Just like a beautiful song, each of Mother Nature’s wonders contain different chords. And in each chord are notes, carefully and meticulously chosen for their harmonic affinity. Each note has its own timber, pitch, and tone, each contributing to become a mesmerizing harmony that captivates the imagination and touches the soul. The beautiful, mystical islands of Bacuit Bay in El Nido are Mother Nature’s notes in this particular song.
Our destination and lunch area was in another destination called Snake Island (yes, it does have a menacing name). Along the way, we passed by another luxurious, exclusive resort in El Nido. Staying for one night here must cost a hand and foot.
Sheila and I are not really sticklers on luxurious travel, but we definitely would not turn the other way around if someone offers us to stay in such a first-class, five-star resort. Hehehe!
In contrast, we saw this tiny fishing community at the edge of the mainland. The disparity between ultra-rich resorts and poor fishing villages like these may seem miles apart. However, they share the same incredible beauty and tranquility that are common characteristics of Bacuit Bay.
Finally, we approached the sandy shore of the majestic Snake Island. Now, you may ask why it is called Snake Island. Are there lots of snakes that live in those mangroves? Is there a giant serpent hiding in some dark, sand hole?
Empty boat? Hey, where did everybody go? Anyway, just check out that stunning scenery! Bet you want to wake up, live, and work in a place like this!
Oh, there you are, guys! Wait, where are you going? The beach is on the other side!
Well, Guide Gilbert led us to a trail that goes up to a viewing deck, a small open space with a sunny ledge that offers a great view of Snake Island.
Now, that’s Snake Island! That is beyond gorgeous, isn’t it?
Snake Island derives its name from that long, pure white sandbar which resembles a snake. Shoreward and seaward currents push the sand under the sea’s surface to form this sandbar. The long sandbar connects the mainland and the islet where we docked our boat.
The island itself, officially called Vigan Island, contains no artificial structure except for a small “shed” on the viewing deck and a small hut that acts as a shelter for Snake Island’s caretaker.
At the other side of Snake Island is this dazzling aquamarine bay. Just look at how crystal clear that water is! Guide Gilbert said that several sea turtles frequent that side of the island.
The noontime sun quickly burned us into a crisp and wrung our sweat out like sponges. So, while the guides prepared our lunch, we dipped into the cool water of Snake Island to ward off the heat.
Let’s go to the other side of the sandbar. That green side is actually the Palawan mainland. In fact, we could hear the faint drone of motorcycles when we reached the mangroves at the other side of the sandbar.
After frolicking in the crystal clear water and hiding in the mangroves, Ma’am Helen and the boatmen called us. It was time for the most awaited part of the day, a delectable, traditional yet simple lunch in a secluded island!
After taking our lunch (burping all the way! Compliments to the cook!), we boarded our boat and headed to the next destination. on our way, we came face-to-face with a thunderstorm. Some of our friends expressed concern about the weather phenomenon; thunderstorms are often accompanied by heavy rain and strong winds. And in the open sea, bad weather can be treacherous.
But Guide Gilbert and the boatmen assured us that everything would be okay and that the storm was just passing by. They were right.
The cruise to our next destination took less than 30 minutes. We docked at the beautiful white-sand beach of Cudugnon Point, but that beautiful shore was not the highlight of this place. The highlight was Cudugnon Cave, a sacred place behind the rock walls that surround the beach.
We waded into waist-deep, surprisingly warm water and entered a space between two rock outcroppings. At this point, we can’t help but think: why so many of El Nido’s and Bacuit Bay’s wonders are concealed by Mother Nature.
To access the cave’s main chamber, we need to crawl through another tiny opening in the rock wall.
Cudugnon Cave’s Visitor’s Lobby, as we call it, is immense and reasonably protected from the sea outside. We joined other guests who were here earlier.
We climbed up a sandy, slippery slope and entered the cave’s palatial main chamber. This chamber was moist when we came in here due to the rain that was coming in from the opening above the cavern.
Guide Gilbert said that thousands of years ago, Cudugnon Cave was a sacred burial site. In other words, this cave was actually used as a natural catacomb. Naturally, it is presently an important anthropological site.
The glistening, slimy rock formations looked so utterly alien.
Ancient Palawenos and settlers from Borneo placed their deceased loved one’s bones in natural holes like these. Symbolically, it’s returning to Mother Nature’s bosom after spending a finite life here on earth.
Unfortunately, according to Guide Gilbert, the bones and burial jars that dated back to the Sung Dynasty were extracted by archaeologists; the artifacts are now displayed in some museum out there. For us, that’s a serious disrespect to the dead and tantamount to grave robbery.
After exploring Cudognon Cave, we went back to our boat and cast off. The ominous thunderstorm finally passed and dissipated, revealing the blue afternoon sky. We cruised to our next destination, Pinasil Island, that large, dome-shaped rock outcropping at the right of the photo below.
The foremost feature of Pinasil island is that dark foreboding hole at the center of the outcropping. At this distance, the cavern does not look impressive.
