I was quite excited about the island tour as I had been tripping on pictures of beautiful beaches, stunning lagoons and tropical islands that defined my vision of El Nido. We had booked through Skipper Travels as many travel blogs suggested that they were the best. Definitely more expensive at 3.5k pesos per person when normally you can get it at 1.2k. The tour is on a speedboat and takes max 8 people to around 4-6 spots. There are a total of 4 island tours (set by the authorities here) called A, B, C and D so check them out to decide which one is of your interest. We chose tour A as it is recommended for first timers. We headed to corong corong beach where we met the crew and the rest of the tour pack.
First up was Cadlao lagoon with clear azzure waters surrounded by beautiful limestone cliffs. This is where a set for the Survivor series was getting built. Without wasting time I dived in and enjoyed a swim. After that we headed to a snorkelling spot which at first didn't look interesting from where the speedboat stopped. Once we swam to the actual spot and saw what was underneath, we were all dazzled with the beautiful corals and the colorful fishes. One of the best snorkeling sessions I ever had. Next up was Snake island which is one of the popular stops of the island tours and not included in tour A but our tour operator decided to include it anyways. The island is called so because the sand bank which connects the two adjacent islands is in a form of a snake. Do climb to the view point as you will be rewarded with some great sights. Btw you can buy beer, pack of cigarettes, cuppa noodles and fresh coconuts at this island.
Next stop was what I was most thrilled about...the big lagoon has to be the most popular spot in El Nido and probably the most photographed. One has to kayak their way into the lagoon to discover its surreal beauty. Thankfully our guide, Sam, offered to kayak us as we had no prior experience doing it. One has to pay an additional 200 pesos to rent a kayak. We were mesmerized by the beauty of this place and the snaps I have shared doesn't do justice to it.
It was time for lunch (included in the package along with drinking water, sodas, snorkeling gear and towels) and we headed to another island, don't recall its name, which seemed earmarked for lunch breaks by many tour operators. The crew informed us that it would take an hour for them to cook the food. They suggested we relax by then and told us about a cave that can be explored too. One had to crawl their way through to get in hence folks from my group gave it a miss but I wasn't going to. So I crawled in and boy I am glad I did. The rock and limestone formations inside were uniquely beautiful. Lunch took more than an hour to get prepared and the entire group gathered around the big spread. There was fish, prawn, chicken, pork, rice, an eggplant dish, salad and fruits. It turned out pretty decent though there was nothing much for my vegetarian wife but she managed.
Post lunch we headed to Cathedral caves which again is normally not a part of tour A. The towering walls inside of the cave resembles that of a cathedral and hence the name. Our speedboat was small enough to go all the way inside which the usual banca boats cannot so we were lucky to get a complete view of its beauty. Then we went for a quick stop at a sandbank in the middle of the sea that was surrounded by tropical islands. Clicked a few snaps at this fabulous location and hopped back in our speedboat.
Our next and last stop was papaya beach where we had the option to snorkel as well. It's a bit commercialized so you can get basic things to eat and drink here. We went for a last swim into the clear emerald waters and then got ready to head back to base. Was the tour worth it...yes, totally. The beauty of El Nido lies in these magical islands..just gorgeous. We took a tricycle ride back to our hotel feeling a sense of fulfilment after having covered 8 beautiful spots within 8 hours ☺
After a nice massage to get my stiff shoulder fixed and some relaxation we headed to the Rooftop bar. We had come across it the previous night and it looked lovely from outside but they were shutting down at that time hence we came back to experience it. We really liked the decor and the chilled vibe of the place. Got friendly with the group sitting next to us whose members were from Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. It was great to make new friends and we exchanged numbers to catch up with them the next day.
After a couple of drinks we decided to catch a bite. While walking we saw many people lined up at a shawarma takeaway place called Holy Smoke so we decided to give it a go. Well the shawarmas were big and turned out excellent in taste. After polishing them off we wanted to check out Sava beach bar, regarded as the best in El Nido, but was unfortunately closed temporarily. We decided to head back to the hotel as we were drained out after a long day so now it was 3 nights without partying.