One thing you won’t get by on Palawan is island hopping in El Nido. Only by boat can you visit the truly beautiful places of El Nido.
The tours don’t have names but are called Tour A, B, C, or D. Tour A is a must if you are in El Nido the first time and here is how your day will go.
Island Hopping in El Nido – Tour A
The night before the tour, you could check out the different tour booths and enquire prices and what is included. All tours we asked about cost 1200 pesos and an additional 200 pesos for the environment if you haven’t paid that already. The difference is in what is included. With some, you have to pay extra for the snorkeling gear, the canoes or they won’t give you water shoes. We were really lucky that our water shoes were included as there were some sharp rocks in the lagoons. Water shoes would be a good investment in the Philippines anyway.
Now, the thing is, that in El Nido, every morning at 7 a.m. the coast guard decides whether the boats are allowed to go out. Not even the scuba boats can go out although the water would be fine below the surface 🙁
During our stay it was stormy the three days before we arrived and all tours had been cancelled. The day we wanted to do the tour turned out to be a perfectly beautiful day but the coast guard made a wrong decision and cancelled them again. We couldn’t believe it!
But so, at least we had a day to explore the beaches around El Nido by land. However, we didn’t want to pre-book the tour again and then have to go get our deposit money back the next day if the tours wouldn’t take place. So, once we learned that the tours would actually happen, we took a trycicle into town (40 pesos for two people from Karmyla’s Place. They make amazing pancakes!) and just walked to our booking office at 8 a.m. It was still fine to sign up then. At 9 a.m. everyone who goes on a tour that day has to wait on the beach and will then be ushered into a boat.
The boat for the island hopping tour
The boat we were on could seat about 20 people. All the boats were outrigger boats with wood poles on both sides. The boat had a sun roof and everyone received a life vest. In the back was the steering wheel and a small covered area where they cooked our lunch while the boat was driving. They cooked over an open fire, although the whole boat was made of wood 🙂 Anyway, there were quite some waves in the morning and again and again a big gush of water flooded the “kitchen”. I wondered if they would be able to cook anything but it started to smell and look really well.
By the way, to board and leave the boat, you once more have to wade through the water. Just wear your swim wear all day and put the rest of your stuff in a dry bag or plastic bags. Everything else that goes on the boat, you have to transport through the water as well (tables, the food and drinks).
The stopps on the island hopping tour in El Nido
7 Commando Beach
Our first stop was 7 Commando Beach. Of course, the beaches on the green islands in front of the clear blue water all look beautiful. So was 7 Commando but it probably won’t be the most beautiful beach you have ever been at. The fun thing was that you could climb on a tree and then jump off in a swing and swing across the beach. Of course, to get to the beach and back into the boat you have to swim about 20 meters since the boats can’t get so close to shore. Luckily, with the life vests even the Asians who couldn’t swim made it back and forth.
In Small Lagoon you can rent canoes (one for two people for 400 PHP and one for 3 people for 600 PHP, except you have already paid for it in your package). You paddle your way to a small gate in the rocks and then enter the lagoon. You can explore different corners and “secret gates” behind rocks.
There also is a little cave that you can swim in. Wear water shoes, the rocks are sharp! What makes the lagoon special are the colors of the water as there is a white sandy bottom. If you are a good swimmer, you could also swim/snorkle everything. Perhaps, a group in a canoe will be nice enough and pull you along on their short leash.
Our crew unfortunately wasn’t very talkative. So I don’t know if this was the island where we ate lunch or if it was the place where we snorkelled. But since we didn’t go ashore where we snorkelled, I assume this small island with tiny white beaches where we had lunch was Simizu Island.
The crew transported our now cooked food on the canoes to the beach and set it up on a table. It was a real feast! That lunch alone was worth the tour. We had a whole fish, shrimps, pork chops, chicken, more fish, a delicious eggplant salad, rice, fruits and soft drinks. Nobody went hungry and nobody got sick afterward either 🙂
After our stomach could digest a little, the boat took off to a new place where we could jump in the water and snorkle around. It was a really good snorkelling spot with plenty of nice fish and corals.
That was my highlight of the tour! The entry way to the lagoon is a passage between two rock walls with a shallow sandy bottom which creates incredible colors. The lagoon behind it is more like a small lake. It must be rather deep as it was dark green and therefore reminded me a bit of a lake in Switzerland. There was one rock to the side from which you could jump.
The experience you have in the lagoon depends on your boat and the tides. Boats can only enter the lagoon at high tide. Apparently, our boat was too big to enter because they parked it in front of the lagoon among other boats.
Again, we could rent canoes but I decided to swim this time. As soon as I entered the gateway, I could walk in the shallow water between the two rock walls. It was amazing! There were some people on canoes and some boats (bigger than ours…so, I don’t know why we couldn’t go in as well, but I guess once more it’s just the Philippino way). However, walking and swimming there was wonderful and I was glad to be in the water and not on a boat.
The secret lagoon also depends on the tides because you enter through a hole in the rocks. So, why can’t the boatmen learn how to read a tides chart and bring their people to all the stops when the tides are right? I think they just didn’t want to go there and did a bit as they pleased. The Philippines are getting more and more developped and you see that they learn certain things in customer service but somewhere it just stops. First of all, they just don’t know any better but it seemed that they also didn’t really want to give the customers the best possible service. They could pick up a thing or two for their own benefits (how to earn gratuities) as well.
But, so, we didn’t go to Secret Lagoon because the tides were wrong. The whole island hopping trip was amazing nevertheless!
What is the most beautiful beach or laguna you have ever been to? Tell me in a comment!