First of all: I’ll take a moment to praise myself. Yes. I deserve it. I spent the whole day deep sea without feeling sick for even a moment; I have always struggled with sea-sickness and it has made my sea experiences less enjoyable but oh well, I guess goodbye sea-sickness! See you never! (Hopefully)
Second, when I say cruising I’m not referring to a big ship cruise but rather a small cozy fishing boat. Of course you can get fancier. You can even have a private boat just for you and your lover. Suit yourself (and your wallet)!
Now let’s get to the deep of it. This is the tale of the best day I spent in The Philippines and one of the best days of my Southeast Asia journey.
El Nido is the northern part of Palawan, the island that was voted the most beautiful in the world more than once, and, when people describe it as the best island in the world they refer to it and all the smaller island gems around it.
Tourists actually spend most of their time here in the sea; island hopping and not on the mainland. There are many tour packages, four of which are very commonly booked.
Days earlier: You book your tour package. I (faithful to my last minute habit) booked the tour the night before, and the people who came right after me were told that it’s fully booked.
You buy aquatic shoes. A must! But no one will tell you this in the tour offices, so take it from me. I was lucky that my friend told me this before hand and I’m passing it to you: YOU WILL NEED IT! You’ll thank me later. You should also buy a water proof bag if you have things to carry that need to be protected, and you must pay an environmental fee that you can use for as many tours as you like within 10 days. Personally I didn’t mind this fee; it is well justified and when you’ll see all the Filipino deep sea natural raw beauty you’ll know it’s worth it. It takes a lot of money and effort to preserve the biome in a highly touristic area.
D-Day: You come to the shore in the early morning. The tour agent would have told you to come 30 minutes before scheduled departure but you’ll find yourself waiting for over an hour. If you’re Moroccan, you’ll be fine. This won’t bother you much. You’ll sit on the sand telling jokes. If you’re a Westerner though, chances are you’ll be pretty pissed, and the Moroccans making jokes while waiting might make you even more annoyed.
If you’re lucky, your tour guide will be a young passionate guy who loves his job and is funny; you’ll enjoy the tour presentations and actually be interested in what he has to say, and those recommendations of do’s and don’ts will be amusing.
I picked up tour C because it seemed to have more interesting places, but also ’cause it has the furthest destinations, which I assumed will allow seeing more on the way there and back, and it did! If you’re going for just one tour, then I totally recommend this one, but if you’re staying in El Nido for more days and have the means for it, then do them all!
The good thing is that all the tour offices have the same packages, with the same prices. I could only guess that the quality of the tour would be different according to companies, so I stayed safe and booked at the central biggest agency. But just knowing that you’ll be paying the same everywhere, lessens the possibility of fraud.
The tour was made of 5 islands. First stop was Helicopter Island where we snorkeled. This was my first time trying snorkeling and it definitely won’t be the last. In my mind I was giving it a huge scary image of an activity bigger than it really is and I thought I can’t do it, but it’s actually very simple, easy, and fun. The underwater world is so magically beautiful and it will make you not wanna come back to the surface. All those colorful fishes and different creatures and astonishing corals…
The food is a big part of this experience (and any other experience if you ask me). The second island we hopped on was our lunch spot. We waited on the white sand of Talisay beach on Tapiutan Island as the crew set up the feast they’ve been preparing on the boat.
We feasted on an elaborate Filipino meal. They love eating pork so much but luckily they love fish too, and the fish we had was one of the best I ever had in my life. The meal had also a variety of seafood and tropical fruits.
It was the best food I had in The Philippines, and I would hop on a boat everyday just for that (jk for the islands too). But seriously I think that to have a meal like that in El Nido for two people you’ll pay roughly around the same amount you’d pay for the tour. So why not have a little adventure on the side?
Another thing they don’t tell you is that some islands have a very strong current around them pushing you away, in a sort of preserving their beauty and keeping it hidden ferociously kind of way, putting up shields of rough edgy rocks that creep under you just as the current slams you against them. My knee would tell you’ll about it if it could! It’s a hard endeavor to break in but it is worth it. Once you cross over, you’re welcomed into a concealed chilled calm haven with blue crystal clear waters. You’ve made it to Hidden Beach!
I skipped the next location which was Secret Beach because I was so tired and there was a lot of swimming in a sea filled with jelly fish and rough rocks and through basically a keyhole in the wall of the island to get to it.. I sat on the tip of the boat enjoying the sight of cliffs in the golden light and gazing at the transparent jellies in the water with the relief of knowing they can’t sting me.
The last stop was a private beach, you have to pay before getting off the boat and hopping on its white sand and (again) no one told us this about the tour. I had no money on me (’cause i was not planning on buying anything from the sea gods 🤷🏻♀️) so I skipped it too. Strangely though, some other passengers actually had money on them..
On the two hours sail back I got on the upper deck (yes! that’s me! from terribly sea-sick to upper deck chill with wind in my hair for hours). I enjoyed the late afternoon golden sun rays, the stunning nature everywhere my eyes wandered, the interesting conversation about fish, dolphins, sharks, dreams.. and my own peaceful mind. I got back to shore with a starving stomach but a full heart.