Tour C – Captivating (Hidden Beaches & Shrines)
In Tour C, you will get to discover the amazing rock formations and hidden beaches that have given inspiration to Alex Garland’s novel “The Beach”. The novel was written while the author was actually in El Nido and has been made into a blockbuster movie starring one of my favourite actor, Leonardo Di Caprio (disclaimer, not because of Titanic but was impressed with his performance in Inception). From the towering marble cliffs and enchanting lagoons to its white sandy beaches and lush jungle, El Nido is one of the top tourist destinations in The Philippines, which is often referred to as the Philippines’ Last Frontier. National Geographic Traveler’s magazine, has chosen El Nido as one of the best travel destinations in the world. I personally name Tour C as Tour Captivating in El Nido. You will soon realised this tour is indeed one of the most captivating tour that will captured your heart. 🙂
Tour C cost 1400 peso without the park entry fee of 200 peso and rental of snorkeling equipment of 100 peso. Note: park entry fee last for 10 days whereas rental of snorkeling equipment is payable each trip. Please ensure you keep that park entry receipt.
As Tour C centered mainly around the Mantiloc and Tapiutan Islands,the places of interest that will be included in the package are Helicopter Island, Hidden Beach, Star Beach, Secret Beach and Mantiloc Shrine. The film “Bourne Legacy” was actually filmed on the islands of Dilumacad and Matinloc. El Nido Tour C : Hidden Beaches Tour is truly a world famous location.
All tours begin at El Nido beach
It doesn’t matter which tour agency you booked your tour with, they will definitely arrange a pick up service at your resort or hotel. You will first be brought to El Nido beach and wait for other guest to arrive. Usually each boat carries approximately 16 people and 4 other crew members to take care of your daily needs.
Once your friends of the day have arrived, and the crew members have loaded all the snorkeling equipment and lunch onto the boat, you are good to go. En route, you will see many amazing islands and sharp limestone formations that will wow you till you arrived at the first stop for the tour – The Helicopter Island.
1st Stop – Helicopter Island
So why Helicopter Island? Certainly not because the island can take you off to the sky but because the island resembles a shape of a helicopter from a distance. haha This island has a beautiful white sand beach that stretches to an estimated 300 meters long. There is an underwater tunnel at its northern side and a fringing reef on its southern side. As the boat shoved its bow unto the sand, you can see that there are a large number of corals and rocks on the shore. This means, you either have to walk extremely slow or swim a big round to the middle portion of the shore that has no corals. The latter is indeed a better idea, though more tiring, but I sort of had enough from all the bruises and cuts from the corals. haha
It was said that the snorkeling was amazing in one part of the island. Honestly, the first thing in my mind was to get my signature KJS (Keith Jump Shot) in that island. It looked amazingly beautiful with the open waters and beautiful sandy beach. I walked to the other side of the island, the water was ridiculously clear and the view of the adjacent island was so appealing for my KJS. haha
After my KJS shot, I was contented and swam back to the boat area (Southern side) where it was said to be best for snorkeling. The waves were pretty strong at that time from the open sea, but water was still clear and amazing.
2nd Stop – Hidden Beach
On you way to the hidden beach, you will be captivated by the beauty of the surrounding islands.
As the boat docked at the edge of the limestone cliff, it opens up to this hidden cave with limestone walls and a clear and shallow passageway. First, I did my first KJS in El Nido with beautiful waters as my background. Anyway, I did it in just one shot one kill! haha of course, I framed it first before I jumped and the crew was an experienced photographer, so it was easy for me. 🙂
Alright, walking to the hidden beach was the most horrible experience for me in El Nido. The half walk half swim experience towards the hidden cave was so tough. The waves were very strong from the open sea, and the shore were filled with rough and tough corals, I mean real solid hard rocks and sharp corals. It was very tough to get a good grip for yourself especially with the waves making it difficult to walk or to swim. I almost twisted my ankle so many times due to the strong waves. It was inevitable that no one can escape this “calamity” without an evident bruise or cuts, but I have to admit, going through this ordeal to see the hidden cave was definitely still worth it. 🙂
In the middle of the cave, turn left and you will enter into the hull of the bigger limestone island. As you wade into the water, the beach reveals itself, a perfectly quaint strip of sand out of nowhere.
To its left, you see an odd patch of water and a small opening to a cavern. When you go through it, you will find yourself where you started – at the beginning of the same cave that leads you to the boat. I guess you should realise the beach is quite well “hidden”. haha
3rd Stop – Star Beach
When heading towards our 3rd stop – Star Beach, we passed by the channel between the 2 main islands of Tapiutan and Mantiloc Island. The waves were very strong, probably due to the water current gushing into the narrow channel. The boat ride suddenly transform into a roller coaster ride! haha The view was amazingly gorgeous. At that moment, somehow I thought we were cruising into the Jurassic park. haha Imagine a T-Rex or Pterosaur appear in the next photo, you play that Jurrasic Park theme song… okay, stop imaging it. The movie is up in June 2015! haha
Across the Matinloc island, is the Star Beach. The crew cruising around for a perfect spot before finally taking anchor on a beach, and then setup our lunch on the boat.
