10 May 2018

When in El Nido Palawan - Island Hopping (Tour A) with Northern Hope Tours

The highlight of my El Nido trip would definitely have to be our second island hopping tour with Northern Hope Tours, a travel company based in El Nido that offers island hopping tours and van transfers both in Puerto Princesa City and El Nido. I thought I would not be able to enjoy it because I got terribly seasick the day before. Tour A in El Nido, which is the most popular tour, is composed of five locations - Seven Commando Beach, Small Lagoon, Shimizu Island, Secret Lagoon, and Big Lagoon. All five destinations are quite nearer from the port than Tour C which we did the day before.

Small Lagoon

Just like the previous day, we were picked up by our tour guide, Ryan, from our hotel at around 9 in the morning. I think we were the last ones to arrive at the destination since I saw other tourists gathered up in the meetup place. Since we weren't able to get some good shots of the scenery from the boat the previous day, my friends and I were the first ones to board the boat this time and took the front seats located at the end of the boat (opposite the driver). There were 18 of us this time but it wasn't crowded at all in our boat. Like the previous day, we were accompanied during the rest of the day by our tour guide, his assistant, our boat driver, and two other assistants who helped in maneuvering the boat.

During our boat ride, we stopped for a few minutes so that Ryan could give us some instructions and reminders such as how we should keep our live vest on at all times whenever we are at the boat, to keep it also on whenever we'd step out of the boat especially those who do not know how to swim. After that, we headed to our first destination - the Seven Commando Beach.

Tour Tip: Make sure to get the front seats so that you could take better photos of the scenery

Seven Commando Beach

The Seven Commando Beach is probably one of the most popular tourist attractions in El Nido. It used to be a place where military operations were being made but it is now converted to a beach destination which everyone can enjoy. It is not really a wide stretch of beach and there were tons of boats docketed when we were there. There is a spot in the middle of the stretch though where people can swim and enjoy. 

Approaching Seven Commando Beach
Only nice sand and clear waters here

Among the activities you can do here is snorkeling, swimming, or just simply lounging on the sand. There's also a swing, which had a queue when I was there, which you can try for free. My favorite activity would definitely be enjoying fresh beverages such as ice cold beer and coconut juice by the beach. And if you are feeling hungry, there's also a snack shop in the area. We spent around 30 minutes in the area so I dedicated it entirely to taking photos for the blog and Instagram. Our tour guide was so helpful in taking photos. And it's a relief that he's skilled in using my camera (a Nikon DSLR) so the photos turned out great. 

Beverage shops and cottages
Not much swimming space because of the boats
Queue was kind of long when we were there so I wasn't able to try this out

Small Lagoon

The best part about Tour A would definitely be the Small Lagoon. If you've seen photos on Instagram of El Nido, it would probably be taken in this place or the Big Lagoon. This place is basically like a gem inside the towering limestone rocks. There are two ways by which you can enjoy this place. First is to rent a kayak (P400 for a boat that can fit two persons or P600 for a boat that can fit three persons). The other is to swim inside the lagoon which can be quite tiring but doable.

Approaching the entrance of the Small Lagoon

Before heading out, we were told by Ryan that we should be careful in swimming within the area because there are territorial fishes that could attack you if you happen to touch their home. I found the possibility of that happening very likely because that part before entering the lagoon is quite shallow. But there were also lots of people swimming to get to the lagoon so I think it's safe. 

I did a mini photoshoot with our boat driver before heading inside
Inside the Small Lagoon

I was already set on swimming to see the lagoon but my friends went ahead of me and I wasn't confident swimming alone. When I headed back to the boat, Ryan saw me and offered me to ride the kayak he was on. If he didn't saw me, I would have missed out on the best part of my El Nido trip.

Aside from maneuvering the kayak, he also took photos of me inside the lagoon (I left my DSLR but risked my phone lol) and he also took photos of the other tourists that were with us. I recommend using a waterproof camera here so that you can take shots without having to worry about your phone or camera. If you didn't have one with you, you may rent a GoPro from Northern Hope Tours for only P1000 for the whole day. We didn't really have a time limit for this destination but we enjoyed the place for at least an hour before heading out to our next destination.

