El Nido, Palawan. The “Philippines’ last frontier”. Inspiration of the famous movie The Beach. Home of various European versions of the reality game show Survivor. Setting of Leg 12 of the Amazing Race 5. Location of the ending scenes of the fourth Bourne Legacy movie. Always included in lists that say “Most Beautiful Beaches” in the Philippines/Asia/the world. A place that only deserves superlatives, El Nido is indeed worthy to be called paradise.
Read more: Other Survivor locations in the Philippines
El Nido Island Hopping Tour C
Almost everyone is in agreement: the El Nido Island Hopping Tour C is the best among the four different tours of El Nido. It offers a good mix of adventure swimming, laid-back lounging and even a bit of local history with a constant opportunity of clownfish sightings for your snorkeling fix.
Read more: Do It Yourself Coron, Palawan
Our boat left the Corong-Corong beach at around 9:20 in the morning and our first stop was the Secret Beach. The Secret Beach was where Alex Garland drew inspiration for his book, The Beach, which later became a very popular movie with a very memorable sound track (Pure Shores is still the song that plays in my head whenever I feel like escaping the city life and going to, of course, the beach). Upon arriving at our destination, I was confused for a moment because I wasn’t seeing any sand or anything that resembles a beach. All I saw were limestone walls and a bunch of boats anchored close by. Upon closer inspection, I saw that there was a hole in the wall which closely resembles a throat with a hanging uvula. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the entrance to the secret beach.
Swimming through it, I found myself in a very shallow beach with corals threatening to scrape my tummy. The water was very clear and there were lots of fish and interesting coral formations. To the far end was a strip of sand where people could sit, sunbathe and do other beach activities. It was really amazing to think that a person had been curious enough to think, “Well, that looks like an entrance to a promising beach,” and later on decided to call it “Secret Beach”. If it weren’t for the crowd of tourists, it would really seem like a good place to escape from the rest of the world.
Read more: El Nido’s less crowded beaches
Our next stop was the Star Beach on the Tapiutan Island. This beach gives a stunning vista of the neighboring Matinloc Island. It was a really good place to snorkel and even just to swim. Lots of tourists did their sunbathing while the boat men and tour guides prepared lunch.
Lunch was finally ready by 12:30 and everyone just dug in and enjoyed the feast.
After lunch, we crossed the sea towards the Matinloc Shrine. According to our tour guide, the Matinloc Shrine came to being because of a vision or a dream of a local woman who was married to a foreigner. The couple had the shrine built together with a mansion. However, the couple separated, leaving the woman the sole owner of the mansion… which was later on abandoned and looted. We toured the mansion and discovered the basement to be flooded with water and the upper rooms empty except for some bed frames.
The tour guide also claims that the mansion is haunted and that ghosts have been reported to appear on photos taken inside the mansion. Did I take a photo inside? Nope. Instead, I made my way up some jagged rocks and steep stairs to take a look at this view.
Next stop was the Hidden Beach. It is a bit funny that the names of the beaches in Matinloc Island remained to be called “Secret” and “Hidden” despite the fact that they have become very famous. Don’t you think?
Anyway, the entrance to the Hidden Beach was through a narrow opening that normal boats would not be able to get through. So, to get there, one must swim around this limestone wall and walk over some corrals. And the Hidden Beach was just like one big playground for me. The corrals and fish there were just awesome. Not to mention that I tried practicing some laps over there. Haha! However, going back to the boat proved to be a real test of skill because the waves around the wall were just so big and the current was strong.
The last stop was the Helicopter Island which is named because of its resemblance to a helicopter… which actually also resembled a whale, and for kids, the leg part of a chicken. The hardcore swimming that I did to get out of Hidden Beach made me really hungry. Good thing there were ice cream vendors on this island.
After an ice cream cone and a popsicle, I started walking along the beach that had fine beige sand, with lots of sunbathing tourists. I must say, El Nido was the one place in the Philippines where I felt like I was the tourist. It’s just that there were so many Caucasians everywhere that for the first time, I actually felt like mingling was in order. I’m rather normally shy and afraid to take on groups of people at a time but I actually felt comfortable with my co-travelers on that Tour C. I had the chance to practice speaking French with half of the group and Moche and I had the chance to meet a Filipina (who later turned out to be friends with his friends!) who was with an American guy plus a couple of Catholic missionary girls from the U.S. It really made the trip even more fun!
After the Helicopter Island, it was time to go back. We dared the missionary girls to try out balut (while Moche and I were dared to eat halo-halo with peanut butter) later on at the resort, then eventually, everyone agreed to have dinner at the town proper later on that evening. But before that, we waited around and caught the sunset of Corong-Corong Beach.
Too bad the dare didn’t materialize. But still, it was a very good birthday eve for me. I got to enjoy the beauty of El Nido and meet new people. And it was during that sunset that I realized that yes, maybe El Nido is my happy place. ^___^
Hungry for more pics? Check them out here.
March 14, 2015
***all photos were taken using iPhone 5