Hearing stories about Jacques Cousteau adventures and discoveries in Palawan set the stage for the following comment:Palawan is one of the Last Unexplored Islands in the Pacific, as well as the location of the 1997 James Bond thriller “Tomorrow Never Dies.”
Renowned underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau has described Palawan as having one of the most Beautiful Seascapes in the world. Sprawled beneath the seas are nearly 11,000 square kilometers of coral reefs. Myriads of fish swim in these underwater gardens. Jacques Cousteau remarked that Palawan was the most beautiful place on earth.
With adrenalin on high we felt like we were following his footsteps as we headed out for El Nido to see for ourselves what has been written about this area of the Philippines.
We took a private van, which took six hours from Puerto Princesca to El Nido! The first half of the journey the van cruised at a fast clip over relatively good paved roads. You see miles and miles of green scenery and have the feeling you are on the last frontier and like the song so well described….. we said to each other: “ON THE ROAD AGAIN!”
After lunch near the town of Roxas, we weaved through some construction where part of the road is finished and then you travel over some long stretches of dusty, roads in the dry season. It’s a good idea to carry a handkerchief as the dust can seep into the window cracks and come up through the engine. I have been told by a local authority in El Nido that the entire road will be completed within the next three years or maybe sooner as they are gearing up for major tourism including: Chinese tourists who represent a mult-million dollar tourist market. You can also fly direct from Manilla to El Nido twice a week which eliminates a lot of travel time.
We arrived at the local bus depot and took a tricyle directly into town where we procured lodging at the Olgie Beach Pension House. We walked through the town and got oriented seeing the many signs advertising island hopping, which can include tour A, B, and C. It all depends on you and how much photography, snorkeling and diving you want to do.
Like we always do on a trip we ask lots of questions and like to orient ourselves by walking around looking for a place to stay and checking their rates and availability. We walked to the end of town at the Marina Building and spotted a sign that advertised tourist information located on the second floor. We told them we would like to go island hopping tomorrow and wondered if they recommended anyone. She immediately picked up the phone and told us to be on the pier at eight o’clock sharp the following morning. She then asked what we would like for lunch which is included in our island hopping tour…. chicken or fish. Easy! We chose fish![
Like out of a National Geographic Magazine we left in a private pumpboat which cost 1500 pesos for all day. The name of the pumpboat was Victory with a terrific captain and tour guide. They allowed us all the freedom we needed for beaching, snorkeling or taking photos and handled every detail to perfection. We pulled our cameras out as we made our way through the most amazing rock formations and azure blue water I have ever seen. Perla my companion cried because she said: “everything was so beautiful and she dreamed in elementary school that someday she would visit Palawan…..nicknamed the last frontier.
As the pumpboat cruised through these enchanted islands our boat captain selected an area on the beach locally known as Twin Lagoons. We snorkeled between the lagoons, which were straight out of the movies. Several pods of colorful tropical fish darted by as we proceeded to the far side of the lagoon and wondered if we were in a dream or this was real life.
After the lagoon trip we visited several more islands and had a gourmet fresh fish lunch prepared and grilled on the beach. We eased through several rock formations and crevices and went into a Secret Lagoon… which the guide described legend has it that a pirate buried his booty of gold in there somewhere.
Upon returning back to El Nido (which means birds nest) we walked to the end of the island where we discovered several restaurants directly on the beach… offering sunset drinks and several varieties of local cuisine. The town of El Nido is situated close to the sea and has a variety of good restaurants, shops, and places to stay. It looks like a dream Perla insisted as we walked around taking in the sights.
The farthest restaurant at the end of the beach is owned by local Philippinos who specialize in local fare…here the tables were set directly on the beach, where you could photograph the sunset of a lifetime and just enjoy the moment.
At the end of the main beach is another restaurant owned and operated by a German, has an outdoor patio, a great menu, and incredible views of the sunset. Just a few meters away… sitting on a small sand bank is a beach hut bar run by locals and had tables set out to enjoy the sunset. This was our favorite hangout as we noticed it was mostly locals…. plus a few tourists, who discovered the friendly service and great choices of local fresh seafood.
The following day we explored the town and found a local coffee shop that made a terrific iced coffee. We ordered kimchi as a snack and it was a first for me, but quite tasty and I am told this is Korea’s national dish! Perla made her way around the town and found a few bargain clothes and a bright flowered dress, which she wore that night when we went out to dinner.
I was at the restaurant earlier and reserved One of the Best Tables in the World hanging out over and looking directly at the sea. As you entered the building you left your shoes and slippers at the bottom of the stairs and proceeded to the second floor, where you witnessed a complete bar restaurant made of natural mahogany and native woods. You sat on the floor on your private contour space … half laying down with legs stretched out with plush white pillows… looking at the stars and the seascape. As the moon edged up over the mountains and islands you could just imagine what may lie ahead as visions of sugar plums danced in your head.
You felt as if this was the place only fit for kings and queens and celebrities.
I whispered to Perla “we are celebrities of a sort… we are celebrating aren’t we–isn’t that what celebrities do?” Named the Alternative Restaurant… They specialize in vegetarian cuisine, but have plenty of other delicious dishes also. We ordered the spicy eggplant (best ever) and fresh catch of the day steamed in coconut milk. A great dinning experience… one of those places where you lose all sense of time and don’t care if you ever leave.
So there you have it if you want a photographers paradise, want to island hop, dive or kayak through the sea or just hang out at the many nice resorts…. why not book yourself into El Nido before the rest of the world discovers this eco-paradise.
QUOTE:“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.” – Samuel Johnson
THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW: Dramatic soaring limestone cliffs with clinging vegetation home to hundreds of species of birds; deserted sandy lagoons hosting a kaleidoscope of tropical fish and colorful corals create a pristine biodiversity not often found in Asia. The 96,000 hectare El Nido Marine Reserve is protected by the Philippine government – Bacuit Bay and its 40 plus islands on the doorstep of El Nido town present an undeveloped haven for the eco-conscious escaping the crowds of other more popular destinations such as Boracay and Mactan Island, Cebu. Kayaking, snorkelling, diving or just simply daydreaming are key to enjoying this wonderful peaceful paradise. asia hotels. com
THINGS YOU MAY WANT TO SAVE: Birds nests! We know a really good bowl of birds nest soup may go for a cool 400 hundred dollars in China….but the birds need these sticks and such so they can nest again! How would you like it if they made House Nest Soup out of your house. UGH!!!
ZENTRAVELER SAYS: Its all in zee travel!
From here to Infinity is a relatively short ride! The next leg takes eons and eons as you fly through the Barycentric Dynamical Time Zone!
Follow the Zentraveler Blog often for Travel, Health and Zen-like stories and such. Where else can you get a three in one blog for the price of free?