Do you love geography?
I hope it’s a yes because I will be introducing you to one of the Philippines most sought-after tourist destination. If you aced your geography class, and if hopefully, Philippines is one of your topics, you would know that the country is an archipelago of 7,641 islands. The biggest province can be seen clearly on the map – the elongated land on the left side of the country, which is called Palawan. And on this archipelagic region lie three of the most popular tourist spots in the country: Puerto Princesa, Coron, and El Nido. Out of the three, El Nido will be given the spotlight this time.
There are four main island hopping tours in El Nido: Tours A, B, C, and D – if you find it hard to remember the tour names I suggest that you revisit your alphabet song, it’s very helpful. Kidding aside, the highly demanded tour out of the four is Tour A. Tour A consists of visiting Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island and 7 Commando Beach. The price of the tour is Php 1,200 for the whole day activity, including payment for lunch on the island. You can book the tours online or just arrange it in the hotel you are staying in.
The meetup time is usually 8 am at the shores on the mainland. A motorized boat will three local guides will welcome you as you start your tour. Usually, one boat consists of 7-9 tourists, so if you are traveling alone or with a group less than seven, you would probably meet new friends in your El Nido escapade. Isn’t it exciting? Come with me as we hop from one island to another!
Want to go kayaking? Small lagoon is usually the best area to do this activity. The water is clear and still. The area is surrounded by large boulders of limestones so you can vividly hear the chirping of wild birds as it echoes. You can swim around the area, but it is highly encouraged to still wear life jackets even if you know how to swim.
I was with my friend and her sister when we visited El Nido. As seen, the water is still clear and very shallow as we approach the entrance of small lagoon. This part is still the area mainly connected to the sea. I can’t seem to count how many times we said “wow” and “amazing” as we started kayaking through the water. The weather was nice, the bright light from the sun helped accentuate the colors of nature.
Now we have entered the small lagoon and the color of the water dramatically changed. It went from light green to dark in an instant, indicating that the area within the lagoon is already very deep. Unsupervised swimming is prohibited though. The guide will always be at bay as you navigate through the wilderness. It is also prohibited to tell your secrets aloud in this area – not because you will be paying a fine if you do so, but because other people might hear it! Your loud voice will echo through the limestones and you might even scare the sweet little birds flying peacefully.
Big Lagoon is a very wide area of water surrounded by limestone cliffs. It is very deep that the color of the water is three times darker than that of the small lagoon. Tourists are not allowed to swim here as it is deemed to be dangerous. As part of the tour, the motorized boat will just circle around the area. This spot is only for picture taking and sightseeing. Actually, this area is the signature spot you find in most of the El Nido postcards. The overwhelming vastness of the lagoon will make you even wonder how God made it.
The secret lagoon gives a different feel from the previous two lagoons. You cannot swim here as it is very shallow – like waistline level. We did not stay long in the area and instead explored the nearby island attached to it. Well, if you see trees you think you could climb what will you do? Yes, monkey instincts – you climb! And this is where the photo came from.
Probably the best stop of this tour – this is where we had our lunch. The guides prepared the lunch – they cooked it on the boat and we shared the food together with the other tourists. They made fresh eggplant salad, grilled pork, fish, shrimps and fresh fruits. We were literally castaways on this island, eating with bare hands.
After lunch, we took our time and went swimming. This is where we stayed the longest; the island was so endearing. It was amazing to rest on the limestones with its cool shade as you stare at the surroundings and just feel so refreshed. It seemed that every second on the island is equivalent to an hour in the city. We were the only tourists on the island at that time so we took the opportunity to wander around it. It was such a moment of solitude.
7 Commando Beach
7 Commando Beach is a lot different from the previous lagoons and island we went and passed by. Seeing from afar, you can see perfectly lined coconut trees and cottages. The limestones were covered by greens and the waters were bluer than ever. Legend says that the name of the island came from a myth that seven soldiers were once stranded on the island. Others would say that there’s a shipping vessel stranded on the island many years ago and stayed there for three months, they said there was a carving on one of the stones that say “7 Commando”. Many speculated that it was the name of the vessel.
Anyhow, whatever the history may be, the island was indeed living by its name – it exudes a fierce and strong energy. When it’s quiet in Shimizu Island, 7 Commando is a lot livelier. There are volleyball and basketball courts, a big swing and a store where you can buy drinks and snacks. Loud music can be heard too – this is a place for party people like me. Scrap that – I am behaved and tamed. Anyway, you might not believe that so let’s just focus on this wonderful piece of nature. When we docked on the island, it seemed so surreal. Well-refined sand, wide shoreline and crispy cool air. I can’t help but snap photos of literally just anywhere! It was such a happy feeling.
7 Commando Beach perfectly closed the island hopping tour for the day. If you are like me who’s only taking a one-day escape from the hustle and bustle of our busy lives, I would suggest you go for Tour A if you want to spend a day in El Nido. If you have more time to explore, most of the guides would suggest getting Tours A and C. If you have the whole week to spare, might as well avail all the tours available – good luck on the sunburns though!