At the beginning of this trip I was starting to feel a bit depressed. I was getting depressed as I was starting to feel like an ungrateful b***h. I was feeling ungrateful as I wasn’t being wowed by the places I was going.
Bali did not wow me. Gili T reminded me a bit of Phi Phi. These places that I have heard people describe as paradise and heaven on earth were making me feel a bit MEH. Was I just being ungrateful? I was starting to think I had been spoilt by all the beautiful places I had been and that nothing could top them. I was starting to think I should go back to Essex and I was starting to hate myself for being ungrateful and sceptical.
Then I flew to Palawan.
Thank you Palawan. Driving the 5 hour bus journey from Puerto Princesas (The capital) up to the small town of El Nido I was speechless. Yep, me speechless is pretty rare.
Palawan in the Philippines… Voted best island in the world 2013. I am going to make a bold statement now. This is the most beautiful place I have been!
Situated in Bacuit Bay, El Nido, covers a land area of 465.1 square kilometres in the northern tip of Palawan. It is made up of 45 islands and islets, each with it’s own unique geological formations.
The Bourne Legacy movie used the amazing location of the big lagoon in El Nido for it’s amazing final scene as well as the French and Swedish versions of Survivour, boosting tourism for this tiny village.
This is no way the cheapest place I have been, in fact it is probably the most expensive place for backpackers in South East Asia. We luckily managed to find a dorm for P 350 (£5.30) at Hakuna Matata Hostel, but be warned there are few hostels in El Nido and rooms can be pricey. Meals were about £3-£4 and drinks about £1.50. Unfortunately a few days in El Nido was all my budget would allow.
The main attraction of El Nido is island hopping. This has been divided into 4 different tours, A, B, C and D. You are picked up at 9am and taken to 4 or 5 different beaches and lagoons throughout the day and served an amazing BBQ lunch before being dropped back at around 5pm.
After chatting with other travellers, who had done the tour, I chose tour C. I visited:
Helicopter Island, Named so as it’s limestone cliffs resemble that of a helicopter, when viewed from a distance. This island has beautiful white sandy beaches stretching up to 300 meters. Also known as Dilumacad Island, this beach is just 20 minutes by boat from El Nido town.
Big Lagoon (This replaced Hidden Beach as the sea was to rough), The clearest, stillest water I have ever seen. I floated around for ages in the warm, still water. It was like being in a massive bathtub. I just need a bar of Galaxy Chocolate and Horse and Hound magazine and life would have been complete!
Matinloc Shrine, Hidden among the lush forested island is the Matinloc Shrine, a sacred monument built in 1982 to honour the virgin Mary. There is an amazing mansion on the island that was built and owned by a wealthy Italian (Marry Me?). The island is now owned by the government and the building abandoned.
Talisay Island (BBQ), Facing the West Philippine Sea, this island has amazing marine life and is great for snorkeling. We chilled here and ate amazing food.
Secret Beach, Shhhh, well sadly it isn’t that secret any more. The boat stops by a huge limestone wall and we see people swimming in the water near other boats. On looking closer you can see a metre wide gap in the rock with about 2 foot showing above sea level.
The captain instructs us to jump in the water, erm ok, but I decide to keep my life jacket on.
I swim over to the hole and see there is quite a lot more room in the hole below sea level. ‘Go’ shouts a Filipino man as he pushes me through. Aggghhh with that, a massive wave pulls back dragging me into a rock, the man pushes me forward and I am through.
On the other side I get my footing on a rock but no one is behind me! ‘French boy?’ No one replies and huge waves come crashing through. Where is everyone? ‘Hello?’.
The waves keep coming for what seems like forever and I am alone. I start to cry! And then another massive wave knocks me off the rock I am standing on. When I manage to get my footing another wave comes and through the hole come 4 more people laughing and getting thrown about by the waves!
What? Why are they laughing? I thought they were dead! I cry a bit more! But then I look up to the most beautiful tiny, crystal clear lagoon and white sand beach I have ever seen. This was definitely a Leonardo DiCaprio in the beach moment. Unfortunately he was not there to share it with me. Sadly I could not take a camera through the hole and the GoPro had gone to sleep for the day (must remember to charge battery pack!)
We all survived with just a few cuts and bruises and the captain advised me that they do this all the time and it is ‘safe’. The Philippines laugh in the face of danger, and health and safety for that matter!
The sea was so rough, but our little boat did a good job. I videoed the craziness of the waves and the boat ride and will post that for you very soon.
The trip cost P1300 (about £20), including lunch, and was worth every penny. This trip took me to the most amazing beaches I have seen. Palawan you are beautiful and I am in awe of you. Stay classy!