I’d seen so many pictures on Instagram of the Philippines with its clear blue water and bright white sand so naturally while i was in South East Asia i knew i needed to go!
I only had 2 weeks to play with so i decided to go to the 2 places i had heard most about- El Nido and Boracay.
After a day in Manila i took a flight to Puerto Princesa airport on the island of Palawan, this is where i fully realised just how much of an effort it is to get around the Philippines! Firstly, because its made up of so many islands you have to fly everywhere and i soon realised that every internal flight is delayed!! Therefore i arrived in Puerto Princesa nearly 2 hours later than planned and i still had a long journey ahead of me.
Right outside the airport are mini vans that will take you up to El Nido for 600 peso/ £8.80, i had read about these vans online and heard they were small and cramped and took up to about 6 hours and from my experience this was true.. it wasn’t the best journey I’ve ever done but eventually we arrived in El Nido at 11:00pm.
Now, arriving at this time of night with no accommodation prebooked as there was nothing to prebook online wasn’t ideal! Luckily some fellow travellers noticed our backpacks after we had walked around for a while hearing nothing but ‘no sorry we’re full’ and pointed us in the direction of Smile Lodge where we got a double room for 1000 peso/£15.00, the next morning we moved around the corner to Alexus Backpackers for 1100 peso/£16.00 a night as the room was in a better condition with air con and wifi.. although wifi doesn’t work very well anywhere in El Nido!
Once we were all checked into our new room we headed out to explore, we realised that the reason the sky around us the following night had seemed so black was because their are huge limestone cliffs surrounding the town! I love limestone cliffs and they were a huge contrast against the small town.
El Nido town is made up of a few streets with some basic shops, eateries, travel agencies etc and no chain stores, banks or fancy supermarkets were to be seen. Although El Nido has become more popular with tourists and a lot busier the town has still keep a very laid back view and doesn’t seem to have modernised which was actually quite nice… on this note however there is only one ATM in the town so bring enough cash with you as i heard sometimes it doesn’t work!
We checked out the town beach too, its definitely nothing special but for a town beach with lots of restaurants and dive shops running along it it really isn’t bad.
We decided to venture out of the town and asked reception what beach we could go to nearby, they recommended Las Cabanas beach which cost 100 peso/£1.50 to get there via tricycle and took about 15 minutes.
This beach was really gorgeous, the beach is lined with palm trees and had such a wild feel to it. There were islands in front of us and you could just make out the whiteness of far away beaches. After sunbathing for awhile we walked further along the beach to the end and around the corner and this was breathtakingly beautiful, it was completely deserted and the picture perfect view i had of the Philippines.
El Nido is popular for 2 things-its diving and island hoping! There’s 4 boat tours that you can take around El Nido to go island hoping- Tour A, B, C or D. We were told that tour A and C were the most popular so decided to do tour A which we paid 1200 peso/ £17.50 for.
The next day we met our tour group and boarded the boat, i really like the boats in the Philippines, they aren’t as pretty and traditional looking as the long tail boats in Thailand but they are a lot bigger, newer and more practical. There was about 20-24 of us on the boat with 7 members of staff (a bit excessive i thought but they were great guys).
First we headed to the Big Lagoon (i believe that the tour companies do some of these lagoons in different sequences so you may start or end here), we had to get out of the boat and swim for awhile, first off my snorkel was letting in water (just like it did on my Koh Lanta trip.. why is it always me??!!), and secondly we kept knocking our feet on really sharp coral, most people on the tour had diving booties on but we weren’t told to hire any, we took our flip flops into the water but trust me that its hard to swim with flip flops on, on top of this we saw some jelly fish, we shouted to the guide who said they were safe and Sarah also had a fish bite her ankle, i laughed because i could see the fish in the water and it looked so small but when it happened to me later on i knew why she was freaking out, it literally just rams into your ankle and it feels like a rock has been thrown at you… later we were told they’re called ‘aggressive fish’!!
Anyway, drama aside it was so beautiful!! The water was a gorgeous colour and we were soon able to stand up and walk into the lagoon, other people had hired kayaks which i wish i had done but we couldn’t dwell on the negatives now, we just had to take in the beauty!
We got back to the boat and i noticed by arm was stinging, i looked down and i had marks all up the front of my arm and hand.. the jellyfish had stung me after all! It was just a mild sting though and the crew told me not to worry (however I’m writing this post 2 weeks after these events and i still have small marks from it!).
The next stop was our lunch spot, it seemed kind of early but by the time we had walked along the beautiful small beach, took some photos, laid in the sun and admired the beautiful while the crew were cooking we were very hungry when it was ready.
Our second to last stop of the trip was the Small lagoon, by now our feet were in shreds from the coral and my jellyfish sting was stinging but we didn’t want to miss out and the water looked amazing so we hired a kayak for an extra 300 peso and off we went! I’m actually so glad we didn’t swim as it was deep the whole way with no where to stop and take a breather and we saw loads of jellyfish. It was stunning though and even more so while gliding along in the kayak!
To end the day we stopped at Commandos beach for an hour, it was a lovely beach and a great way to reflect on the amazing day we had just had!
I would highly recommend doing Tour A (just make sure you hire some boots before and from what i heard the jellyfish are seasonal so you shouldn’t have that problem!). Two girls i met did tour C and also loved it.. i think either way you can’t go wrong!
We spent 3 nights in El Nido and i thought this was enough, we did plan to go diving on our last day but all of the diving shops which looked good and reputable were full so instead we had a relaxed day on the town beach.
We had been recommended to go to Port Barton, another place on the West coast of Palawan between El Nido and Puerto Princesa, we figured this would help break up the journey back to the airport so booked a mini bus and headed there next.
**There’s a video of my time in the Philippines on my YouTube page which includes clips from El Nido, check it out here!**