With around 20 islands to see out of the 45 islands in El Nido, island hopping is the main spectacle for tourists. There are four main tours to choose from (A – D) but you can also do a combination tour. If you have the extra budget, you can also opt to hire your own private boat or speedboat. If you want to reach the islands not included in the tours, this will definitely be the way to go.
Island Hopping with Sealand Venture
We were lucky that Ocean Vista Inn has its own local tour operator. Sealand Venture provides not just island tours, but inland tours and transportation arrangement as well. Tours start around 9 AM and are usually finished by 4 PM. Snorkeling equipment is included as well as a life vest. Aside from the boat captain, tour guide/s and boat crew will be with you onboard. In our experience, they were all professional and very helpful throughout our tours.
El Nido Tour D
Our day 2 in El Nido brought us an overcast day but no signs of rain in the morning so only Tour D was allowed for that day. This tour centered around Cadlao Island which was the nearest island from town proper. Since only Tour D was available for that day, it was expected that almost everyone will be in the same spots. Cadlao Lagoon became a parking lot of boats. Although we enjoyed it there, it would have been more enjoyable had there been fewer boats inside the lagoon.
Lunch at Paradise Island saw us chilling on the small strip of beach along with everyone waiting for their lunch to be cooked. It was surprising to see the amount of plastic bottles under the tree near our spot. So I asked our tour guide if this was left by tourists. He said that these bottles were washed ashore and since the island is a private one, they have their own caretakers to clean up the trash. Nonetheless, it was a disappointing sight to see.
We failed to anchor in Pasandigan Beach because of the waves, cutting off snorkeling time. We ended our tour in Bucal Beach where the snorkeling fun was continued.
El Nido Tour C
All the tours were allowed again on Day 3. And we made use of that advantage to avail Tour C since we don’t know if it will be allowed again the next day. Our first stop was at Helicopter Island where we had the beach all to ourselves for the first thirty minutes. Then the other boats started coming in, and it turned into an episode of Survivor. Haha.
Hidden Beach was my favorite from this tour. The water wasn’t high making me feel safer what with my almost non-existent swimming skills. It was fun snorkeling in knee deep to waist-high waters, surrounded by limestone cliffs.
Since we were only a small group, we had our lunch in Talisay Beach. A small beach surrounded by limestones, almost hidden from view. The place was just perfect for our group size.
Last stop for the day was Matinloc Shrine where we had a bit of difficulty docking because of the strong waves. We had to pay Php 100 for entrance since this is privately-owned. If you are a fan of abandoned spots, then you’d enjoy the building and the shrine.
The only draw to this stop was the amazing panoramic view at the top of the limestone cliff. They already paved the stairs so people won’t have too much of a difficulty reaching the top. The strong wind, the sound of the waves, and the breathtaking view can make you feel how small you are in this world.
Since the waves were still too strong that day, Secret Beach remained a secret to us.
El Nido Tour A
This is one of the most popular tour options, aside from Tour C. It was again a big tour group for the day. And we started the day in Seven Commandos Beach. This beach was named after the seven commandos who lived on that island. It was said that their names were found inscribed in rocks, which are now nowhere to be found. Unlike the other beaches, we’ve been to so far this one is the most commercialized, with stores on the beachfront as well as a resort on one side. The swimming area is cordoned off, and a platform with cutout standees of seven soldiers can be found in the sand in front of it.
We were awestruck with the wonder that is called the Big Lagoon. The pristine turquoise water surrounded by towering limestones was surely jaw-dropping. Like a scene straight out of a movie. The limestone cliffs may be ubiquitous by now, but somehow in Big Lagoon, it was like we saw everything for the first time again.
According to our guide, it was believed that this used to be an underwater cave millions of years ago. And the lagoon came about when the limestone roofs collapsed.
It was amazing to see the different shades of water as we reach the deeper part of the lagoon, from turquoise to cerulean and finally to dark blue. Kayaking is also permitted here, but our boat just passed through since swimming and snorkeling aren’t allowed.
Shimizu beach was our lunch stop, where we shared the beach with three other boats. Shimizu (Simizu) Island was named after the Japanese diver who was the only one recovered from a failed underwater cave exploration a long time ago. The beach is flanked by massive limestones on each side, making it all the more picturesque when you see it from afar. This is also a good snorkeling spot especially when you go to the deeper waters. Just make sure to keep an eye out for incoming boats!
After resting, we went back again at the Big Lagoon and snorkeled on the left side near its entrance. This was my favorite snorkeling spot! Unlike the others, the corals here are more vibrant and not whitewashed. The diversity of marine life was also amazing. Too bad I didn’t see a turtle. But I did see a lobster, a giant clam, and clown fish among other things.
Since Secret Lagoon will have to remain secret to us until we come back to El Nido, we headed to another famous spot – the Small Lagoon.
Our boat along with the rest of the other boats docked outside of the Small Lagoon. Unlike the Big Lagoon, this one can only be accessed through a hole between two limestone formations. You either have to kayak, or swim to pass through it. And since we were quite tired, we opted to rent a kayak. It can seat up to three people, for Php 300.
The turquoise waters were so clear you can see the fishes below the surface. How I wished our kayak was see-through! For a first timer, it was fun trying to navigate the kayak. You must be coordinated with the other rower, lest you guys fall off into the cold waters.
It was like a different world inside the Small Lagoon. The tall limestones shielding the afternoon sky, casting an eerie glow inside the lagoon.
We tried our best to reach every nook and cranny, making the most out of our kayak and time remaining in Miniloc Island.
As always, make sure not to step or touch any corals and marine life. Do make sure that you also practice the Leave No Trace principle. Let’s all be responsible travelers!
SEALAND VENTURE TOURS
Address: Serena St. Bgy. Buena Suerte Zone 2, El Nido Palawan, Philippines 5313
Reservation Line: 09175616080
TOUR A: Php 1, 200 per person
Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Simizu Island and Seven Commandos Beach
TOUR B: Php 1, 300 per person
Pangulasian island, Cudognon Cave, Cathedral Cave, Snake Island and Pinagbuyutan Island
TOUR C: Php 1, 400 per person
Secret beach, Hidden beach, Matinloc Shrine, Tapiutan Island and Helicopter Island
TOUR D: Php 1, 200 per person
Nat-nat beach, Pasandigan beach, Cadlao Lagoon and Bukal Island
Have you been to El Nido? What’s your favorite tour?