Nothing is better served with fresh sweet mangoes and pineapples. The eggplant salad was pretty good too. Yea, I had very good detox lunch in the Philippines and good diet meals! haha For non vegetarians, there are shrimps, crabs and fishes etc… Well, I don’t need to spell everything out, you can see it from the next photo.
Another 45 minutes, some people wish to snorkel immediately after eating and some people just wanna lay around and digest. Some of them wish to go “toilet” haha OMG… lets not discuss this. haha After a heavy lunch and some chillax time, we were off to our next destination.
4th Stop – Secret Beach
OMG, my mind was thinking about the movie, “The Beach”. This is “The Beach” moment. Disregard the few other boats floating around the tiny narrow crevice in this huge limestone formation, and ignore the fact that the waves are actually very strong that they can wrestle you to the jagged, black sharp rocky walls. According to local guides, this beach inspired Alex Garland’s novel The Beach, which was written while the author was in El Nido. This is the place where the movie was inspired but filmed in Koh Phi Phi, Thailand. Which I went as well after El Nido. Will do another separate article on Thailand. 🙂
The Secret Beach has a small area of white sand beach at the corner of a sinkhole, which is inaccessible by boat and surrounded by steep limestone sharp rocky walls. To reach it, you must swim underwater through a narrow crevice in a rock wall. At noon, the sun ray slipped through the opening, allowing a stray of light and shadow against its limestone walls. A magnificent secluded and secret paradise.
After diving into the water, you will need to slowly inch your way to the entrance against the strong current and the deep waters to swim to the beach. Swimming was challenging because of the strong waves and current from the open sea. If you’re not careful with the timing of the waves you could get scraped with the rocks. I was a bit concern that time but really enjoyed the experience. For non swimmers, please wear your life jackets. It’s an open sea. Please do not be a hero if you cannot swim.
Majestically, sunshine casts a god ray down to where the patch of isolated sand is. Your jaw drops and as you inch your way through the rocks and into the sandy area, it was a secret paradise. Wish there were fairies or angels hidden at the Secret Beach as well. Okay I know I’m asking too much, what about mermaids? LOL
When you sit there, a foot in the pool of water, surrounded by black rock with a tiny hole at the edge of it, enjoying the sun, sand and sea, you would notice that the incoming waves is still overpowering. You head back out of Secret Beach, and passed through the dangerous hole again. A tip for everyone, diving into the deep waters and swim through the hole is much easier than you swim through at the water surface due to the strong waves. You will need a power dive as the under current was pretty strong too.
5th Stop – Matinloc Shrine
10 minutes from Secret Beach, we dock unto the shores of Matinloc Shrine (also known as Shrine of Our Lady of Matinloc and Shrine of the Blessed Virgin) – an abandoned shrine. According to my guide, a sacred monument built in 1982 to honor the blessed Virgin Mary. Between year 1980s and 1990s, the island was once packed with locals because Catholic Mass and medical missions were being held here every year. It was then permanently abandoned due to its location.
Matinloc Island Shrine came from missionaries that developed this place. The island is a heart shape when you look at it from the sky. After that the task of taking care of the shrine was given to local supporters and the missionaries went away. For rich man’s son, you may buy this romantic beautiful island for your wife. It’s an island with a shape of heart. haha Am kidding.
There’s nothing much to do except walking around and taking photos. Take the time to climb up the man-etched stairs to the top for a better view. If you decide to walk up, please be extra careful especially when you are coming down. There are loads of spikes and sharp rocks that will makes you feel uneasy when you are at the top. The view was okay, but certainly worth to check it out and take some good photos.
6th Stop – Bonus Stop at Cadlao Island
I am still pretty clueless why my tour guide was so kind and decided to give us a bonus stop at Cadlao Island for some snorkeling and swimming. This is not inclusive in the package of Tour C. It must be because we were such a great bunch of people! LOL So, do treat your guides well. Anyway, Cadlao was soooo beautiful too. The water was again clear and there were tonnes of corals in the bay.
I was so fortunate to see a family of nemo crown fishes and other beautiful corals at the Cadlao Island. Was an amazing stopover before heading back to El Nido town. On the way back, the water was pretty rough, but was like a thrilling ride. Clocked in another awesome day in El Nido with my new friends and buddies. 🙂
Anyway, just before I forget, this is the outcome from 2 days of walking on the shore full of corals and rocks plus the “friendly & innocent” strong waves. PG13 – Parental guidance needed! haha
In my humble opinion, Tour C is definitely mean Tour Captivating. By now, you know the movie “The Beach” was inspired by the beaches in Tour C and Bourne Legacy was filmed in Matinloc Island. Certainly, The Hidden Beaches Tour is truly a world famous location for movies inspiration. My favourite was actually the Secret Beach. Although I was a bit concerned about passing through that narrow crevice, but it was all good and the Secret Beach is really awesome and unique. Only setback is no angels or fairytale characters on the Secret Beach. Anyway, do check it out and set El Nido as your next travel destination. Who knows, you may be the fortunate one. haha 🙂
Do check out the following articles related to El Nido
- The Easiest & Luxurious Way Of Getting to El Nido, Palawan Via ITIAIR
- Unveil The Enchanting Beauty & Unspoiled Paradise of El Nido, Palawan
- Revel In The Tranquil Turquoise Waters of El Nido’s Lagoons (El Nido Tour A)
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” – Helen Keller