Day 1: (Day 9 in the Philippines)
We woke up with Flo feeling much better from his stomach virus only to spend almost the entire day travelling from Moalboal to El Nido. We had an early start where we departed from Sea Turtle House and motor-trikes to Moalboal town centre. There, I quickly popped by the convenience store to get some water and small snacks while Flo settled payment for the trike guy. Just as I got back, the bus to Cebu City arrived! Thank God or else we might have had to wait an infinite amount of time for the next one.
The bus ride took us a good 3 hours thereabouts and it started to suck after a while because of the uneven roads and the non-existent air-conditioning. So we ended up breathing in the fumes that kept getting into the bus, while having the sun beat down on us.
When we arrived at the bus terminal, this French lady living in Shang Hai asked if we wanted to share a taxi to the airport. Of course we agreed! It took us another half hour to get there before we parted ways.
Flo and I shared a miserable Greek Salad inside the airport which consisted of their typical cucumber and tomato combo, with the addition of tasteless, still-frozen olives and some feta. It actually took them 20 minutes to get this salad prepared and served. And this while Flo and I sat at the bar watching the guy painstakingly put the 4 elements of this salad together.
Anyway, it turned out that AirSwift provided food as well only we had to consume it before the flight because no food or drink are allowed to be eaten on board.
They served a little bento box of Aglio Olio with mystery meat (bacon?), a mini burger and a mini sandwich both with a slice of cheese and meat patty. Again, the meat was questionable so Flo and I refrained from having any especially with delicate tummies. The Aglio Olio was actually more than decent – they were very generous with the garlic though.
Alongside was also a dessert, a kind of pudding that tasted like the yoghurt we had from breakfast the day before only more set. So again, it was a no go for us.
The plane we boarded to El Nido was a propeller plane. The first I’ve ever sat on. I was apprehensive when I first heard about it but this one was spanking new and looked very sturdy. Also, there was no need for anyone to manually spin the propeller! I was very impressed.
Apart from the slightly turbulent landing, the hour’s flight itself went quite smoothly. We also managed to depart from Cebu 40 minutes earlier than scheduled since all the passengers had arrived and were ready to go.
We landed on this really rural air strip and were brought to the main ‘airport’ by these small, jazzed up buses. The airport was essentially made up of two main huts – one for Arrivals and one for Departure, and there was a little sheltered bench that had a sign that read ‘Baggage Area’. We were treated to some local ladies singing to us as we entered the Arrivals ‘hut’ and there were also refreshments laid out.
Flo and I picked up our check-in bag but had to wait quite a while for the trikes to come as they had to wait for the plane to turn around and take off back to Cebu City. The tricycles in El Nido, we soon realised, were quite ‘pimped’ out. Many of them were emblazoned with names and logos. It was quite interesting seeing how different parts of the Philippines had different kinds of tricycle designs.
The beach leading to our beach
It began raining while we were en-route to Las Cabanas Beach where we were to stay at Las Cabanas Resort. The roads in El Nido were significantly bumpier than in Cebu which didn’t make for the most pleasant of journeys especially with the rain steadily getting heavier.
When we reached the area that led to Las Cabanas Beach, we ended up waiting by this shelter that the trike drivers congregate at before braving it down 72 steps, waiting some more at this small empty beach bar until 6pm when the rain became light enough for us to walk the 8 minutes all the way down the beach to Las Cabanas.
We did finally manage to reach the resort and check-in.
Our hut was a stand-alone and it was spacious with a big verandah facing the sea, as well as a two-person rocking chair! Our room and bathroom were big and clean, and finally we had the toilet separated from the shower so it could be kept dry.
We quickly settled in before heading back to the restaurant to receive our complimentary drinks and order dinner.
and I went for the Prawn Sinigang which I was in dire need for to warm my body up. It came piping hot with huge prawns and a wealth of veggies. Flo’s order came with like, 4-5 prawns each on 3 skewers so we had no complaints about their portions.
Day 2: (Day 10 in the Philippines)
We woke up to the sound of giant geckoes! I thought they were birds and was fine with it until Flo informed me that they were geckoes. I wasn’t quite sure what to believe until we saw a pair of them outside our hut as we were entering our room after sunset. OMG they were so ewwwwwwwwww!!
Flo thinks they look cute and even took pictures of them. Then he happily waved the pictures at my face while I gagged. They’re like monster versions of the house lizards we get in Singapore which means they’re 1000x more yucky to look at. But Flo did make a good point – at least they were probably eating the mozzies so we inadvertently benefit from them.
All three days I had the same thing – Egg White Veggie Omelette which came with a side of Toast, Butter and Jam. The veggies were onions, tomatoes and potatoes – a combination I don’t usually put into my omelette. The second and third day I asked for them to omit to potatoes. They did once and ignored me the second time. Lol. Oh well..
We didn’t have too hectic a day. We spent our morning mainly lazing around before triking to El Nido Beach where we lunched at Art Cafe (a place we ended up visiting another few times).
And Flo had a (for once above average) Tomato and Cheese Sandwich with an Egg on Brown Bread. I think he was rather pleased with it because finally, he managed to sink his teeth into ‘real’ bread, even if not the best.
We had a walk after around the area and really, it’s like an organised chaos around El Nido beach with lots of backpackers’ hostels, interesting international eateries, and lots of island hopping agencies. In between the little roads would be scooters and tricycles all waiting to pick up tourists after their day of island hopping tours.
We arrived back at Las Cabanas in time to watch the sun set. It was magnificent!
