Caving in the Philippines – #5 El Nido, Palawan Island

Tacloban > Manila > Puerto Princesa > El Nido 18 – 21 January 2017
Now, where was I, oh, yes, last heard of in Tacloban, and catching an early morning flight to Manila to meet up with the rest of the group, Fedz, Christine, and kids Chris, Bon and KC.  We arrived in Manila and found them without any difficulties and then I was introduced to a Wendy’s Rocky Road sundae (I’ve got to find out if they sell them here).

Our flight to Puerto Princesa was due to depart at 1.30pm, so we had a while to wait at the airport, and then we were on our way.

The first indication that I’d arrived at a major tourist destination at Puerto Princesa was the number of signs held up for transfers to resorts and hotels.  We made our way outside and then looked for the van.  Fedz had done all the groundwork for our Palawan adventure and once we found the van we were on our way.  It was a long drive up, with a few stops along the way (car sick kids), mango quarantine stops and then dinner at a local restaurant.

The van picking us up from the airport (left to right), Jim, Christine, KC, Fedz, Chris, Bon and Monique.  The quality of the vans in Palawan compared to those in Samar/Leyte was much, much higher.

The restaurant where we ate, open air, I thought the ceiling was really cool and festive!

Eventually we arrived at our resort, Sophia’s Beach Guesthouse.  I didn’t know the name of the accommodation we were actually going to so had no idea where it was so it was a little disconcerting at first with the van backing down a steep hill, but once we got out, we walked to the front and there we were, right on the beach.

Out on the beach side of the accommodation, someone went off and found us a couple of beers, it was that kind of day, we needed a beer to relax after starting out from Tacloban at 6am!

Looking at Sophia’s from the beach

My first success with a panorama photo, low tide at the front of Sophia’s.

A boat out the front of Sophia’s at low tide, I thought the boats were great to look at but after 3 days, I got used to them and they didn’t warrant photos there were so many of them!

These people were being transported to another resort off-shore, Miniloc, it sounded fantastic, but very expensive.

Next morning we discovered that our island hopping trip had been cancelled due to unfavourable weather, apparently at 7.30am all the boat captains go to the harbourmaster to find out whether or not the weather is suitable for island hopping, and on this day it wasn’t, I think it had been cancelled a couple of days running.

So we hired a van and drove out to the “beach” instead.  For dinner we bought a bunch of fruit at the market and some beers and ate alfresco out the front of Sophia’s watching the lights on the water.

At the beach, it was quite crowded, and unfortunately we waited for a couple of hours for our lunch to be delivered, very hot day in the sun but the kids had fun in the water.

Next morning we were told that yes, the weather was favourable for an “Island Hopping” tour so down to the loading beach we went.

Eight of us piled into two tricycles

The main beach at El Nido, all of the boats in the distance were “tour” boats, the one on the right fully loaded and customers being escorted out to get on the middle boat.

This is the loading beach, only 10 or 12 customers per boat, lots of people waiting, with stalls hiring out wetsuit booties, snorkels and googles, and possibly beach towels.

Finally we’re loaded on the boat and almost ready to depart, we had hired this boat all to ourselves and then someone (a co-ordinator of the action on the beach), asked if we would take 2 extras, turned out to be two Frenchmen who worked in the oil and gas industry in France – interesting talking to them during the trip.

This is what El Nido is famous for, these monoliths are everywhere and the aim of the tour was to stop off at some of the islands.

Nice beaches, most of the islands if they had beaches had maybe one or two huts on them, but the majority were just rocks sticking out of the ocean.

The boat captain told us that we would visit a cave. Jim and I were excited about this, but it turned out that everyone on the tour got to visit this sea cave. It was pretty big but the guy in charge of us on land from our boat wasn’t at all happy about Jim exploring higher.

He wasn’t too happy with Jim and me exploring through a bit of a squeeze either! This went out to the sea side of the cave.

One of the beaches where we (and every other boat) stopped for lunch.

One of the monkey’s living on the island, he was very tame, but wouldn’t you be with someone feeding you bananas

The lunch spot and the captain firing up the bbq to cook our fish

Sea urchins, my first go at an underwater pic

Christine and Bon, and lunch, the top of the pineapple lifted off and there was chopped up pineapple inside!  Fruit, grilled fish, cucumber slices and grilled eggplant and tomato salad (plus rice of course)

On another island the boat boy had to pole boats to and from the beach.

The next photo opportunity we went to highlighted the number of “tourists” that come to El Nido and how uncontrolled it is. In the distance is a gap between the rock, which surrounds this lagoon, it’s the only way in and out and is probably about 30m wide, it’s very shallow at this point, but the lagoon is way deep, no way to get off on boats. All the boats try to get through that 30m gap and it’s just noisy and smelly from the diesel in the lagoon, it’s impressive, but would be made much more impressive if they stopped the boats and made everyone kayak in (as with the next lagoon that we went to).

Trying to get out of the lagoon, boats trying to get in and out at the same time and gap not wide enough for two boats!  I did a quick calculation and figured out that about 400 other tourists were doing the same tour that we were doing.

The next lagoon we went to was accessed via a gap only wide enough for a kayak and you had to duck under a chock-stone to get there.  Jim had the kids on one kayak, (I had Christine and Monique on another).  I’m not sure what was more fun, watching Jim or trying to manoeuvre the kayak through the hole to get to the lagoon.  It was very peaceful inside and rumour has it that there was a group of 15 or so monkeys in one part (which we didn’t see).

You would never know it to look at this image, but the trip back to El Nido was exciting, the swell and wind had picked up by mid afternoon and it was an exciting trip.

We packed up when we got back to Sophia’s Guesthouse and Fedz had organised another trip for us in the morning before we headed down to Puerto Princessa, so we were all up around 5am and back in a couple of tricycles to El Nido beach.  We waited around eating hot bread from the bakery for the boat captain.  I’m not sure if wires were crossed or what but I suspected that we wouldn’t find out until 7.30am whether or not the harbourmaster would let boats go out that day (why did we need to be there at 6am?) and sure enough, at around 7.30 the boat captain came ashore and told us we wouldn’t be going out, seas too high.

So, back to Sophia’s and we got our stuff together, loaded into a van and it was back on the “highway” to Puerto Princessa for the next part of our Palawan adventure.

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6 Responses to Caving in the Philippines – #5 El Nido, Palawan Island

  1. Roy cotton says:

    Thank you for the photos and wonderful description

  2. Fedz says:

    Wow! You’ve got amazing shots there Marilyn, thank you so much!
    We had so much fun with you in this trip. Hope all is well with you!
    Kind regards!

    • marilyn says:

      Yep Fedz, all’s well, very busy. I took over 700 photos on the trip but probably only 15% of them were half way decent, a lot of blurry shots, particularly in the underground river! Hope all’s well with you all and you’ve settled back into oz!

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