Unintentionally saving the best for last, WELCOME TO EL NIDO!
We were warned that El Nido is a very small tourist town and is VERY boring if the weather is poor. We even talked to a couple who had planned to be in El Nido for about a week but left after 2 days because the weather was terrible and their island hopping tours were cancelled. Lucky for us, we had GREAT weather!
I was developing a little head cold but didn’t want to be held back from the most anticipated excursion on Palawan. There are multiple tour options to choose from. Every tour takes you to different destinations. We opted for tour A and with my mom’s negotiation skills, we were able to add on a stop at Helicopter Island (from Tour C).
We left our hotel around 9am and walked straight out to the boat. I have to brag and say we had the BEST boatmen. They knew exactly which route to take that gave us the chance to explore these stops without any other tours around. I’m guessing there is an exact route that these tours follow and I can imagine these locations become incredibly crowded. Our first stop was Helicopter Island. We stayed at Helicopter Island for a little bit less than an hour. My mom grabbed the snorkel gear and took off. She was having so much fun cleaning up the beach. Unlike the other beaches we had been to on during our entire trip, El Nido was so clean. The water was crystal clear and occasionally there was a floating bottle or bag. That’s why my mom had so much fun cleaning it up… it gave her something to swim after. She also found a HUGE bone. We asked our boatman what animal it was from and he said that people dump cow and pig remains in the ocean to feed the fish. Gross? and cool? I can’t decide.
Next stop was the Big Lagoon. The pictures are not fake! I promise you! Amazing timing by our boatmen – as we were entering the Big Lagoon, two boats were leaving. Then, as we were leaving, at least 10 boats were entering. We had the entire lagoon to ourselves. We could listen to the birds and the water dripping off the rock while we soaked it all in. Absolutely breathtaking.
Then there is the Small Lagoon. This is where many of the boats stopped to have lunch. We opted to bring our own food on the boat and pay less for the tour. It worked out well because the tour food hadn’t been appetizing in other locations. We rented a kayak to take us inside the small lagoon. This wasn’t necessary but it sure was fun. We found a little corner of the lagoon and laid our backs on the kayak and rested for a few minutes before making our way back to our boat. As I previously mentioned, I was starting to get a bad head cold. My mom suggested that I not dunk my head because it’d make it worse and we were flying home a few days later. So, I didn’t snorkel or dunk my head at all. Until, of course, my mom wanted to get off the kayak and go swimming. Instead of doing a quick motion to roll off, she kept saying (with a bigger lean every time), “okay, I’m going in now….here I go…. okay, I’m going to swim now…. Oh boy, here I go…” She ended up flipping our kayak and I went straight under water. THANKS MAMA!
We laughed for awhile and ended up pushing out kayak back to our boat instead of using the paddles to get us there.
We also stopped at the Secret Lagoon. To see this lagoon, you need to crawl through a tiny hole in the rock structure. Once inside, the water is not as clear and it’s much colder. We didn’t stay in there long. We were ready to sit on a beach and nap/swim/drink coconut water/relax.
Our boatmen dropped us off at 7 Commandos beach around 1:30pm. We were the only ones on the beach until 3:45pm. It was amazing! We had perfectly clear skies, calm waters, and a little hut to keep us out of the sun.
After a quick snooze, we woke up to a packed beach and stormy skies. Not a horrible way to end the day especially since we experienced the privacy for so long before.
Around 4:45pm, our boatmen came back to get us and took us back to our hotel. Such an amazing way to end our beach/island hopping portion of the trip – and to end the trip entirely.
I am beyond blessed to have experienced everything we did on this trip. It brought closure to my time living in Thailand and feeling failure from how I left. All things happen for a reason because it gave me the opportunity to share my love for Southeast Asia with my family. It’s not a secret that my mom is my best friend in the entire world. I have learned a lot from her over the years and I learn more about myself as I spend time with her as an adult. “Nancy Junior” doesn’t even begin to describe how alike we are. I’m so proud of my Mama. She concurred a lot during this trip that she wouldn’t have been able to 2+ years ago. She went in the darkest caves of the Underground River, jumped off a 2 story boat, walked around Manila all by herself, and stayed by my side through anxieties of my own. This trip created memories we will share for a lifetime and stories I will tell my own kids.