We left the hustle and bustle (joke) of Puerta Princesa and boarded a rickety van bound for El Nido. Despite the unknown danger lurking ahead of us, as we roll into El Nido after six hours of winding, bumpy roads, we are hooked. Walking from the main road, we emerge on to the waterfront and are confronted by limestone cliffs surrounding a small cove. Outrigger-style boats bob on crystal clear water, and kids are frolicking in the water in amongst fishermen. Hostels, small resorts and restaurants line the beachfront.
We sling our backpacks on and begin the walk a little way out of town to where we’re staying. With Easter week upon us, the town is full of mostly Filipino tourists, and getting a place to stay is difficult. We secure a small bungalow in a beachfront “resort”.
Little do we know that there will be no sleep-ins here. Every morning at 5am, the sounds of roosters, dogs, babies, people and cats filter through the thin walls of our bungalow. That’s after a long, sleepless night without a fan in the sweltering heat of our room. We of course hadn’t known that electricity is hit and miss in this area, only being turned on between 2pm and 6am, but even then it’s not entirely reliable. Each night with no fan, however, we get more used to it, and the sunsets that play out across the water each night are more than enough to make up for the annoyance of a few hours of lost sleep.
Some days we relax, reading or hunting out new restaurants for lunch; other days we join a group on the boat trips that visit the outlying islands.
It seems that every tour operator in town offers the same combination of trips: choose from Tour A, B, C or D. And it being peak season, just when you think you’ve got a secluded beach all to yourself, another boat rocks up, spilling out another group looking for their own paradise.
But this truly is paradise, with jagged limestone rock faces dropping into turquoise-coloured waters clear enough to view the colourful marine life below.
Looking at these pictures, I’m sure you’ll agree with me.
HINT: If you’re heading to El Nido make sure to stock up on cash in Puerta Princesa or elsewhere – there are no ATMs in El Nido.