Sunbathing and Island Hopping in El Nido (part 2 or 2)

After a day of sunbathing on the beach we had another tour booked of the islands around El Nido. This was tour C which is the other most recommended tour to do after tour A.

Tour C takes you to:

Hidden Beach;

Secret Beach;

Tapiutan Strait for lunch;

Star Beach for snorkelling; and

Helicopter Island.

After getting up early on the 29th December 2017 and being picked up at 8:30am, we got on the boat and headed to our first destination, Hidden Beach. Along the way we got to know some of the other people on our tour, particularly three people from our hostel called Ginny, Emma and Rory who were on holiday and friends from home. We got on with them well and spent the most of the day enjoying the sites together. We also were lucky enough to see some dolphins in the sea as we were travelling to the beach which was a lovely surprise as we hadn’t even known dolphins lived in the area!

Hidden Beach is behind another island so you wouldn’t know it was there from the sea (hence the name). You had to swim from the boat, over coral and dealing with the big waves, behind a rock to reach the shallows of the beach. It was a nice little beach with hardly anyone there. The water leading off from the white sands was really shallow but there was a small area where you could snorkel if you wanted but we didn’t bother.

We exited Hidden Beach through a small cave which was pretty cool. This was at the side of the beach and opened out into the sea which we then entered to swim back to our boat and onto our next stop.

Our next stop of the tour was to Secret Beach. A bit like Secret Lagoon (see part one of this post), it could only be reached through a small opening – this time, one that you swam through. We had to swim to the entrance of the beach which was a hole within the rock face and then the tour guides would pull us through as the current back out of the beach was quite strong.

Once through the hole in the rock we then had to walk over some rocks and around bits of coral to get to the beach. Me and Niall both said that we bet the person who discovered with hidden little spot loved bringing his dates here until the tour companies took it over! We were told this beach is what inspired the film ‘The Beach’ with Leonardo DiCaprio.

It was a lovely little beach and, aside from the occasional wave that came through, the water was very calm. We really enjoyed sitting in the shallow water here but it would have been even better had we been able to be here without tour companies continually arriving.

Whilst we were at this beach we spoke with one of our tour guides, Jason. It was interesting speaking to him as he really struggled to grasp that Niall and I were boyfriend and girlfriend and that we weren’t married. He must have been no older than us and was married with a one year old and it was only after I explained that most people in the UK didn’t get married when they were very young that he understood.

Tapiutan Strait was our lunch stop and we were hungry! The food was being cooked on a BBQ that was fastened to the side of the boat and a few members of the crew were also helping to prepare our meal at the back of the boat – it all looked really good! One of our tour guides, Ryan, carved a giant flower into the watermelon which looked incredible. I asked him later on about it and he said that all of the tour companies in the area have a competition for the best food presentation and that he has won the competition two years in a row. The price is 15,000 peso which is around £220! What was especially nice is that he said he only kept 5,000 pesos the second time he won the competition and gave the rest to charity – a lovely thing to do when he likely could have done with that money himself!

After a good feed of fish, chicken, rice, aubergine, salad, prawns, pineapple and watermelon we got to have a bit of a relax and swim at what was another lovely beach. All of the islands have great little beaches dotted on the sides of them and I bet if you had your own boat you could find a different deserted beach every time you felt like some privacy in paradise!

After our food had settled it was time to go snorkelling! Star Beach was our snorkelling spot and the coral and variety of fish there was really good. The area was on the edge of a coral wall meaning you had shallow coral but also the chance of seeing more fish that preferred deeper water. We got to spend quite a while here and my favourite thing we saw while snorkelling was a little jellyfish that bobbing along through the water as it reminded me of the jellyfish in the film Finding Nemo!

