After a week in the main thoroughfare of El Nido we moved across to new accommodation. The transfer wasn’t without some drama, our new place Hadefe Beach Cottages is just around from the main bay in El Nido, about a 15minute walk headed north. Initially no tricycle would take us, drivers reasoned that they couldn’t access the area. Usually we would have just walked but both Lou and myself were just coming past a nasty period of food poisoning (again) that had us in bed for about 48hrs. I joked to a few people – you don’t really hear about this type of stuff on the travel brochures but I’d advise that it probably will happen at some point for any extended time in Asia – we were fortunate that Lou had packed a decent medical kit (thanks Mrs L!). Without getting into details this round of food poisoning hit us pretty hard, Lou probably had the worse experience and sadly we both got to know our bathroom decor pretty well.
I walked around to the new place and managed to get a driver to come back for Lou and the bags. He did a masterful job with the tricycle as he wound through some very narrow lanes and places that a tricycle just shouldn’t go. Fittingly the tricycle was a beautiful shade of lime green and when I turned up to collect Lou I’m sure the Fast & Furious paint job really helped her stomach.
The new accommodation was a series of six small cottages on stilts next to the water. There was no beach, just a concrete wall before the steps down into the water, or onto rocks, depending on the tide. Our first day here was spent recovering and enjoying our first hot showers (which wasn’t hot for long!) in a week. I liked the new location as it was much more peaceful, night times were quiet and relaxing plus we felt more integrated with the locals who all lived and worked around us. The walk back around the bay towards El Nido uncovered some nice restaurants for us to eat at, including Calaan GK which is part of Gawad Kalinga, a community development foundation. It was here that we met the fantastic Naved Ali who went to the same college as Lou in Michigan – small world! I’d recommend a visit if you’re in the area, the B&B plays movies on a large screen most nights so that you can grab a drink and relax. It was strange that this area houses two outdoor cinemas and it is also worth checking out the other one at Makulay Lodge & Villas.
Whilst at Hadefe cottages we decided to invest another day doing one of the tours around the islands to ensure we felt like we’d seen all that El Nido has to offer. Tour C ventures further out amongst the islands and into some amazing lagoons, with swims through holes in the rock to access some of the hidden beaches. With the waves beating into the rocks you need to be a reasonably good swimmer to get through the opening in the rock which is about 4ft wide. If you don’t time this then another wave will pick you up and send you into the sharp limestone. On the other side was a beautiful cove, about 50ft x 50ft with a small beach at the rear.
Fortunately on this tour we left later in the morning than most of the other tours which meant that we shared our experiences with one other tour boat at most times, this made our experience feel more private and disconnected. I felt like I was able to relax more and I enjoyed the sense of discovery with this tour as many of the locations felt hidden and untouched. Like everywhere here the water remained crystal clear with excellent visibility when snorkeling and we were able to cruise above a variety of different tropical fish. Speaking of fish, lunch was served on a deserted beach allowing even more relaxation. El Nido and the surrounding islands have some of the most stunning settings you could imagine, I can see why it has become such a hotspot within this country and it seems popular with both Filipino’s and foreigners alike.
The final stop was the Matinloc Shrine, a shrine to the Virgin Mary. This spot could have easily featured in Indiana Jones or a similar film with some of the area now overgrown, adding to the allure. We watched as other people on the tour raced up the rock side to grab photos – some people perched themselves in some very precarious spots trying to grab that elusive profile shot, further evidence of the potential for injury in pursuit of such photos. It’s strange to me how easily people seem to disregard safety when getting a photo is involved. The journey back to shore at El Nido was long, about an hour, and reminded me of how far out we had ventured.
On arriving back we had to work our way across the rocky ocean floor to get to the stairs at Hadefe cottages. Unlike most of our boat companions, who were armed with ocean boots and selfie sticks, I had to trust my footing and balance to some badly fitting flip-flops and my overall (lack of) co-ordination. Lou looked (laughed) on from the shore as I lost my footing about three times and went into the water.
Favourite points of El Nido:
- Beach Paradise – Coron Coron, Marimegmeg and my favourite, Nacpan
- Blue and green lagoons – I was constantly in awe of the water-colour and quality in this part of the world, the small lagoons on the boat tours amplified the effects of the water with perfect surroundings
- Fall asleep with the waves – The beach cottages were never built for great insulation but the benefit of this is falling asleep whilst hearing the waves lap against the shore
- Massage – We took some time out to have a massage in El Nido. It’s very cheap (about $10USD for one hour) and well worth it
- Tricycles – Looking at the tricycles I was convinced I would never fit. And in reality I didn’t fit in a safe way but Lou convinced me and we had fun exploring the local area and bartering with the drivers
As our stay in El Nido drew to a conclusion I began to feel some sadness. This area of stunning natural beauty is being destroyed by humans – one of the many stories of this type around the world today. Despite its apparent “protected” status many of the tour boats will anchor onto coral and think nothing of letting their guests clamber across rock and coral to get to the beaches and secret coves. On one of our tours we watched a group of non-swimmers cling to a life ring as the tour guide dragged them across coral, rocks and marine life to the various beaches and coves. It could be argued this is the human cost to tourism, especially in a third world / developing country where awareness and protection of natural habitats are not as of greater concern when it comes against making money and survival. With the sadness on my part came the guilt of being a contributor to this. As we travel the world we’ll also be damaging it – emissions from the various forms of transport, the churn of the water and waste from boats that destroy local water life plus the damage created in the production process of all that we consume.
El Nido is a paradise and I hope that it remains this way. I hope that local government can develop the area without destroying it or getting caught up in their own corruption and politics. El Nido was declared a resource protected area back in 1998 and the government is unable to direct the funds required to maintain and protect the area. All tourists are required to pay a tour levy which is usually included on any tour, it is then on each person to ensure they don’t leave waste and act responsibly when engaging with the local habitat. A rule we could all apply in everything that we do and something I become increasingly passionate about as we travel the world and enjoy what it has to offer.