Winters in Hong Kong are usually short and sweet but this year it feels like it has been grey, cold and wet forever. It’s pretty much been like living back in Manchester. On a hunt for some sunshine my best friends and I packed our bags and headed back to the Philippines hoping, this time, to avoid a 7 day hangover and a dislocated shoulder.
Travelling to El Nido from Hong Kong is quite the trek so be prepared for 24 hours of very little sleep. The weather in HK was so bad that we were stuck on the runway for two hours before we finally started our first bumpy leg of the journey. The flight was just 1h40 so we made it to Manila with a good 4 hours left of our layover to kill. The flight to Puerto Princessa was shorter still, just under an hour to land groggily at 7am. There are buses galore on arriving at the airport and we managed to get the first of the day with Eulen Joy. Choose your seats wisely. Try to get behind the driver if you can. You’re going to be on this bus for five hours so if you don’t know your travel companion well at the beginning, you will by the end.
Relieved is an understatement for our emotions when we finally arrived at Big Creek Mansion. The hotel is simple but perfect for what we needed – air con, shower, bacon pancake delivery in the morning. The staff are so friendly and helped us organise our excursions during our stay.
In El Nido the biggest attractions are the boat tours. Everywhere advertises Tours A, B, C and D. Going off recommendations we opted for Tour A. It was stunning. Crystal clear water, the best snorkelling I’ve ever done, beautiful scenery and barbecues on the beach. My highlight had to be Small Lagoon. We were there later in the day due to a delayed start by the coastguards so ours was one of the last groups there. We paid an extra 300P to rent a kayak and rowed through the rocks to this hidden space. It was natural beauty in its rawest form – absolutely incredible.
The next day we hired a man with a tricycle for the day who took us to see some of the other sights in El Nido. The first stop was the Nagkalit-Kalit Falls. Our rum-recovering heads were less than delighted to discover there was a hike involved and we were a little disappointed with the end result. It’s a manmade waterfall and I’ve seen much more stunning ones in Hong Kong but the cold water was very refreshing after the walk (and tumbles) we’d just had.
Our next stop was Napcan Beach, one of the Twin Beaches. There’s a small viewpoint you can climb and a couple of places to eat but this beach is mostly about soaking up the sunshine, admiring the scenery and avoiding the jellyfish. Once we were sunshined out we head to Las Cabanas beach where we watched the sunset and relaxed at the Beach Shack. If you head that way you HAVE to try the frozen iced tea and tuna pesto melt. Delish.
Unfortunately for the rest of our time in El Nido the water was too rough for boat tours so we spent the rest of our days doing Plan B, i.e. eating and drinking on the beach. Not a bad alternative at all! Next up… Port Barton.