Palawan, our final to-visit island in the Philippines (for this trip at least) came with some expectations due to the Bacuit archipelago. This archipelago is world famous for the stunning views of limestone islands combined with a all-shades-of-blue ocean! The place to go to visit these islands is El-Nido. A little town which is in my opinion suffocating due to the fast increase amount of tourists and the bad management of this increase on account of sewage systems, electricity, accommodations and so on.
BUT, we where not there yet… We first had to leave Siargao and go alllll the way north to Palawan. This was a long trip, probably the longest for a while. First we left Siargao for Surigao via Del Carmen in the morning (5h). We had a flight the next day in Cebu city so we took the overnight ferry to Cebu city (9h). Then we had to wait a full day in Cebu (in a mall, ‘best’ spot in the city) for the flight to Puerto Princesa on Palawan. We stayed one night in PP, then moved on to El Nido and arrived after a grueling long ride. I can tell you, we where exhausted! We booked a room on the spot, arranged our trip for the next day and went to bed early after a quick falafel meal…
All our expectations where filled in about El-Nido. The water is not useable for things like brushing your teeth, because you just will get sick… Lots of people warned us for this, so we where careful that first night. The town itself is a cramped place, with bad smells, a lot of people,… Other people did like it though, maybe it was just us 🙂
The next day we went off for a 2day1night trip with overnight camping on one of the islands. We looked forward to staying on one of the islands for a night. There are a couple of tours you can do, Tour A, B, C or D. All with their specific focuses on different parts of islands in the Archipelago. We would do tour C on day 1 and tour A on day 2.
In the morning you start off with getting on the right boat, or a random boat like we did. Our organization was nowhere to be found, so we just followed some people that we thought we should follow because they signed the same very official paper that we signed just before. We didn’t recognize anybody on the boat, weird but okay… The captain didn’t really care and just took us along on his boat for the day. Classic SE Asia.
Tour C was awesome, even challenging. You visit Helicopter island, Hidden beach and Secret beach. Hidden beach requires you to swim through a quite high swell into a small lagoon with the Hidden beach in it. Apparently this beach is used for episodes of the show ‘survivor’ and it is closed down for a long time if they are filming. Secret beach on the other hand is only accessible via a hole in the limestone wall… The water sometimes filled up the hole completely, I found it quite dangerous as there where even people in the water that couldn’t swim (they had a life vest ;-), but still)! After being back on the boat other people where also saying they found it not as easy as it looked. I loved it anyway, the challenge makes it even better! The Secret beach is not that secret anymore btw, we where in there with a lot of other people… Not illogical since you leave with 60 other boats in the morning.
The overnight stay was a bit weird. Why? When we talked to the ‘organization’ that would ‘organize’ our stay we where very enthusiast and expected a nicely organized evening with a bonfire, nice food, free rum and coke etc. They didn’t organize ANYTHING. We just arrived, had to ask the guys that where luckily on the island, if there where any drinks (and the promised free rum and coke). So after a while they started putting up our tents, brought out our – very basic (and not good) – meal. Only thing that was there was the rum and coke so after enjoying the sunset we put our focus on that a little bit too much 🙂 Besides the bad organization we had a stunning view and the feeling of sleeping on a almost deserted beach is awesome. It will be etched in our memories forever to go to sleep and wake up with these views. A beautiful DnD moment.
The next day we woke up with a veeery heavy head, the very cheap rum taking its revenge. A nice fact is that rum-coke gets cheaper here if you ask for more rum. Since the coke is more expensive :-O I took my precautions and took a seasick pill well in advance of leaving with the boat. Tour A was really pretty and luckily less challenging then tour C. We left for secret lagoon, big lagoon, matinloc shrine and 7- commando beach. We had lunch at a spectacular snorkeling spot. I went in even though still in the aftermath of an ear infection that would follow me around for almost 1.5 months and several severe looks of Dorien, in hindsight very stupid, but the snorkeling was stunning :-).
Throughout the day I only felt worse and worse, certainly after lunch. When getting back to El Nido I felt so bad that I was doubting this was still a hangover. One of the worst nights we’ve had followed. Electricity was down, so AC was down, pump for (toilet) water was also down + 2 sick people = Hell of a night in that small room with enclosed bathroom. The next morning I asked the owners for a discount and they felt so bad they wanted to give back ALL of our money, now it was our turn to feel bad and we gave back a substantial part.
So… El Nido was a place with some ups and downs, but we are very happy we visited it, the views were among the best we’ve seen in our lives. The shades of blue in the different lagoons are just unforgettable. And I must say, after being on the road together with all the ups and downs, for us as a couple a place where we got on a next level relationship – wise.