"So where do you want to go?"
Easy. Just two places. Secret Beach, because that has been in my bucket list* for quite some time now. (Rumor has it that this is what actually inspired Alex Garland/Danny Boyle's The Beach.) That, and Pinagbuyutan Island. I've been there, yes, quite a number of times already, but for work, not for leisure. Pinagbuyutan is our favorite island for... reasons. Lots of them: it has not one, not two, but three different beaches, sand that's second only to Entalula Island (And Entalula is pretty close to Boracay and Bohol!), towering limestone cliffs that scream in your photos "Hey look! I'm in El Nido!", a very distinct and majestic geological profile, its proximity to Lagen, Pangulasian and Las Cabanas, and, for the quintessential tropical island photo, an array of coconut trees and knee-high cogon grass, like this one:
Everything is in one compact place; you only have to walk for a bit and your eyes get to see something entirely different. Tip: Pinagbuyutan Island is east-facing; it's best to go there in the morning before tourist time (i.e., before 9:00AM), but fear not sunsetphiles, it has a pocket beach on its western end as well.
Oh will you look at that. I got carried away. Let's leave Pinagbuyutan Island for now. Back to the tour!
*For the record, we've been to the following El Nido islands and tourist spots: Miniloc, Lagen, Pangulasian, (And Apulit an hour's drive south!) Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Entalula, Dibuluan, Helicopter Island, Papaya & Seven Commandos Beach, and Snake Island, in addition to Nacpan, El Nido Town, Corong-corong, and Las Cabanas. El Nido is home.
Saturday, May 12, 2017.
Skipper Charters was kind enough to pick us up in Miniloc where we were staying.
En route to our first stop: Secret Beach. It's a 10-, 12-minute trip from Miniloc. A bit longer if you're coming from Lagen or "Pangga" (as the locals would fondly call Pangulasian). And even significantly longer if you're taking an outrigger boat from El Nido town in one of 'em group tours. Speaking of Pangga. Hmmm. Pangga actually means "love" in another local dialect. And the word "love" is "mahal" in Tagalog, which interestingly enough can also mean "expensive". Just thinking out loud if that's the reason why they call Pangulasian "Pangga". It could be word play to make it shorter, and it the same time, give an allusion to how expensive ("mahal") that resort is.
*Snapping back to reality* On with the tour...
9:00AM-ish. We were twenty meters or so away from the entrance of secret beach. And there was an outrigger boat from another resort just a few feet shy of that small crevice. I assumed that there were already people inside.
"There goes our chance of seeing Secret Beach without anyone else inside...", I thought.
Or so I thought.
Strangely, none of the tourists - life vests, dive masks, GoPro selfie sticks and all - got off the boat. And they were all pointing towards colloidal, brown, whatever thingies bobbing near the water's surface.
None of the tourists from the other boat dared to go down. And from the photo above, you can already see the small entrance to the Secret Beach. We learned from a recent trip to Apulit that these little ones do not sting as much as their full-grown counterparts. A month ago, we practically snorkeled for an hour with a less threatening swarm of these little ones. So we took the risk, swam through what was like hundreds, even thousands of baby jellyfish, and made our way inside.
I made this short video using my GoPro:
Correction: these little boogers *do* sting. Well, not as bad as their full-grown counterparts (i.e, a full brood of jellyfish) - we would have been writhing in agony by now if that was the case! Our bodies still took a toll though - we have red marks on our neck and chest area (oh poor Klara! So sorry!).
Filmed on location: Secret Beach, El Nido, Palawan, Philippines. GoPro HERO5 Black. VSCOFilm 01 Color Grade. http://redsheepphotocinema.com
Was it worth it? Heck yeah. We had the Secret Beach all to ourselves. And thank you Skipper Charters for the dry bag, masks and snorkels.
Next stop: Pinagbuyutan Island. Roughly 10 to 15 minutes away, with occasional stops in front of interesting looking islands.
So I got carried away earlier and I was already able to give a verbose account on what Pinagbuyutan is like. I hope you enjoy these photos that we took. :)
A few meters from the shore, we jumped from the boat's starboard and swam our way to the beach. Our tour included fresh fruit for breakfast (mango, bananas, watermelon) and an even fresher bottle of... Sprite! Haha! Thanks Skipper Charters!
Klara and I spent the next hour taking adventure photos. That's another check on my bucket list.(Hey there TopoDesigns!) And I should mention again that Pinagbuyutan has really good beaches. The one on its western end is particularly noteworthy!
11:50AM That's it! Our private tour was good for around three hours and it takes a little less than 10 minutes to get to our final drop-off point at Las Cabanas where we stayed for one more night before heading back to Puerto Princesa.
12:00PM. Done! We spent the afternoon in Las Cabanas (love the vibe here!) and we highly recommend Beach Shack for sunset chill time (Bamboo Straw for PhP 75!) , and Maremegmeg Beach Bar for dinner (legit salad, pretty good ribs and yes, dessert!).
Thanks Skipper Charters!
'till next time! Safe travels everyone!