But up close, the story dramatically changes. Aptly called Cathedral Cave, this colossal cavern has an opening higher albeit narrower than that of the Puerto Princesa Underground River.
Surrounded by high rocky cliffs that feature weird stalactites, Cathedral Cave can definitely be considered one of El Nido’s most awesome wonders.
The dark interior of the cave was so high and large that we reckon it could easily swallow an entire church. We couldn’t even see its vaulted ceiling.
Also, notice the lovely greenish blue water. Looks very conducive for swimming, right? But swimming here is tantamount to suicide. That’s because the cave is home to several species of extremely aggressive, territorial, and venomous sea snakes.
Those blue ropes you see attached at the entrance of the cavern are anchor points for boats.
On both sides of Cathedral Cave are gorgeous, overhanging cliffs that are perfect for deep water soloing (rock climbing without a rope. If the climber falls, he falls into the sea). Yes, they’re ideal for DWS if not for the poisonous snakes slithering below you.
According to Guide Gilbert, Pinasil Island is frequented by busyadors, or gatherers of swallows’ nests. The dried nest of the swallow, made of the bird’s dried saliva, is the main ingredient of the exotic bird’s nest soup.
After taking pictures of Cathedral Cave, we announced that we wanted to take one final dip before heading home. Guide Gilbert then steered our boat towards the next destination, Pinagbuyutan Island.
Along the way, we witnessed massive sea cliffs that displayed interesting streaks of very pale red. Perhaps these cliffs are rich in iron deposits.
Half an hour later, we saw where we’re headed—that dome-shaped island that is dominated by extremely high cliffs. That’s Pinagbuyutan Island, and it resembles the famous Rock of Gibraltar.
Just check out that stretch of white-sand beach and those immense cliffs! What a paradise! If we have the capability to buy this island, we’re pretty sure we’d convert it to a rock climbing mecca.
Everyone got out of the boat to enjoy a last dip. Just look at that amazing vista!
Worried that the hot sun might burn you into a crisp? Well, just stay and wade under the shade of this nice tree whose broad canopy extends over the shoreline.
A small hut serves as a shelter, umbrella, and a dressing room for those visiting the island. When we went Pinagbuyutan Island, there were three Korean ladies just enjoying the peace of the area.
Are we in a seaside golf course? Well, no, but it does seem like it! Pinagbuyutan Island has patches of grass and coconut mangroves. Interestingly, the air here was quite chilly.
After an hour of frolicking around and playing water games, we finally headed back to the town of El Nido. Everyone fell silent as they contemplated on our awesome two-day adventure. In fact, Muffins considered changing careers from being a writer to being a tour guide.
On our way, we passed by the Seven Commandos Beach, another popular stop in an El Nido Tour B island hopping package. Pressed for time, we didn’t anchor on the beach.
As majestic as the scenery is, we didn’t find Seven Commandos enticing; it looks like the once-pristine beach is heavily commercialized. However, other accounts mentioned that the sand here is spectacularly white, and that there is a nice snorkeling area. If you were able to visit the Seven Commandos beach, do tell us what’s nice there.
We found some accommodation establishments erected in Seven Commandos. They look expensive. Booking in one of the rooms inside must put a hole in one’s pocket.
Now, that’s more like it! That secluded beach is called Ipil Beach and is located in the same island as Seven Commandos. If you want some time for yourself, then Ipil Beach is the right destination. Just look at that thick forest cover and those massive cliffs!
If somehow Ipil Beach is filled with people, then you can head out to an adjacent beach called, well, Ipil Beach 2! Ipil Beach 1 and 2 are separated by a natural jumble of water-borne rocks.
Check out the cliff. Can you see the entrance to a cave high up the rock wall?
At last, we saw the town of El Nido and realized that it was the end of another great adventure. Seeing the rustic town left us all with a bittersweet feeling: we felt extremely happy, satisfied, and privileged to be able to visit and experience the majesty of Bacuit Bay. However, we also felt sad knowing that it would be a few more years before we can set foot in this magical place again.
El Nido, we’re going to miss you.
After taking a refreshing shower and packing our bags, we rode Lester’s van which took us back to Puerto Princesa.
Along the way, we saw another spectacle, a majestic sunset which highlighted a huge mountain and a vast bay. It was then that we realized we will come back to this place. We need to come back to this place. Mother Nature is singing, telling us that there are still many more wonders and adventures to explore in El Nido.
We will heed her song. How about you?
Thank you very much, Ma’am Helen and Lester. Both of you are awesome guides! You never left us, you kept us safe, and you made sure all our concerns are addressed. Both of you have the ideals that other guides should strive to achieve.
A very special thanks to Ma’am Mylene, the proprietor of Victoria Guest House and Cottages. She skillfully arranged everything for us—our accommodations in Puerto Princesa and El Nido, transportation, meals, permits, and guides. Ma’am Mylene, your service is exemplary and beyond compare, and we are actually honored to be your guest.
And of course, special thanks to our great friends who shared this adventure with us. Next year, we’ll go north using this Coron, Palawan itinerary!
