Tag: palawan

The Philippine Experience – El Nido

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When visiting new countries, I love to learn more about the culture, whether through a city tour or a cooking class. By the time I arrived in El Nido, I’d been in the Philippines for over six weeks and hadn’t seen anything of the sort. Then I came across the Philippine Experience. It promised to be a day of fun Filipino experiences. I booked the tour through my hostel, Our Melting Point. Each tour requires a minimum of three people to run and in our case there were four people. The meeting point was outside Spyder Bar on the beach. Our tour guides introduced themselves to us and we headed to the market.

We took a tricycle to the market and the guides explained that Filipino families usually go to the market around 6am, so by 9am it shouldn’t be too busy. They were correct, it was clear that a lot of produce had already been bought. The guides told us what a regular weekly shop looks like and talked us through some of the items we may have found a little unusual in Europe. I enjoyed visiting the market, it was great to see fruit and vegetables of all shapes and sizes on sale instead of the uniform looking ones that are sold in the UK.

pineapples el nido philippine experience

Wall of pineapples – market El Nido

From the market we headed to the workshop, where we would be spending the rest of the day. To get there we did a mini trek through a forest. Our guide pointed out many different trees and plants which are useful in the Philippines. When we arrived at the village, we had fresh buko waiting for us, along with cold water and calamansi juice. The workshop area is spacious and has lots of information about the Philippines on the walls.

 

The guides had bought some fish from the market, so we were shown how to properly gut a fish and how to tell whether a fish is fresh. After, we went fishing. Only one of us was lucky enough to catch something – the vegan in the group. Typical.

We returned to dry land where we learned about coconuts. We cracked open some old coconuts, collected the juice, then grated the inside. The coconut shavings were then used to make coconut oil.

For lunch, we made chicken adobo. We were supposed to be having pork but the market had sold out because it was Easter weekend. The guides showed us how to make adobo and spoke about the different ways their families make it.

 

After lunch, we relaxed for 15 minutes before learning how to weave using coconut leaves. We made a couple of toys.

Once our lunch had settled, it was time to climb a coconut tree! There was a harness and helmet provided – an unusual feature in the Philippines. I didn’t climb the tree because I was in a lot of pain from falling off a motorbike the day before (more on that later!)

To end the afternoon we played some Filipino games and learned a traditional Filipino dance, topped off with some halo-halo, a Filipino dessert.

I had such a great time learning about Filipino culture. I wish I’d been able to do this, or something similar, at the beginning of my trip. The great thing about The Philippine Experience is that it’s suitable for any age group. Many thanks to Mark, Shay and the rest of the team!

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Island Hopping In El Nido

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I follow a few Philippine tourism accounts on Instagram, and I swear around half of their posts are of El Nido in Palawan. The pictures always show turquoise crystal clear waters and towering cliffs, so naturally I was excited to see this for myself. There are few flights which go directly to El Nido, so I flew to Puerto Princesa which took an hour from Manila. From Puerto Princesa to El Nido I took a van which cost 500PHP. Google Maps thinks it takes a little under four hours to get to El Nido. In actual fact, it takes around six hours.

Once in El Nido, there’s a lot of tour operators who basically all offer the same tour packages, A, B, C and D. From speaking to other backpackers, it seemed like A and C were the most popular. The hostel I was staying in (Our Melting Pot) also ran their own tours so I started with Tour A.

The meeting point was in the hostel at 9am, which gave me plenty of time to enjoy the free breakfast. Once on the boat, we were told there would be 5 stops. The first stop was Seven Commandos Beach, a white sand beach . The beach is quite large so although there were a lot of tourists, it didn’t feel busy.

seven commando beach el nido palawan philippines

Seven Commandos Beach

The boat spent around 40 minutes there, then headed for the next stop: Shimizu Island. The beach here was already full of boats by the time we arrived. Everyone got off the boat whilst the crew prepared lunch. There’s snorkelling to be done in this area but a lot of the coral is dead. We headed to the beach where lunch was served: salad, grilled chicken and fish.

The next stop after lunch was the Secret Lagoon. We headed over there and yet again, there were a lot of tourists. Only one person can go through the entrance to the Secret Lagoon at a time so there was a large queue at the entrance. Once inside, the lagoon does look great.

The fourth stop of the day was the Small Lagoon. This was my favourite stop because three of us hired a kayak and paddled around the lagoon. The water is beautifully clear. The water in this area is full of jellyfish which fortunately do not sting. Whilst in the kayak we got drinks, ice cream and a guy on a boat gave us a shot of rum to make us fully realise our dream of becoming pirates.

el nido palawan philippines small lagoon

Clear water in the Small Lagoon

 

The final stop of the day was at the Big Lagoon. Unfortunately it was low tide so there wasn’t another opportunity to kayak. This stop wasn’t as busy as the others, but I preferred the Small Lagoon.

Final Thoughts

I had a great time on Tour A and I felt that for 1300RM, the price was reasonable for such a touristy area. The downside was that each destination was crowded so sometimes it was difficult to fully appreciate the beauty of these places. It’s possible to hire private boats for a similar price (you’ll need a group of 10+ to make it cost effective) and they’ll take you wherever you want to go.

 

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Five Places I Loved In The Philippines

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After two months travelling around the Philippines, I thought I’d list my top 5 destinations:

1. Batad Rice Terraces

batad rice terraces philippines

The Batad Rice Terraces

It’s difficult to show how stunning the Batad Rice Terraces are on pictures alone. They are incredible. Built over 2000 years ago by the Ifugao people, it’s easy to see why they’re a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fact that Batad can only be accessed on foot makes viewing more worthwhile. Read more about getting there here.

2. Apo Island

turtle apo island philippines

There are too many turtles to count near Apo Island

Apo Island itself isn’t much to shout about but its surrounding reef is amazing. Boasting over 400 different types of coral and teeming with marine life, this is paradise for snorkellers and divers alike. Oh, did I mention there’s a turtle sanctuary?

3. Sagada

rice terraces sagada philippines

Views of the rice terraces near Sagada

Sagada is a beautiful village surrounded by mountains, caves and hiking trails. It also has an impressive number of restaurants with a large variety of foods. Sagada is very popular with Filipinos living in Manila, who drive there at weekends to enjoy some of the fresh mountain air. Read more about Sagada here.

4. Bohol

chocolate hills bohol philippines

Chocolate Hills, Bohol

Bohol is an island close to Cebu and is home to the Philippines famous chocolate hills. Bohol is also home to the world’s smallest primate, the tarsier, which can be seen in a sanctuary. Bohol is a popular stop for tourists and backpackers. Read more about it here.

5. El Nido

el nido palawan philippines

El Nido, Palawan

El Nido is situated at the northern tip of Palawan. There are numerous islands to explore along with many gorgeous beaches. The water is incredibly clear which makes it perfect for diving.

Do you agree with this list? Got anything to add? Feel free to comment below!

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