Probably the most popular activity in the Philippines is island hopping around El Nido. Since we love camping we decided to do a 3-day/ 2-night tour where you sleep in a tent on a beach. Before arriving we contacted El Nido Paradise, however, we were not very happy with the communication about our vegan diet, so in the end, we booked with El Nido Wild adventures.
When we asked at the booking office, we were told that the boats have 12 to 14 people on board. But when we finished the boarding process we were 25. Most boats are the same size but for us, it was a surprise since we had received different information.
In the beginning, we thought we would stay with the same boat and the same crew for the three days. That way it would be easier to get to know your guides and have a more intimate tour for a couple of days. But we were wrong and the crew and boat changed every day. Our guides on the first day were excellent, they were friendly, fun, wanted to make sure that we enjoyed the trip, and would always let us know what we were up to.
On the second day, the crew didn’t really make an effort and seemed quite indifferent if we had a good time or not. On the third day, we were only six people due to a mistake from the company and our guide for the small group was extremely nice.
Initially, we had this romantic idea that after the day trips we would stay at two different remote beaches. This wasn’t the case as you camp on the same beach, the 7 commandos, which is very close to Corong Corong, where the boats take off on the day trip. However, after the day trip, the boats left in the evening and before they arrived in the morning, the location is absolutely beautiful. You get really good sunsets and a great view of the moon.
The toilet needs improvement, there is only one toilet per gender with a manual flush. Way too little counting all the day visitors and the busy morning time after breakfast.
The guys in charge of the campsites are super nice and fun. A bit of a mix between hosts and MCs, and made sure that there was always a bottle of rum on the table.
For vegans, the options are very limited to fruits for breakfast and noodles with veggies or rice and eggplant for lunch and dinner. It was ok for us since we didn’t have high expectations. Otherwise, there is normally some seafood, chicken and pork options.
The Environmental Responisibility
One thing we really liked in El Nido is that there seems to be a greater awareness of environmental problems. We were impressed that they did not offer plastic bottles, instead, they refill your bottle.
However, it also seems that people and companies are very happy with themselves with these little efforts and have no intention to do more. At the very least, they could provide ashtrays on the tables and in some other places since a lot of tourists and all the tour guides smoke. It would also be nice if the job description of the camping hosts would include an hour collecting the rubbish in the morning.
As mentioned, we thought we would be on the same boat with the same crew every day which would allow us to leave earlier and beat the crowds at the sights. But we were picked up by the regular day tours and always arrived late at the stops.
The first day, we did Tour C which starts at Helicopter Island for snorkeling. This stop is pretty much a waste of time since the snorkeling is not very good and the waves are really strong making it difficult to get on and off the boat. But you can snap some nice pictures if there are not too many boats. From there we went to Hidden Beach which was really nice and it was the first time we had a paradise feeling. Th next stop was lunch at xxx before heading to the Matinloc shrine. We did not enter because there is an extra fee, but the snorkeling around there was one of the best in El Nido. The last stop was supposed to be Secret Beach where you have to swim through a hole to get there. But the waves and current were too strong so we went to another snorkeling area instead.
The next day we took Tour A which started at Hidden Lagoon. This was really nice and we were lucky that a big group was leaving as we arrived so we weren’t so many people in that small place. We then went on to Small Lagoon which was really beautiful as you could swim for at least an hour and explore the lagoon surrounded by limestones. The last stop after our lunch was Big Lagoon which was a similar idea to small lagoon but… you guessed it: bigger. After these stops, we went back to our base camp in 7 Commandos and enjoyed the beautiful sunset.
The last tour was Tour B, but there was a mix-up and they put us on Tour C. After negotiating and some arguing, we managed to get a new boat for our small group of 6 and do as much as we could of Tour B since we had lost about 2 hours.
The first stop was Snake Island, which was one of my personal favorites. It was a sandbar connected by two islands, one had a beautiful, short mangrove board wall and the other had a little hike for an amazing lookout of the sandbar. After enjoying this stop, we went to xxx beach which had a small, but cute cave. Our last stop was Pinagbuyutan Island which was one of the most beautiful islands from all the stops because it had a perfect sand beach, with palm trees behind it and then a giant wall of limestone. Just perfect. We stayed here for a while and just enjoyed the tranquility before making our way back to Corong Corong.