Just after a five-hour sleep at Balay Paragua, we woke up as early as 6 am the following day to prepare for the start of our island tour. It was only a short rest to recover from the gruesome traveling hours, but our excitement to explore the best island in the world replaced all the exhaustion. No time is to be wasted, we thought.
We headed to the registration at the beach front of El Nido town to have our names listed and join the group taking the Tour C. While we waited for the completion of the headcount, we saw the small boats docked near the shoreline, their colours perfectly blending against the green mountains and azure sky. It was a fine day, thankfully.
We sat on the sand with our dry bags, sunglasses, cameras and rock-proof sandals. Our online readings helped us to prepare well for our island gears. While waiting for the boat to take us to the islands, some vendors selling local-made jewelry roamed to offer pearl merchandise. It was a common scene no tourist can evade.
We started the tour around 8:30 am. The tour guide introduced himself candidly and briefed us with the rules and safety measures. His name is Jay, and he was funny and helpful. His humor made the trip more lively, I tell you.
Our boat sailed around towering limestone cliffs, surrounded by waters that vary in colour from blue to jade and emerald green. The sun was blazing above us, making the waters shimmer. Splashes of water sometimes sprinkle our face each time we encounter big waves, but it was refreshing. Our eyes marveled on the clarity of the emerald waters that transparently showed the ocean floor. Next we thing we knew, we stopped at our first destination: Hidden Beach.
We got off the boat and swam towards the beach. The mysterious beach is hidden amongst the giant limestone cliffs, surrounded by coconut trees and small shrubs. The sand is powdery white. It’s my second time in this marvelous spot, but I am still enthralled to see the hidden beach whose beauty is protected by nature’s limestone fortresses. There is always a debate to swim and feel the waters, or to sit idly and just gaze upon the beauty of the whole scenery. Indeed, Palawan was not named as the Philippines’ Last Frontier for no reason at all.
After taking pictures and swimming, we headed to the Secret Beach.
El Nido’s Secret Beach depicts a woman playing hard to get. Work hard to see her beauty. You have to swim meters of seawater to reach the small opening that leads to a piece of paradise with towering cliffs and white sand. Sometimes the current is too strong that it’s dangerous if you lose your grip and slam your head against the rocks in the small crevice. The big waves made it hard for me to swim, so I let Jay the tour guide drag me along. Otherwise, it will take years before I get in. After the marathon-like swim, we reached the secret paradise. The floor is studded with sharp rocks and the water is knee-deep only so it is not advisable to go barefoot. The energy spent in swimming was all worth it – once you see the captivating view.
Roughly an hour of appreciating the secret beach packed with tourists, we again mustered courage to swim our way out of the small hole. This time, the waves were stronger. It was hard to escape out. We had to hold the rope or else, we’d be swept away in a few seconds. Thanks to Jay’s superb swimming skills, we safely reached the boat.
With hungry bellies and tensed muscles after the adventure-filled swimming, we then docked our boat at Star Beach where we ate our lunch and rested.
We had this delicious heavy lunch: grilled fish, liempo, shrimps, fried chicken, eggplant and tomato salad, rice and fruits. These were prepared by the boatman and tour guide. They even designed the presentation!
After the satisfying meal we headed to Matinloc Shrine. We paid Php 100 for the entrance but it looked like an abandoned chapel. The place is not maintained at all so we wonder where does the entrance fee go? I hope the fund gets allocated for the over-all repair and maintenance, and not to the owners’ or caretakers’ pockets. It had the same facade and ruins two years ago, indicating that it was not improved at all.
We climbed our way up the gray rock formations to witness a breathtaking view of the nearby islands of Matinloc. It was a challenge to keep balance and steadily take a photo of the view as the rocks were too sharp to make a false move. Our tour guide Jay, had this impressive photography skills, he took the camera and captured angles even in dangerous stances. All we did was pose, hoping neither of us would fall from where we were standing.
And just like the two beaches, this offered a magnificent view not worthy of words. It was enchanting. The overlooking of the cliffs and the waters that range from blue green dark blue was pretty much overwhelming. A risky venture, but all worth it.
It seems that in this photo we were all smiling. In reality, we were nervous about this “buwis-buhay” shot of Kuya.
This looked like an old harbor for passengers, but today it is a famous area for photo shoots. It’s rare to see this uncrowded from tourists taking snapshots and selfies, but I found a perfect timing to sneak a photo of the small bridge.
Our last stop was at Helicopter Island. From afar, the island resembles the shape of a helicopter. We stayed here to swim and to have snorkeling. We saw colorful fishes and coral reefs underneath. We lazed here longer to share stories with our tour guide and practice our swimming and breathing techniques. It was peaceful and quiet, yet sublime.
- We availed Tour C and Tour A on two separate days so we could have longer time on each island. However, you can avail the combo of these tours for a cheaper price, but shorter hours.
- Tour starts at 8:30 and ends at 4 PM
- Wear your life vest always if you are not a good swimmer.
- Bring your own water. Some tours do not provide drinks to the tourists.
- Snorkeling gears, fins and aqua shoes can be rented for Php 100
- Towels are sometimes provided by the tour guides, but some don’t. Bring your own towel just to be sure.
- Last-minute tour cancellations have Php 300 surcharge/ penalty
- Conquer your fears and have fun!
Things to bring:
- Extra cash (for buko juice and entrance fee at Matinloc Shrine)
- Sunscreen (lots and lots of it)
- Dry bag
- Water-proof camera
Tour C for me can be described as dynamic adventure, risky and physically-demanding but absolutely rewarding. The hurdles in swimming against the tides, getting wounded by the sharp rocks to get inside the crevice of Secret Beach: they are all worth it. It proves anything can be survived if you have the willpower to do it. But fret not, for a mystique, rewarding view awaits you in the end.