For our final stop of the day we were given an hour to relax (or snorkel if we wanted to) at Helicopter Island. This island gets its name as it looked like the shape of a helicopter without its propellers. Niall thinks it looks more like a chicken drumstick from a far but that wouldn’t be such a catchy name! As we had so long here we just sunbathed, particularly as we only had a couple of days left in the Philippines and wanted to soak up as much sun as possible before we left!

We stayed here until the beach fell under a shadow as the sun went low enough to be behind the cliffs on the island and then made our way back to El Nido which was only around 15 minutes away.

The tour had been really good and we had liked everywhere we had visited. It was less busy than the previous tour we had done which was nice and it had been a lot more of a relaxing day as there was a few less stops to make. We had also been very fortunate to have such good weather, particularly as the days before and after both had some rain so we really lucked out! It was also a bonus to meet some more lovey people and we ended up spending more time with Rory, Ginny and Emma before we left El Nido (it’s one of my favourite bits about travelling – making new friends).

That evening was pretty uneventful except for us playing with a very cute little puppy that was owned by the shop next door to the hostel. We had seen the puppy a couple of times during our stay but this was the longest we were able to play with it. The puppy definitely had some golden labrador in it and potentially some pomeranian as it was extra fluffy but it was hard to tell. I think it’s one of the cutest puppies we’ve ever seen and I had to really drag myself away from playing with it!

On our last day in El Nido and, aside from travelling to Manila to get our flight out to Seoul, our last proper day in the Philippines we headed to Las Cabanas beach. We shared a tricycle with Matt and Chloe from our room as it was out of town and up a huge hill – not something we fancied walking to!

To get to the beach you then went down stairs set into the cliff face which brought you onto a lovely long stretch of beach. Las Cabanas has a range of bars and restaurants along it which makes it perfect for a day out (when you have money) but as we were nearer the end of our budget for the Philippines we avoided the bars and had, instead, gone to a local bakery near to our hostel that sold biscuits and donuts for 5 pesos each (less than 10p). We spent our entire day sunbathing, reading and cooling off in the sea. Unfortunately, we had little spouts of rain throughout the day but never anything too heavy and it sometimes cooled you off nicely so it didn’t really matter too much in the end.

A nice surprise during our visit to this beach was bumping into our friend Henry who we had met in Boracay. We hadn’t expected to see him again as he hadn’t known where he would be and we imagined our routes around the country wouldn’t cross paths again. It was great to catch up with him and we went to see him at his hostel, Outpost, a little later on in the evening.

Las Cabanas is meant to be a good spot for the sunset so we stayed all day in the hope of seeing a good one for our last night. I think due to the rain it didn’t work out that way and there was only a hint of pink in the sky in the distance. Despite this, the view overlooking a calm ocean with the many islands that are dotted around this region with the blue light of dusk was beautiful and we are still very glad to have stayed so late to see it. As we walked back we also bumped into Rory, Emma and Ginny from our boat tour the previous day and had a nice time catching up with them until it was very dark and then they headed back to the hostel and we carried on to Outpost to see Henry.

After seeing Henry (who dropped us back into town on his scooter), we showered and got some food before sharing some rum with Emma and Ginny and having a drink in our hostel. The bottle of rum had only cost 60pesos which is around 80p. Which I couldn’t believe really – I had know a bottle of rum was cheap but hadn’t expected that sort of price at all! It was a really nice, relaxed day and a lovely way to end our time in El Nido.

We spent all of the 1st December travelling by bus to Puerto Princessa where we then flew to Manila, spent a few hours sleeping in a hostel and then had to get back to the airport at 3:30am on the 2nd December! Our next stop was to the much colder temperatures of Seoul in South Korea and we were really looking forward to going!

The Philippines has been incredible. We have done some really fun stuff like scuba diving and canyoneering and have seen some of the most beautiful scenery I think I’ve ever seen in my life. The people have been so friendly and are always there to help or make sure you’re having a good time. As the countries slogan suggests, it really is more fun in the Philippines and I know this won’t be the last time I come visit this phenomenal country.

Sending Love x

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