El Nido, Palawan. 2-6 December
On December 2nd, we travel by minivan from Port Barton to El Nido in the far north of the island of Palawan. El Nido is the gateway to the Bacuit archipelago, a group of islands with steep karst cliffs and white-sand beaches.
In 1954, el Nido (Spanish for the nest) was given its name after the edible nests of swiftlets found in the crevices of the limestone cliffs. These nests are the main ingredient for the gourmet nido soup, and are being sold at extortionate prices. A lot of hotels and restaurants in El Nido (esspecially the ones with a view) have names referencing to birds nests, and as such, on our first evening in El Nido we head to the Nesting Table at the Bird House to meet up with friends met in Port Barton. Considering the views from the restaurant it’s no wonder El Nido is a popular tourist destination.
While still in Port Barton we were warned about the upcoming typhoon “Tysoy”, the strongest storm to hit Philippines this year, which might also affect El Nido in the days ahead. As a precaution, all ferry services and island hopping tours have therefore been suspended until further notice. It rains heavily the next day, but, luckily for us, the typhoon is soon downgraded to a tropical storm after it hits the capital city of Manila and travels westwards to Vietnam. Typhoons are pretty common in this part of the world, and sadly in the end this one claims the lives of 13 people. We’re just glad it didn’t come our way!
Without island hopping there is fairly little to do in El Nido, so while we’re sat waiting for the weather to improve the day goes by pretty uneventful…until Lauren is attacked by a monkey (yet again)! Our hotel is right on the beach, a little bit away from the main town, and has a big garden with calamansi trees, coconut trees and a big pond, which attracts plenty of insects, birds, frogs, chickens plus of course the usual stray dogs and cats….and evidently one very mean and aggressive macaque. It bares its teeth, hisses and lunges itself at Lauren outside of our hut and when she screams for help, one of the stray dogs immediately jumps to the rescue and chases away the monkey. Good doggo!
In the following days I quickly become known at the local store as ‘that corned beef weirdo’, since we’re now buying the dog regular treats. Every morning we find her sleeping on our doorstep and in the end she even shows off her two adorable little pups, hidden away in a den behind the hut.
As soon as the weather clears up we rent a kayak and explore some of the islands, which is great fun! A bit of muscle pain the next day is but a small price to pay for a genuine castaway experience!
With the island hopping restarted, it’s time to dust off the old snorkeling gear once again and explore some of the more famous sites El Nido has to offer, such as secret beach, hidden lagoon and Matinloc island, as always accompanied by fish bbq for lunch, good enough to put even a Jamie Oliver to shame!
When we’re all set to leave El Nido the ferry service is back on track. Even still, Tysoy rears its ugly head one final time when, for the first hour of the journey, we’re being slung from one wave to another and I am convinced the hull is going to break in two. The sound and smell of people throwing up all around us does little to help settle my nerves, yet Lauren, being the pirate that she is, casually munches away at her breakfast and even finds time for a little snooze! That’s the last we see of Tysoy and soon we arrive safely in Coron.