EL Nido: Your Gateway to Wild Adventure

Small Lagoon - photo credit to Rovel Abello

Melissa Rili

El Nido is a first class municipality located 420 km Southwest of Manila and 238 km northeast of Puerto Princesa, Palawan. If it was not for a group of divers whose boat’s propeller got disabled in an inlet, the beauty of El Nido will not be known to the world. These divers were forced to spend the night in the inlet and when they woke up in the morning, they were astonished to find the surrounding area with towering dark limestone cliffs, lush green forests, and pristine blue-green waters.

In 2013 and 2014, CNN listed El Nido as top 14 among the best 100 beaches in the world. It is well known to divers because of its 100 species of corals and 813 species of fish. It is a sanctuary for whales, sea cows, rays, dolphins, and marine turtles like the hawksbill, olive ridley, leatherback, and green. It is also famous to archaeologists for its caves. The Ille Cave in New Ibajay, located at the eastern part of the town proper, was said to have fossils and burial sites dating back to the late Neolithic age.

The coastal town of El Nido was dubbed by CNN as the “gateway to wild adventure”. Your doorway is the crescent beach partially surrounded by the famous limestone cliffs; and in front of you, are 45 islands and islets, each having its own geological formation, a story to tell and treasures for you to behold. There is nothing more humbling than to be in the presence of nature still relatively raw and wild.

The Big and Small Lagoons in Miniloc Island are good places to explore by kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling, or simply swimming with your life vests. You will marvel on the rock formation of this limestone island. Limestone is partially soluble in water and weak acid, like an acidic groundwater. It is acidic as it comes in contact with carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the soil. As erosion repeats itself in a span of million years, the Karst landscape emerged. Karsts are erosional landforms like limestone pavements, caves and gorges. Most of the island landscape in El Nido is a limestone karst. It is said that the Big and Small lagoons are once caves on which roof had collapsed millions of years ago.

On the south of Miniloc, you can find Shimizu Island. Stories were told that a Japanese diver died in the cave here so they named it after him. With its crystal waters, it is really a shimizu which means “clear or pure water” in Japanese. This is a good stop over for swimming, diving, and snorkeling.

There is beauty in all things hidden and this is what the Hidden and Secret beaches of c Island is all about. The Hidden Island is guarded by two towering limestone karsts. You need to swim and pass between these rocks to see the spectacular view. Inside is a small crystal clear bay of which at the end is a strip of white sand and lush greens. It resembles a miniforest waiting to be found.

The Secret Beach can be the highlight of your tour but if the water is too high and the waves are wild, the tour can be cancelled for safety purposes as the boat may hit the cliffs. But on a low tide, you can go inside by swimming through a hole underwater of 20 to 30 feet. One would wonder if a beach exists behind those giant limestone boulders guarding the treasure of white sultry sands. Yes there is, and this is, as many say, inspired Alex Garland when he wrote “The Beach” which starred Leonardo DiCaprio.

A few minutes away is the Star Beach. This is a good spot for snorkeling where you can find an array of clams and corals and diverse types of marine life. A few minutes farther is the Matinloc Shrine with a spectacular view of the whole Matinloc channel. An abandoned house stands beside the Matinloc Shrine. It is mysterious how this place was abandoned for years in spite of the beauty surrounding it. Our guide told us that the shrine was a realization of a vision by Guadalupe Yabes, a religious visionary. The place was specially chosen by Yabes because it is shaped like a heart. Whatever the owners’ reasons for abandoning this place, it surely adds up to the island’s charm.

There are many sights to see and places to discover in this part of the country. The summer months of April and May are the perfect time to visit, but if you find that your trip comes with an LPA (low pressure area), there is no need to worry about those dark clouds and occasional rains. A different kind of wet adventure awaits you with an excitement you don’t want to miss.

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