine too.

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Sophie arriving to El Nido in style, on the bow of our boat

El Nido watched over the Bacuit archipelago, a bevy of beautiful islands, coral reefs and hidden coves & lagoons. Learning our previous lessons about booking early, we decided to book a diving trip tomorrow and a customised two-day island hopping excursion the following day, more on that later.

Kayaking was the order of the afternoon for us today. Unfortunately, the “gentleman” we hired our kayaks from failed to inform us that the seas become quite rough in the afternoons, what with the blistering winds and all. ‘Twas calm and peaceful in the bay as the four of us took off in our two dual kayaks; our destination was the bright white sands of the idyllic looking beach around the cove. Sure as I'm writing this in my underpants, we paddled around the cove where the wind picked up dramatically, and the swell smashed our undersized people carriers. Steve & Maddy were forced to take shelter on a rocky shore, while Soph & I paddled furiously toward the opposite bay, where a dive crew were hovering. They were more than happy to take us and our boat back to town as soon as the divers below had surfaced. An anxious 15 minutes passed as we watched like hawks to see if our companions had been rescued. Finally, just as the bubbles from the underwater explorers below came to the surface, a passing fishing boat would collect the swept-up sweethearts.
Battered, but not beaten, we decided we could at least have a few laughs after nightfall. Beer, wine & pizza on the beach listening to the sounds of Bon Jovi (told you they loved him!) through a live local band followed, salvaging any lost time from our adventurous afternoon.

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Beers on the beach in front of a dive school

Diving was amazing the next day. A stunningly beautiful reef lay below the ocean surface, home to an incredible array of aquatic life, including, but not limited to…
Twin giant lobsters, blue spotted stingrays, sea cucumbers, mantis shrimp, angelfish, clownfish, lionfish, bullockfish and triggerfish. The bullockfish is quite rare, black and white in colour with a silver cylinder on its back; it can be quite un-coordinated and is sensationally terrible at football.
Unfortunately, due to ongoing and quite severely painful pressure headaches I receive every time I dive, this would be my last of the trip. I am determined to find the answer to my condition soon as the underwater universe is one that I love dearly.

Our island hopping experience with a difference followed the day after, our tour guides picked us up from the wharf at 9 am. They ferried us to many a great spot in the archipelago, including Hidden Beach, only accessible by crawling through a small cavity in a great rock wall. We went to a number of beautiful beaches, and enjoyed lunch and (you may find this surprising) a few beers on a small island. The only downside to the day was that I was still feeling the backlash of my sinus migraine from diving the day before, which was then somewhat exacerbated when one of the beams on the boat became untied and whacked me quite hard across the noggin. Still conscious, just with a heavy throbbing in my temple and feeling quite weird, we made our way to our home that evening, which certainly lifted my spirits.

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Tourists aplenty, but the perfect waters surrounded by the looming karst was well worth the trip

We were to sleep on an island all to ourselves, our very own private beach for a night. While the sun still shone we explored, climbing trees and the limestone karst surrounding our site. Our guide provided a huge spread for dinner, before lighting a fire on the beach. We sat around the flames, drinking beers and strumming songs until the day caught up with us and we retired to our tents for the night.

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Steve putting all his boyscout know-how to use.

The following day we hopped from beach to beach, hidden coves and holy temples, helicopter shaped isles and finally back to El Nido and to the reality of spending a night in a hotel room. I think if I struggle to sleep at all for the remainder of this trip or even when I am back home I will envision myself in the tent on our beach in the Bacuit Archipelago.

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A touch of religion in a hidden cove

Our days in El Nido were sadly numbered. It was time for a dramatic change of scenery, and a pleasant surprise for Steve...
Steve is a geologist working in Laos. He works for a month straight (no rest for the wicked) but following this he has two or three weeks off to meet up with Maddy and hopefully us if the stars align. Now, being a geo, he has a bit of a fascination for rock and earth. So Maddy, Soph and I thought that we would surprise him by flying to Samar Island, the home of the biggest cave in the Philippines.

Posted by roamingbullocks 20:57 Archived in Philippines

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I can't wait to read what happens next! Wahoo!

by Maddy @ I'm Not Home

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