El Nido | Tour C Part 1: Helicopter IslandSunday, January 27, 2013Ryan Mach
With just one day to spend in El Nido, I had to choose the best island hopping tour available so I asked around for recommendations. Marj of Layover suggested I should go with Tour C which includes a visit to Secret Beach, Hidden Beach and Matinloc Shrine. The fact that it's the most expensive among the tours (Php900) is pretty much telling - it's gotta be the best option. I was sold hook line and sinker.
Each tour starts at 9AM, although some begin a little late depending on the time tour hoppers show up. Someone from Clydenike & Guenkuen, the tour company I chose, picked me up at La Banane fifteen minutes before nine. We walked towards their office located right in front of Bacuit Bay where various boats were parked. The guide asked me if I had brought a bottle of water with me. Apparently, they don't provide water supply for the tour.
Groups of people carrying bags and snorkeling gear flocked on the beach, assisted by tour guides, leading them to their assigned boats. I was told that I'd be joining a group of foreigners on the tour but I had no idea which boat was assigned to us. A little confusion ensued when a young guy of Korean descent started calling for his tour mates - the boat was ready for boarding, he said. I grabbed my stuff and followed him, only to be told by one of the guides that I wasn't part of such tour. Ouch!
I waited for a few minutes, glanced at my phone impatiently and began to worry. The lady from Clydenike explained that our boat was going to be a bit late as they're still waiting for the people who were scheduled to be on the tour. Obviously I couldn't hold my horses. Excited eh. Haha.
A few moments later, our guide Leo advised that we're all set and asked us to board the boat, which was located a few meters from the shore. It was quite a challenge getting to the boat as strong waves pushed us back. I was drenched down south and felt quite bummed out for not bringing a towel.
Choppy Waters, Faulty Engine
As the boat engine began to rev up, Leo introduced himself to us and gave a short briefing on the tour. He mentioned the name of the islands we'd be visiting. My heart sank after learning that Hidden Beach wouldn't be part of the tour. "The water's choppy which makes it dangerous to go to Hidden Beach," Leo explained. I could only wring my hands in frustration. "But we'll see... If the weather gets better, we could perhaps do a quick visit there," he promised.
The boat hadn't officially left Bacuit Bay when it made a weird, gurgling sound. The boat captain did a quick look and tried fixing the engine. For a while, it sufficed but ten minutes later, the engine stopped yet again. One of my tour mates, Philip, a Dutch solo traveler, joked that it looked like we'd be making a lot of stops, in the middle of the sea! He was partly correct, as we're approaching Helicopter Island, the engine roared and died down. As if on cue, the captain left his post and fixed the faulty little sucker.
I suppressed a groan of impatience. My tour mates, who were all foreigners, were pretty much unhinged by the unprecedented delay - they were taking it in stride, and were just simply cool about the whole thing. Fortunately, that was the last hiccup we experienced that day.
Strong Waves, Blinding White Sand
Helicopter Island, an island shaped like a helicopter, was our first stop for the day.
We all hopped out and excitedly roamed about as soon as the boat settled in on the shore. Leo told us the beach was ideal for snorkeling so I grabbed my goggles and without putting a life vest, I swam in the semi-turquoise water. Wrong move! The waves almost washed me away and sucked me right back in toward the deeper part.
It was only 10 in the morning and yet the sun was scorching. The sand, all white and creamy, seemed to glow under the sweltering heat. Even the sea, basking under the early summer sun, gave off some white sparks.
I looked for a shade to where I could hide from the sun. The nice spots were already occupied so I had to make do of a small space covered by young Talisay trees. I'm sure they were Talisay trees as I saw a few talisay fruits scattered along the shore.
While the rest of the group were busy snorkeling, I went to the northern part of the island where young trees grew in thickets and forceful waves crashed big rocks off the shore. I had to shield my face with my hands when strong winds blew southward, sending sand particles which hit my skin pretty hard.
When I went back, Leo was already calling us to come back on board. We're off to the next stop.
Next up: Cagbatang Island