We left our paradise on Siquijor and headed back to Cebu for a layover before flying to El Nido. We opted to do the ferry ride back to Cebu in one trip – it stopped in Tagbilaran for 30 minutes and the trip took about 5 hours in total at a cost of US$17 each. I must admit I really enjoyed the ferries – it is a very calm way to travel – provided of course the weather participates.
We had originally booked to stay in the same area as previously but changed this and stayed at an airport hotel – we got a sneaky upgrade to an executive suite which was a great break between two “backpacker” type sets of accommodation.
We flew to El Nido airport on Palawan – the airport is extremely close to the beach and I joked that I thought the pilot thought he was flying a seaplane when we came in to land. Of course, the mode of transport the 30km North to Calitang Beach was be trike which we had prearranged in order to avoid the standard melee at the airport.
The first couple of kilometres from El Nido Airport is very rough and again the last few kilometres off the main road to the beach were also a tad rough but well worth it.
We once again had accommodation on the beach – granted not as close as in San Juan – we had to walk across a balcony to get to the beach instead of out of our door – ha ha.
The area is relatively isolated and there are few local shops but despite that the prices were comparable to in the town. The food at our place was reasonably priced and really tasty – we got to sample various local dishes.
Once again, it was possible to walk into the ocean and go snorkelling, which Ivan did every day. There were 4 island tours on offer, and we discovered that the same 4 are offered at every resort, hotel, hostel and bnb in the wider El Nido area – this means that all the tourists are visiting the same islands – having experienced this in Thailand we opted out. One of our fellow guests told us that at a couple of the beaches he visited on one of these tours there were upward of 20 boats with all those customers snorkelling on the same spot. We learned that we could have arranged a private boat which would then be able to pick and choose where to go depending on crowds but still limited to the “allowed” beaches.
We visited the town of El Nido and sat and found the normal problem with access to the beach being through hotels, but we had not gone for the beach, so this was not really a problem. We did see all the boats being loaded for the day trips and there were a few hundred people waiting to go out. The town itself is a regular tourist town with numerous pubs and restaurants and of course hostels. We didn’t venture south but I gather that there are more beaches that are accessible.
A pleasant 900m walk up the beach and around the corner from our accommodation was Nacpan Beach – a truly beautiful, currently very meagrely developed 4 km stretch of beach. A fellow traveller told us that there are plans for an airport at Nacpan which will be a shame, as I think this will bring development which will destroy the natural beauty but of course this is in some way inevitable.
In the afternoons we got to chat the loads of fellow travellers – not many our age – but it was really fun hearing about other people’s travels and experiences and passing on our own experiences over a few cold beverages. It was like a mini United Nations at one stage with each party being from a different country – Spain, Sweden, Italy, Poland, Australia, Canada of course South Africa.
As with other places we had been there is a general plastic bag and straw ban which is certainly evident in the minimal plastic pollution and it is really pleasant not to have to collect this rubbish out of the ocean when you swim and snorkel. We had also noted the general cleanliness of the streets in the towns as well with little or no rubbish anywhere.
It was quite refreshing to be away from the mod cons – no television and little or no internet which meant that I actually read 2 real paper books in our 6 days there. Of course, we also enjoyed the long walks on the beach!
Sitting on the veranda at our hostel we were again spoiled with amazing sunsets.
Next stop – Coron.