One of the primary tourist attractions or activities in El Nido is the Island Hopping. There are 4 different versions of the Island Hopping Tour (A, B, C, D) and each tour is the same, and each is operated by a local. Each tour’s format is also the same – stop at 2 attractions, stop somewhere for lunch, stop at 2 more attractions, go home. Each stop is around 40 minutes. Everyone who goes on a tour must pay an eco-fee, which goes into a budget aimed at preserving these natural attractions.
Our first tour was arranged through Golden Monkey Cottages, and our drivers Richard and Ariel took me, Kevin, Anne, and Loc on Tour A.
Here’s a map of that area that each tour covers:
Tour A took us to Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Simizu Island (for lunch), Secret Lagoon and 7 Commandos Beach.
The pictures perhaps tell a better story, but I’ll share a few anecdotes as well.
When we first arrived at the Small Lagoon, we were greeted by beautiful, crystal clear water. It seemed quite shallow, so I neglected the life jacket suggestion, just as Loc and Kevin had done. “This place can’t be that big”, I thought, “and the water seems shallow anyways” – wrong-o!
Don’t worry people, I was totally fine, but the shallow lagoon turned into something much deeper that required much swimming from this semi-lazy gal. Once through the clear, shallow lagoon, we then entered a beautiful larger lagoon (technically the Small Lagoon, I think. It was hard to keep track of what was what), where we were surrounded by stunning limestone cliffs. On the other side of the lagoon, we went to smaller little lagoon spot, and then into a small cave. About half way across the Small Lagoon, Kevin (aka Captain Heather’s-Safety) realized with a bit of a shock that I wasn’t wearing a life jacket, and was actually just swimming. I was totally fine, but I definitely had bitten of a bigger challenge than intended. BTW, people, swimming is tiring!! Anyways, I totally survived without incident, though my arms were feeling it later. Lesson learned? Life Jackets make life easy, but for reals swimming is more fun without one.
It was pretty windy on the day of our tour, so we weren’t able to go into the Secret Lagoon, but we were able to snorkel just outside of it. When we first got to the snorkelling spot, I pulled on my little snorkel/mask combo, along with my life jacket, and jumped into the water. It was a fairly open-water kind of spot, and the waves were fairly big (for poor little me, according to Kevin, the waves in Portugal are much bigger), so when I realized that I couldn’t see any corral or fish, I promptly climbed back on the boat with a resounding “Nope, not today. Not for me.”
Of course then Loc, who was swimming much further away from the boat than I’d been willing to go, shouted over to me that he could see lots of fish and lots of corral. So, fine then. I tried again, and this time I ventured further and saw tons of beautiful water life. Kinda scary, but worth it.