As described in my previous post, back in January this year I spent three weeks travelling in the Philippines, and travelled to four of the seven thousand islands, Cebu, Bohol, Boracay and Palawan. All four had incredible scenery with so much colour everywhere but I think Palawan could have been the most beautiful and my favourite.
On arrival, the journey from the airport to the hostel was actually surprisingly lovely. We caught a tricycle and within minutes from the airport, we were in green and leafy jungle, which was a surprise. Out of the other places I had visited in the Philippines so far, Palawan most resembled Bohol, but just an even prettier version. We only had planned to stay one night in Puerto Princesa before heading up to El Nido in the north on the following day. Annoyingly the hostel hasn’t received our booking because of the complete lack of internet on the island, and they were fully booked so we were put in a quiet guesthouse the opposite side of the road, thankfully not too far away.
We dropped our bags off and headed towards what we thought was the main bit of the town (or at least a main road) to have dinner, following my trusty maps app. However when we arrived at the road, after a creepy walk in the dark for half an hour, it wasn’t busy at all- we later realised this actually wasn’t the main town area. We had some Filipino food in a lovely, open air restaurant and then afterwards had a few beers in a very local feel area- we were definitely the only tourists around. So much so, that a few Filipinos came up and introduced themselves and asked us where we’re from. My experience of Filipino people throughout my whole trip was super positive, I didn’t meet one I didn’t like and felt really safe- the vast majority are very friendly and smiley, and will do anything for you.
Early the next morning we headed up to El Nido via minibus. As bus journeys go, that one was incredible: for the full five hour journey, the scenery was beautiful- huge mountains rising out of green rice paddies, beaches for miles and a sea view, interspersed occasionally with little clusters of wooden huts etc and Filipino children playing outside.
When we arrived in El Nido, my first impression was that it was absolutely stunning. I really loved it, with its huge limestone mountains rising out of the ocean- similar looking to Halong Bay in Vietnam or parts of Southern Thailand like Krabi.
The most popular thing to do in El Nido is island hopping trips to visit all the different karst mountains and the beautiful beaches. There are four set boat trips each day imaginatively called Boat Trips A-D. Our first choice was the most popular Boat Trip A because it included the lagoons which I really, really wanted to see. However annoyingly, the weather in El Nido had been bad for the previous four days and they had had to cancel all boat tours so there was a huge backlog of people still trying to get onto a boat trip and it was so busy! Also making matters worse, some ridiculous TV programme (Survival South Africa I think), was filming in the big lagoon so we couldn’t get in there at all at first- which had a definite knock-on effect with the amounts of boats in the other destinations. For example, our first stop was Secret Lagoon, where you had to climb through some tight rocks to get a turquoise pool and there were crowds of people actually queuing to get in, it was ridiculous- it kind of ruined the atmosphere of it. However as the day went on, we still visited some really beautiful island spots where the colours were so bright you had to shade your eyes- the sand so white and the water so blue. Then towards the end of the day, they stopped filming and we finally managed to get into Big Lagoon and that really saved the day- it was just amazing. We hired a kayak and paddled into the lagoon, inside it was really peaceful and calm, and so beautiful everywhere you looked- definitely one of the many highlights of my trip.
Kayaking in the dreamy Big Lagoon
The following day we tried to do Tour C (the next best tour apparently) but the weather was too bad so we joined Tour B. This was still running because apparently the distances are shorter so more manageable on a windy day but the waves were still ridiculously choppy. We stopped off at a couple of nice spots but one really pretty spot was called Snake Island-: called this because of a snakey sandbar connecting two islands. The tide was in unfortunately when we were there but it was still so pretty, especially when the sun came out! We climbed to the top of a viewpoint and then ate lunch on the beach, it was idyllic. To top it off the perfect day, we found the most gorgeous puppy, who was really friendly and licky- we just wanted to take him home! Our last stop in the day was an island completely covered in palm trees, it was gorgeous. So many of these Filipino islands are absolute paradise, the colours are incredible.
That evening we went out in El Nido town, and had beers and played cards on the beach. I actually really liked the town too, it still has a small town beach vibe to it despite growing in popularity. It had some nice bars on the beach front, some more lively then others- I would have loved to have spent longer! The following day there were no flights back from El Nido to Cebu directly, in time for Jamie to make his flight home, so we booked ourselves back onto the bus from El Nido to Puerto Princesa. This time, because we just booked it through an agent, it was more of a local minibus, that picked the world and its wife en route and dropped them off in random places- people kept cramming in and it took forever and got really hot. So not quite so scenic! We got to the airport early for the flight in time for the next stop, Cebu.