Finally, time for the island hopping tour! El Nido has become so popular with tourists and that’s because of all the pretty pictures you can find online with green waters and limestone cliffs. We wanted to see it for ourselves and decided to book tour A because this included the Small Lagoon and the Big Lagoon. Tour B mainly visits caves and beaches, Tour C takes you to the highlights around Matinloc Island which includes lots of snorkeling and Tour D takes you to Cadlao Island and almost only covers beaches.
You can book your island hopping tour on every streetcorner and with every hotel in El Nido, but we decided to book it with El Nido Art & Boutique café, because they had great reviews. The tour cost us 1200 pesos each, but we had to rent snorkel gear for 200 pesos each. This all includes a mask, a snorkle, fins and lunch on the boat. In the end, we could have booked it with someone else for the same price including snorkel gear and maybe with a less crowded boat, but this was absolutely fine.
We were at the El Nido Art & Boutique café at 8:30 am to get our snorkel gear and at 9 am we were on the boat. We had to cross the sea to get in the boat, so I held our dry bag (with our camera, wallets and phones) above my head while Mark carried our bag with snacks and towels. It was a fun way to start the tour since we got really wet haha 😉
Tour A is mainly around the island of Miniloc, which is supposedly the most interesting island to visit in the Bacuit Archipelago. I had butterflies in my stomach when the boat left El Nido town. Was this going to be the paradise we kept seeing in other people’s pictures?
Our first stop was the Small Lagoon. After about 20 minutes our boat anchored and told us that we could rent a kayak or swim to the lagoon. Mark and I love to swim, so we decided to do that. It was a long way and we had to be careful not to step on coral, but we made it! There were lots of people with kayaks though, which meant we had to be very careful. The entrance to the lagoon is quite narrow with only 1 kayak being able to enter or leave the lagoon at a time. The lagoon itself is surrounded by the black sharp limestone cliffs that charactarize the Bacuit Archipelago.
Our second stop was the Big Lagoon. The Big Lagoon is the most photographed spot in El Nido. Our tourguide warned us that the entrance was sharp due to (dead) coral and that there were many sea urchins and advised us to bring our flipflops. I was a little tired from swimming around the Small Lagoon and opted to not swim to the Big Lagoon. Our tourguide mentioned that we anchored at a great snorkel spot, so I grabbed my snorkels and swam around the boat. I saw a clownfish protecting a baby Nemo but couldn’t really enjoy it because I was attacked by multiple jellyfish. If I would do it again, I would rent a kayak and kayak around the Big Lagoon to avoid the sharp corals and sea urchins.
Next up was Simisu Island. We anchored in between two islands (big rocks actually) and were told that this was one of the best snorkelspots around Miniloc. Our guide said that we could see turtles here if we were lucky and he also said we could swim to the tiny private beach if we wanted. In the meantime, he would prepare our lunch. Mark and I went looking for turtles, but all we found were jellyfish haha. And those little wobblies sting like a MF-er! There are of course lots of other fish to see while snorkeling but when someone says ‘turtle’ that’s all I want to see.
Our tourguide found a quiet spot to eat without any surrounding boats, and served fried chicken, barbequed bangus (milkfish), white rice, fried rice with vegetables, fresh mango, fresh watermelon, fresh pineapple and a fresh salad with green leafs that come straight from their own organic garden. The lunch was simple but very tasty. I think I ate 3 mangoes! Drinks were not included, but Mark and I came prepared with huge bottles of water. You can buy beer on the boat if you wish 🙂
The last stop of the tour was 7 Commandos Beach. This is a long beach with white powdery sand. The beach really feels private and uninhabited. When you think of paradise, this is what it looks like! We got to lay in the sand and play in the water for an hour. Mark went snorkeling just off the shore and said that he saw lots of fish without being stung by a jellyfish. Score!
I really enjoyed our Island Hopping Tour and would highly recommend doing this while visiting El Nido. Just be aware of the fact that certain tours require you to swim a lot, so if that is not what you’re looking for then choose your tour wisely.
We’re not sure of what to do tomorrow, since we are thinking of doing another Island Hopping Tour (tour C), but are so tired from this tour that we might just have a lazy day on the beach.