January 20-25, 2016: El Nido

With much sorrow, we said goodbye to Alona Beach and Karim and took off for Palawan (voted most beautiful island in the world by Conde Nast Travel readers the past two years in a row)! Naturally, our flight to Puerto Princessa (Palawan’s capital – another gross, dirty city) got delayed and we missed the van to Port Barton, which we were really looking forward to seeing. Giving that our reaming time in the Philippines was tight and we really didn’t want to spend a night in Puerto Princessa, we were convinced/forced to take a van directly up to El Nido and skip Port Barton. We had an incredible time in El Nido (and later, in Coron), so no regrets, but I sure would have loved to see Port Barton! Next time 😉

Now, El Nido – for those who don’t know, El Nido is in the northernmost tip of mainland Palawan, minutes from the islands of the Bacuit Archipelago. Though it certainly boasts some beautiful beaches and limestone formations of its own, the real magic of El Nido is in the islands of the archipelago! On our first day there we happened to run in to Britt and Maarten, the Dutch couple from our Balicasag day trip in Alona Beach! We ended up spending the next few days together, exploring the beaches of El Nido and going on an overnight island hopping tour, which was easily one of the highlights of our time in the Philippines. Check out photos below!

Miles walked:                   10
Miles transported:         ~900
Miles boated:              No idea, but it was glorious.

Exploring the El Nido Beaches

Rented a scooter with Britt and Maarten and took off for Nacpan Beach!

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Stole this panoramic video from Maarten (thanks, Maarten!):

Immediately ran into the beyond inviting bay for a slew of water shenanigans:

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Swam our way back to this absurdly stunning beach for some relaxation and COCONUTS!

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Eventually made our way down to Las Cabanas Beach for some more relaxation (I know, what a difficult life we lead) and a gorgeous sunset:

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And another great panoramic video by Maarten:

Headed back to El Nido town, where we discovered that a party was taking place… with fire dancers!


Overnight Island Hopping Tour!

The four of us had such a fantastic time with each other the previous day, we decided it was time to take our relationship to the next level and go on an overnight trip together… to the islands! We shopped around at different agencies and couldn’t believe it when we came across the amazing Rachel’s agency, Kashieca’s Island Tours. Not only was her fee less per person than all the other places we checked, we were able to rent out an entire boat of our own! We kept scoffing (because we’re snobs) at all the other groups who were crammed on a boat together and paid more!! Still can’t believe we got so lucky. Thank you, Rachel!

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Made our way down to the shore to meet up with our boat crew and get on our boat! Look at this shit show. Our boat was in the back so we had to wade through the water, waist deep, to get to our boat. Ronal (the man in the red in the water) carried our bags (sometimes two at a time!) over his head to the boat…

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And off we go!

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With our amazing crew. Pictured here are Dean, our brave and noble captain, and Ronal, the strong and… strong (seriously, he was SO SO strong… nom nom nom) second mate. You’ll meet Bryan, the tour manager, soon:

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Began making our way to 7 Commandos Beach:

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Aha! Just kidding, that’s not our beach. That beach belongs to a private resort that OWNS this particular island. No big deal.

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Approaching 7 Commandos Beach:

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Almost there!

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Very excited to be getting in this water!

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And finally, meet Bryan, our amazing tour manager! His ongoing tag line was: “Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures, keep nothing but memories, and kill nothing but time. And don’t touch anything… except for the crew. You can touch the crew.” We love you Brian!

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And, aha – the beautiful beach!

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Took off from 7 Commandos Beach and made our way over to Simizu Island to visit the Secret, Big and Small Lagoons!

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Starting with the Secret Lagoon (it’s a secret because you have to climb through a hole to find it… which was awesome):

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We found it!!

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Came back to the boat to discover this FEAST waiting for us:

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Which warranted a short after-food nap:

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We then made our way over to the Big Lagoon, where we rented kayaks and ventured into the lagoon, exploring it in all its glory, at times being the only kayaks in sight!

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Made it out of the Big Lagoon in one piece and made our way over to the Small Lagoon, where we snorkeled, being attacked by tiny territorial fish the entire way:

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But we were happy campers nonetheless!

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Finally, we made our way over to Pasandigan Beach, which was to be our home for the night!

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Making our approach:

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Oh, this is where we sleep for the night? A gorgeous secluded beach in the middle of the South China Sea? Yeah, I’m OK with that:

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Our amazing crew heading out to pick up supplies for the night:

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Leaving us alone with the… sharks?!?! Britt, behind you!!! Oh, just kidding. It’s a rock 😉

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Hanging out in the sole structure on the beach. At some point, another group arrived and joined us for the night – a British couple, a German couple, and 3 Chileans, 2 of which we actually ended up hanging out with in Thailand a few weeks later!

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Settled in for a fun evening:

After a night of much food, bonfire, and many bottles of rum (which we entirely forgot to capture on camera due to all the fun that was being had, and probably the rum too…) we eventually passed out in our tents and woke up to this:

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And as promised the night before (I’m surprised he even remembered that promise), Ronal climbed up the tree and threw down some coconuts!

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No better way to start your morning than brushing your teeth with coconut water on a deserted island:

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And off we go to begin another glorious day of island hopping!

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Started off with a visit to Helicopter Island (because it apparently looks like a helicopter… it’s the one in the background):

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Where we snorkeled and were attached by jellyfish:

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Continued on to our next destination, stopping for a quick exchange of goods (a watermelon and a fish…) along the way:

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Making our way to Secret Beach:

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Where we had to climb through yet another hole in the rocks to discover a beautiful paradise:

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What a marvelous little secret:

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That EVERYONE seems to know about 😉

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Showing off our sexy water shoes:

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The gang:

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One final glimpse before making our way back to the boat:

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Heading out towards Matinloc Island, experiencing some crazy waves along the way:

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Got out of those crazy waves alive and made our approach to Matinloc Shrine (an abandoned and thereby creepy old church/shrine):

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Climbed up the rocks to get a hold of this spectacular view:

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Found this gorgeous little cove:

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And Samsonite befriended an angel of sorts:

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Enough of this shrine. More beaches!!!

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But not before taking some more spectacular pics!!

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Took off and headed towards Hidden Beach (are you noticing a trend here?):

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Where you have to SWIM trough a small hole in the water with a super strong current pulling you back and forth (it’s actually quite dangerous, now that I think about it), but once you get through, a spectacular little beach awaits you!

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And back to the boat for our last lunch!

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Thank you, Bryan, Ronal and Dean, for such an amazing time!!

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