COME SEE Tour A & C, El Nido. Philippines.
TOUR A & C: THE GUIDE
REGION: Palawan Province
ACCESSIBILITY: Via hired boat private tour or group boat tour
BEST TIME TO VISIT: During the cool season (Oct – Feb) | temp ranging from around 21 – 32 degrees
LOCATION: Islands surrounding El Nido Island | Open in Google Maps
WALKING DISTANCE: Not much walking at all more swimming
TIME REQUIRED: Tours typically run between 8am and 5pm
TOURIST RATING: Unfortunately very crowded and touristy
COST: 8,000 php for a 2 person private tour | 100 php for Matinloc Shrine
EL NIDO TOUR A & C: THE EXPERIENCE
The plan was to fly into Puerto Princessa and take a 5 hour mini van ride up north to get to El Nido. As soon as we stepped out of the Puerto Princessa airport, we were approached by a man asking if we wanted a mini van ticket for El Nido. He was offering 500 php, which was exactly what we were hoping for after doing our research online.
Us, along with 11 other passengers squeezed into a mini van and off we went! The ride up wasn’t too bad really. We had 4 different rest breaks along the way to get something to eat and stretch our legs. The roads weren’t too bendy either which was a change from the ride up the Pai The only downside was that the air con kept getting turned off and on and when it was on it was like Antarctica in there so we both ended up sick with the flu!
When we arrived we thought it reminded us of Bali, busy and touristy! Something we hadn’t seen it a while. We were staying at Nay Aster Pension, a small hotel along the strip. It was unfortunate that we ended up spending a lot more time in our room that we planned as we were unwell! We weren’t going to let it stop us from doing the activities we came to do. We had read quite a bit online about the tours and various prices, we were certain we wanted to do tour A and C so one night after dinner, we decided to walk around the streets and see what prices were up for grabs.
After a while looking, we came across one company where we were greeting by a lady with a huge smile. She lured us in with her friendly nature. (The tour company is directly across the restaurant named “Sausage With Benefits” open in google maps.) She offered us the best price for a private tour of both tour A & C, which included hotel transfers, lunch and water. It was 8,000 php ($200 aud). We knew we wanted to pay the extra for a private tour to ensure we could plan each island we went to and an uncrowded frame for our content. The weather the whole week had been very unpredictable. Storms one day clear sky and sunshine the next. We needed to just go with our gut so we booked for the next morning.
We organized to get picked up at 7:30 as the private tours leave earliest 8am and the standard tours leave at 9. We ended up leaving at 8:45. The first stop was helicopter beach. It was beeeeeautiful but we only had 10 minutes before the first boat load showed up. That ten minutes was the only time we had alone for the day. Other than that, anyone would’ve thought we were with a big tour group. This was highly frustrating purely for the fact that we spent like an extra 4,000 php to be private. We just wish we knew, because then we would’ve just gone with a normal tour and saved $80 aud.
Because we combined the two tours together we chose 6 spots in total, and only went to 5. Our boatmen had their own schedule as to which islands we went to. Next stop was hidden beach. It was beautiful but again, just ended up quickly packed with tourists. It just kinda kills the vibe. It takes away from the natural beauty. We think in future, there should definitely be a limit on people per day to visit these places otherwise they’ll become ruined and the sea life will hate it!
Next stop was the Matinloc Shrine. Interesting place. We had heard a few different stories about this place but apparently the real story had a lot to do with just basically an abandoned resort due to no permits. Apparently the owners left a whole bunch of furniture there that eventually was all stolen by locals! Who knows what to believe. While others may see it as a spiritual shrine, we saw it as a place with good views! There’s a jagged limestone peak on one end with beautiful views of surrounding islands like Tapiutan Island opposite Matinloc.
We then headed over to Talisay Beach. Along with about 4 other tours, we had lunch! They cooked us grilled chicken, rice, eggplant salsa and fresh fruits. Just as they put it down on the pop up table… the heavens decided to heavily rain on down. There wasn’t any shade so it was a soggy lunch! It was hard to keep positive around this time but we just continued to cop it on the chin and keep going.
Next stop was Secret Lagoon. This was the Lagoon you had to swim through a small underpass to get to. Which to me, was the best part. It was a bit of a thrill having to quickly swim through before a big wave came. The actual lagoon itself is quite shallow in some areas where there’s coral and fisheys swimming by your feet. We didn’t stay too long as it was just way too crowded!
Our boatmen suggested taking us to a secret spot near there, in the middle of the sea where we could snorkel. We were more than happy to get away from the crowds. This was the best snorkeling experience we had for our entire trip!! As soon as we got into the water we were shocked with how many fish were there. So many different colours, shapes and sizes. One thing we noticed is that they weren’t scared at all. They were coming up so close to us it was amazing!Next stop was Small Lagoon. Once you reach small and big lagoon you can then hire canoe’s which is the only way to access them apparently. Our boatman said swimming wasn’t allowed due to a certain fish that bites… i think he said it was called Piranha or something hahah kiddddding!. So we hired our canoe for 200 php ($4) entered the lagoon and it started raining again! Every time we got the camera out it decided to bloody rain! never mind, we still got some cute pics.
The water was this crazy beautiful teal colour. It reminded me the water from Dagubdub Falls! We ended up leaving pretty quickly and on the way out got an ice-cream off of one of the floating vendors (men with esky’s on canoes carrying drinks and ice creams). We drowned our sorrows with ice cream and headed to our final destination for the day, big lagoon!
We arrived and again there were loads of people there. It was still raining so we decided to just have a swim through the shallows near us, within 10 minutes the sky had almost turned black-grey… a big storm was coming! It went from being packed with canoeing tourists to everyone scrambling out the water trying to get back on their boats before the storm hit. We began swimming back among the loud thunder and lightning. We knew the trip back was looking rough.
In the crashing rain, we tried desperately to search for things to cover ourselves with as we already were sick! BUT all in all we made it back totally safe and sound. This is just the realness of traveling. It aint always sunshine, rainbows and palm trees but it always makes for a damn good story!. No matter how this day or any day turns out… we’re always grateful for the hidden lessons and teachings in every situation!
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