Day 3: (Day 11 in the Philippines)
Happy Birthday to my dearest Flo!!
I was a little upset that I couldn’t celebrate Flo’s birthday proper but we did eventually once we returned to Singapore.
The morning started off wonderfully and we woke up early after a restless night listening to the geckoes and to some weird sounds of nature. Hopefully they were from some kind of animal because Flo pretty much shook me from my sleep in the middle of the night saying that there was something scratching the walls from the outside and it sounded like it might actually rip right through it. I didn’t hear it initially and when I did, I freaked out and buried myself under the blanket and into him, then I began to pray for protection. It must have worked because daylight came and our abode was still intact.
After a quick breakfast (I say quick because service was so slow and sleepy I pretty much had to serve myself) of Papaya Pancakes this time for Flo, and the ‘usual’ for me, we went straight to El Nido beach. Flo had passed to me the piece of paper that one of the Las Cabanas staff had written on the night before that had the name of the place and the road we were supposed to go to. When I unfolded it to tell the trike guy where we were heading to, it turned out to be our receipt from dinner! *facepalm* Thankfully, I recalled that the agency was called ‘Alexzus‘ something and it was good enough for the trike guy to know where to take us to.
We had booked to go on Tour A through our resort since it saved us about 200 pesos each. We got our spaces confirmed at Alexzus, paid up and got our snorkels. Then, we were led to the beach (like pigs to a slaughterhouse) to wait for our boat – Ayana 3. We had quite a big number of people on the tour with us and interestingly, I was the only Asian.
Our first stop was the 7 Commandos Beach where 7 Commando Ships were apparently stranded on at one point in history. It was a beautiful beach and quite busy when we first arrived. The crowds quickly left soon after we got there so that was a nice bonus.
It was a little embarrassing at first because after the boat was anchored and we were allowed to go swim the short 20m to shore, I told Flo to go first and I’d follow behind. Only, I started to panic just as I was about to go into the water. I just felt unable to swim properly with my snorkels in hand. One of the tour guys asked if I could swim and I said that I could, just that I’m used to swimming in swimming pools. So he held out his hand and offered to swim with me. I, instead, asked if he could hold onto my snorkels for me. He obliged and away I swam with him behind me portering my snorkels.
Flo and I snorkelled around the area and saw some pretty fish. I got used to the whole snorkelling thing which I’m quite proud of. As Flo and I swam, I grew more confident. It definitely helped that he was with me the whole time holding my hand while we pointed at different fish and corals that captured our attention to each other.
We were right in the middle of the two islands here
Flo first flew his drone while everyone jumped into the water, and just as everyone was coming back, we went in. I was a little reluctant at first to go back in to snorkel because the water looked deeper and I was afraid it would be cold. I went in the end after this Spanish guy confirmed that the corals at this site were amazing, and amazing they were! We saw exotic parrot fish and even my favourite puffy fish! There were live purple corals and blue starfish, and even a sea cucumber I think. We also saw this perfectly formed seashell that Flo was tempted to dive down and retrieve but refrained from doing so in the end.
After a bit, we went back to the boat to dry off and tuck into the BBQ-ed lunch the crew prepared for us. It encompassed Grilled Prawns, Grilled Chicken and Grilled Pork, a Cucumber Salad, Watermelon and Bananas. The prawns were sweet and fresh, but the chicken was dry unfortunately. The watermelon was refreshing and went quickly, as did the bananas. I didn’t have much so Flo made sure I shared with him a wafer snack and some oatmeal cookies soon after.
By the time we reached Miniloc Island, the skies became overcast. We first visited the Island’s Small Lagoon that required some kayaking activity, which also meant paying to rent one of the kayaks for another 300 pesos. Flo and I decided to hold back and fly the drone out instead, so we managed to not only have a nice view of the lagoon, but also snap some aerial photos. It was also a clever decision because within 5 minutes of our tour-mates leaving the boat on their kayaks, it started to drizzle, then rain, and as the rain intensified, the waves also became more turbulent.
When we reached Secret Lagoon, we were all pretty much drenched and I was freezing under my long-sleeved top and soaking wet towel draped around me, and the life jacket Flo suggested I wear for added warmth. I could barely move so I decided to wait it out while Flo went to explore the secret lagoon which is only accessible through a small hole along the wall of the island. He said that the water was pretty cold inside and he might have got stung by little jellyfish.
When everyone had returned, all wet and cold, there was a consensus to make a quick tour of the Big Lagoon (because we had to as part of the itinerary) before heading back without doing the kayaking activity. Big Lagoon was beautiful in itself even with the rain chucking down. We made one round within and off we went, back to El Nido beach.
Flo and I decided to stop by Art Cafe again to warm up on some hot Ginger Tea. I changed into some dry clothes which wasn’t super helpful because I had managed to overlook the need for dry undergarments as well, so my bikini stayed on. We did buy me a sarong to help keep me warm since my shirt was soaked. Then, it was a trike home followed by a cold shower and then dinner at our resort restaurant – Vegetable Noodle Soup with Chicken for Flo, and the Fish Sinigang for me because we were both dying for something hot and comforting.
Las Cabanas on the whole was a really nice stay for us both. We enjoyed waking up to the quiet of the beach, taking it easy some days, and being able to trike up to El Nido town with relative ease. Although we faced some bad weather during the Island Hopping tour, we were still awed by what we saw! We were a little sad to be leaving this area of Palawan and were not quite sure what to expect at Duli Beach, but we looked forward to our final leg of our trip nonetheless.