(Photo by Sam Quino Amor)
11:00 AM – depart Mactan International Airport to Puerto Princesa Airport
12:00 PM – arrival at Puerto Princesa, check in at Victoria Guest House and Cottages
1:00 PM – lunch
2:00 PM – Puerto Princesa City Tour
6:00 PM – back at Victoria Guest House and Cottages, freshen up
7:00 PM – dinner
9:00 PM – lights out
4:00 AM – wake up, shower
5:00 AM – breakfast
6:00 AM – depart for Sabang
8:00 AM – arrival in Sabang Port, final documentation processing
9:00 AM – depart Sabang Port, head to Sabang Bay and PPUR National Park
9:30 AM – arrival at PPUR National Park
10:00 AM – start Puerto Princesa Underground River tour
11:00 AM – end PPUR tour
11:30 AM – head back to Sabang Port
12:00 PM – lunch
1:00 PM – head back to Puerto Princesa
3:00 PM – free time
7:00 PM – dinner
8:00 PM – pack up, prepare things, lights out
2:00 AM – wake up, shower
2:30 AM – head to El Nido
7:00 AM – arrival at El Nido, check in at Arkitel Bed and Breakfast
8:00 AM – start Island Hopping Tour C
12:00 PM – lunch at Star Beach
1:00 PM – start Island Hopping Tour D
4:00 PM – head back to El Nido Poblacion
5:00 PM – shower up, free time
7:00 PM – dinner
8:00 PM – socials, going around El Nido, free time
10:00 PM – lights out
5:00 AM – wake up, change to climb clothes
5:30 AM – start climbing Taraw Peak
6:30 AM – Taraw Peak summit, take photos, enjoy the view
7:00 AM – decend Taraw Peak
7:45 AM – arrive at Arkitel, breakfast
8:30 AM – start Island Hopping Tour A
12:00 PM – lunch at Snake Island
1:00 PM – start Island Hopping Tour B
4:00 PM – head back to El Nido Poblacion
5:00 PM – depart El Nido, head to Puerto Princesa, dinner at a stopover
10:30 PM – arrival at Victoria Guest House and Cottages
11:00 PM – shower, lights out
6:00 AM – wake up, shower, pack up
8:00 AM – breakfast
9:00 AM – depart Victoria Guest House and Cottages, head to airport
11:45 AM – depart Puerto Princesa Airport, head to Mactan International Airport
12:15 PM – Home Sweet Home
* Except for the van rental and Arkitel room rate, all prices are in a per-person basis. We did not include our expenses for air fare, extra meals, snacks, souvenirs, tips, and other fees in this rate sheet as you may have different needs, preferences, itineraries, and sharing scheme from us. Note that all figures are subject to change without prior notice.
1. We booked all these tours through Ma’am Mylene for a hassle-free trip. Since we are in a large group, we got a group discount. For inquiries and bookings, contact Ma’am Mylene of Victoria Guest House and Cottage for your tours.
2. For the room accommodation, enjoy an affordable but unique homey experience at Victoria Guest House and Cottages. Their personalized service is truly exceptional. Look for Ma’am Mylene to assist you. Get in touch with them using the following details:
- Mailing address: WESCOM Sea Road, Barangay San Pedro, Puerto Pricesa City, Philippines 5300
- Landline: +63 (48) 723-2312 / +63 (48) 433-8054
- Cellphone Number: 0917-7576739 / 0928-7814757 / 0917-5440549
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Facebook Page: Victoria Guest House and Cottages
3. For accommodations in El Nido, you can stay at Arkitel Bed and Breakfast. Get in touch with them using the following details:
- Cellphone Number: 0921-4781641 / 0917-7568879
- Email: email@example.com
- Facebook Page: Arkitel Bed and Breakfast
4. El Nido does not have 24-hour electric power. The power is activated from 2 or 3 PM to 6 or 7 AM. Thus, if you need to use power the entire day, you may have to carry a lot of extra batteries. Don’t worry too much though. Most probably, you’ll be island hopping the entire day. Also, many establishments have their own generators.
5. There are virtually no banks or ATMs in El Nido, so make sure you withdraw cash or change your money in Puerto Princesa, Cebu, Manila, etc. Some hotels, dive operators, and other establishments in El Nido accept credit card payments, but it is better to bring cash.
6. Internet access is available in Internet cafes. Guesthouses, restaurants, bars, and other establishments also have free WiFi. However, do take note of the schedule of availability of electric power. In addition, Smart, Globe, and Sun phone networks are adequate here.
7. El Nido is a small, resort town. You can actually go around El Nido on foot. However, if you wish, you can rent a bike to go around town and other places in the municipality. Rental can range from P 700 and up.
8. As a world-renown tourist/resort town, everyday things (e.g. carenderia food, drinks, supplies, etc.) and services offered in El Nido can be quite expensive. Be sure to bring extra money.
9. If you wish to rent a mask, snorkel, pair of booties, etc., rent them out in Puerto Princesa to save money. Better yet, bring your own gear.
10. If you have the time and money, we strongly recommend that you devote one day for each tour. That way, you’ll have more time enjoying the destinations in each tour.