After much delay, we’re finally here. Now, the action begins.
Our service-cum-tour-guide said pick-up for the island tour would be at 8:30, so I woke up at 6 to get refreshed and ready for breakfast (I hate getting up minutes before leaving for something). I stepped out of our room, cased the hotel, and took a few pictures. And then I felt it. Tiny raindrops. Uh-fucking-oh.
Dismayed, I went back to our room and woke people up. We trudged towards the eating area, wondering how our tour would carry on in this weather (it was raining cats and dogs by now). We hadn’t received a message from the tour guide saying the trip had been cancelled, so we weren’t sure what to do. Oh well, at least breakfast was good.
Interestingly enough, the rain stopped minutes before 8:30, which was also when our tour guide arrived to pick us up. Thinking the tour had been cancelled, none of us were ready so we had to rush getting dressed and hightail it out of there. Weather’s looking good now, and so were our spirits. After paying an environmental fee of Php 200 and renting snorkeling gear (Php 100), we took a small boat to a bigger boat that would be our transportation for the rest of the day. Aside from us five, we were on the boat with about a dozen other tourists, plus our tour guide and his five-man crew. We set off at about 10, at which point our tour guide discussed what the day will consist of: Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Shimizu Island (where lunch courtesy of the crew would be served), Secret Lagoon and Seven Commandos Beach.
During the ride, all the photos I’ve seen and blogs I’ve read of El Nido came to life. Forgive me if I’m waxing poetic here, but I think places like El Nido are the reasons why the terms ‘breathtaking’ and ‘picturesque’ were coined. Seriously, everything from the blue and green waters to the monolithic limestone formations was just amazing.
The first stop was Small Lagoon. You’re free to swim (with or without lifevests), or you can take a kayak (Php 400 per kayak). Either way, the highlight of the place is squeezing through a small opening where you reach a cave full of cool, clear water for more swimming, kayaking, and picture-taking. When we got back to our boat, we ditched the kayak and did a bit of snorkeling. Not a lot of marine life in this part of the waters, but at least we got to cool off while waiting for the rest of the group to come back.
Next up was the Big Lagoon. It was pretty disappointing to learn we would have to stay in the boat and take photos as the boat went in and out of the opening. I didn’t catch the reason why we couldn’t swim, but the sights were still too spectacular not to enjoy.
We were all set to head for Shimizu Island (named after a Japanese tourist who met his demise in the area), but during that time, it was already teeming with tour boats. The boaters then decided to take us to a nearby island of gigantic rocks where we could snorkel and take more pictures as they set up the buffet on the sand. Lunch was a feast of rice, grilled squid, crab, shrimp, grilled pork, salad, and assorted fruit. As were were stuffing our faces, it started to rain, which forced some to finish our meals quickly and others to continue eating on the boat, where the crew relocated the feast. It was too cold to stay in the boat, so we decided to stay in the water, where it was much warmer, while the tour guides packed everything up for the next leg of the tour.
It seemed the weather was on our side because as we got to the Secret Lagoon, the rain stopped. We strapped on our life vest and one by one swam towards this small hole leading to a pool of pretty murky, shallow water. It wasn’t much, to be honest. The tour guide tried to make it interesting by pointing out rock formations that resembled things like The Last Supper or the face of Jesus, but it was pretty much just a pool of water surrounded by a wall of rocks.
The last stop was Seven Commandos beach where we could stay for an hour just relaxing under the sun, which had come full force by now. There are nipa huts you can occupy for free, but we settled for a shade-less table when we saw all the huts were occupied. There’s also a sari-sari store on one side of the island in case you get hungry. We swam, sunbathed, ate halo-halo and downed Coke, fooled around (our friend climbed a coconut tree to prove she could do it), and generally just kicked back.
Still giddy from the day we just had, we got back to the mainland at about 4, which was when the weather decided to get pissy again and literally rain on everyone’s parade, not that it mattered since we were still wet from swimming. At Swiftlets, we showered, had more coffee, watched TV, and napped until dinner. At around 8, we headed straight for the shore and took a table at Angel Wish Bar and Grill, where the food was affordable, plentiful, and just as good. We also did a bit of shopping before going back to the hotel, where we had more coffee (surprise!), and turned in even earlier. We have a long way to go tomorrow.
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