I had long heard of El Nido, about how it is beautiful. I read all the tales in travel magazines and blogs. I wondered if it was all hyperbole. I had hoped it to be just as people described it. I was sure a thousand happy travelers couldn’t be wrong. And as we got our chance to see this place, I was awestruck. Can a place truly be this beautiful? You can pick all the splendid words you want to use: majestic, magical, mythical, enchanting, inspiring, freakin’ awesome. They’ll be apt and will probably still be wanting.
The Big Lagoon
The first stop in our two-day trip across the islands of El Nido was the Big Lagoon. I actually wanted to hang around this place all morning because I didn’t know there were so many more beautiful places to see.
I think J was contemplating dipping into the Lagoon here but the boatman told us we weren’t allowed to swim in these parts.
This is the strait that leads in and out of the Big Lagoon.
The Small Lagoon
A few minutes from the Big Lagoon is this place called the “Small Lagoon”. Oddly enough it seemed like the Small Lagoon was bigger than the Big Lagoon. Our boat anchored mid-water and they asked us to swim the rest of the way.
It was a good twenty-minute swim from the boat to the shore.
That’s J’s head
In its deepest parts, you could see the sun rays disappear into the blue.
Turns out, the shore is actually a cave.
After the swim at the small lagoon, our good guides took us to have lunch in an island all to ourselves.
The beach is called Shimizu, which means pure water.
There weren’t any other tourists on this island. Check out that sky!
Our guides made lunch for us on the beach. They grilled crabs, squid and fish. These were insanely good.
The waters were so clear you could see fish swim from under your feet.
Emil, the boatman started to make a hat for J with coconut leaves.
Entalula Island is where they take people to feed fish. They swarmed on us as we dove into the water.
The wind hits these haunting rocks pretty strongly.
7 Commando Island
A ship named 7 Commando sank here a long time ago and someone decided to name the island after it. There were a few other tourists on this beach where there was a small hut that sold chips and fresh coconut juice.
“I’m going down to the beach.”
(from Naoko Ogigami’s Megane. Film, 2007)
Oh it’s time for that late afternoon stroll. “Quack”, said one. “Quack”, replied the other.
This is now one of my favorite spots in the whole wide world. The Secret Beach in El Nido is a beach hidden inside a wall of huge limestone rocks. To enter the beach you have to swim through a small hole guarded by fish and anemone.
As I swam through the hole I felt an excitement I haven’t felt in a long time. It is as if I had discovered the place myself.
This is Emil, our guide who cooks great seafood. He is also a deep-sea rescue diver. I asked him if he’s rescued a lot of people in El Nido. “Never”, he said.
I grew up near the ocean and I used to see people pissing on other people’s feet because of sea urchins all the time. Somehow, someone created the notion that urine helps get the thorns out of the flesh.
In Star beach there were logs under a tree and they made a great bench and table.
We went around to explore the rest of the cove…
…then heard a hiss and ran back to shore.
Hidden Beach is a great snorkeling spot and is surrounded by a trench that goes down a few hundred feet deep. J was fortunate enough to have seen a sea turtle swim past her.
The interesting thing about the islands here is that you can squeeze through corners and holes and find yourself transported into new landscapes at the end of each tunnel.
The right part of this photo is about 45 feet deep. The left side, down the trench, who knows? :-p
Sometimes the sweetest things do happen at the end of a journey. We were heading towards Helicopter island as the final stop of our trip in what was described to us as a quiet stretch of sand in a place where we could just sit and relax before heading back to the mainland.
It began to drizzle and then we all just started to run. No one told us to, we just started running like children.
Finally, when we had reached the end of the cove we found ash-black boulders rising from the sand and the shore. We wanted to take photos of the strange rocks but the batteries of our camera had died. So we sat instead and watched as the sun glared for last few times that day. It began to rain even harder. It rained so hard it hurt. Grown men could’ve cried and no one would’ve noticed. Maybe the place thought we needed to wash away everything. It was surreal.