Also, this place also has the clearest, most beautiful emerald waters

Shimizu Island

The next part of our tour was the Shimizu Island. We had our lunch there but I saw that they started preparing for our lunch back when we were at the Small Lagoon. Since the water was shallow that time and the boat could not get near the beach, we had to walk from where we docked to the shore. It was quite far of a walk but it was not really a problem for me. In my case, I let the waves take me to the beach. Be sure to wear aqua shoes too so that you could navigate easily. Flip flops were kind of a bother to wear under the water. 

Shimizu Island from afar
The view here is breathtaking!

There was not much to explore in the area since it was also packed with other tour groups having their lunch. Since the area is quite picturesque, we spent the time taking photos while our food was being prepared and taken to the shore. After taking photos, we found an area that has a shade where we rested and chatted with the other girls from our group. Some went swimming and enjoyed the sand and the water. We stayed here for a little over an hour. 

I could literally stay here all day
Sun's kind of unbearable at lunch time so everyone was trying to find a cool place
Lunch is comprised of grilled shrimp, pork, fish, squid, vegetables, rice, and fresh fruits. Have you noticed the I ❤ El Nido design?

Secret Lagoon

This was probably one of the places in the Tour A that I didn't really got to enjoy. Upon arriving at the area, we had to swim to the beach where the entrance to the lagoon is. When we got to the beach, there was a long queue by the entrance. We had to wait for a few minutes to get inside. Basically, you go through a small opening to get to the small lagoon. Only one person at a time can pass through that, hence, the queue. 

Entrance to the Secret Lagoon

It was really a tiny place so people had to go in batches. Inside, there was a nice limestone rock formation but the water wasn't clear so it was kind of a turn off. But it was still a great experience that I got to enjoy with my new friends. I think the best (and funniest part) was when we were going back to the boat and our tour guides have to drag us back. Also, props to Ryan who helped me carry my dry bag (with my camera in it) without getting it wet.

Inside the Secret Lagoon

Big Lagoon

The most Instagramed place (if there is such a word) in El Nido would definitely be the Big Lagoon. And it's no wonder why. It's just majestic and magical inside. Just like our other destinations, we had to swim to go to the entrance of the lagoon. We had to dock quite far from the entrance because it won't be possible for our boat to pass through. Compared to the Small Lagoon though, it can accommodate small boats or even regular ones if the tide is high.

It can be enjoyed by both renting a kayak or swimming to the lagoon. I suggest you do the former here cause the lagoon is pretty big. The part near the entrance is quite shallow so you can walk. But as you go through the lagoon, it gets deeper. I wasn't able to explore much because I was exhausted already. I also wasn't able to take my camera or phone with me because I was worried that I would get it wet. This is where a waterproof camera would come in handy. 

Again, if you are worried that your lack of swimming skills would prevent you from enjoying the tour, you have nothing to worry about. You'll be provided with a life vest the entire day. Also, you can ask your tour guides to pull you back to the boat (literally) if swimming will be difficult for you or if you cannot swim at all. 

We got back to the port at around 4:30 which was quite on time (all of the tours offered in El Nido starts at 9 in the morning and ends at 4 in the afternoon). I felt like we just spent the right amount of time in each of the destinations we went to as we got to swim, take photos, and enjoy as much as we could. I am relieved that we weren't rushed in any of the places we went to, which could be really annoying as a tourist. Our tour guides were also the best! They assisted us (I mean all of us in the tour, not just us bloggers) in getting on and off the boat, going around each of our destinations (especially those who cannot swim), and taking photos.

Tour A with Northern Hope Tours costs P1200 per head and this fee covers the entire tour for the day including lunch, use of life vest, mask, and snorkel. Pre-book your tours with Northern Hope Tours so you'll have a hassle and worry free vacation.

Visit Northern Hope Tours at Calle Real, Brgy. Masagana, El Nido, Palawan. Don't forget to check them out online:

You may also contact them here:
E-mail - northernhopetours@gmail.com
Mobile Numbers - (+63) 939-902-2216 (Smart)
(+63) 927-735-3221 (Globe)
(+63) 942-375-2441 (Sun)

XO, Mish


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