If you’re booked for El Nido soon, one activity you shouldn’t miss here is their island hopping tours. There are so many beautiful islands near this town that they have four different island hopping tours to choose from. We availed the El Nido Tour A and C, for these are are the recommended for the first-timers. Unluckily, our Tour C got cancel so we’ll talk more about the El Nido Tour A.
- What tour should I book?
So there are 4 El Nido Tours, A to D, available to book. Tour Z, the party boat, is suspended by the local government, but I still saw some agency offering it when I walked around town. So what to pick between A to D? Tour A and C are mostly recommended for the first-timers. Tour A because of the El Nido lagoons, while Tour C is said to have the most beautiful islands to visit.
If you’re staying long term, like more than a week, then you can avail of the four tours, but if you have limited time (and budget) like us, then Tour A & C it is. You can always go back for Tour B and D. I swear El Nido is a place worth going back to.
- Should I do a private tour or joiners tour?
This depends on your budget and your travel group. Of course, a private tour is better than a joiners tour because you have control over the time and phase. But renting a boat can be expensive if you’re just going to divide it into 2 to 5 people. The price will start at P2,500 per person. I went to El Nido with the other nine people, and a private tour only costs us P1200 per person. It is almost just the same price as the joiners tours most of the operators offer.
If you’re in a small group (5 people and below) and on the budget, then I would recommend the joiner tours instead. It can be time-constricting, but you might gain new friends.
- What should I see, Big Lagoon or Small Lagoon?
So there’s this new LGU regulated rules that affect El Nido Tour A. Before, you can visit both Big and Small Lagoon in one day on this tour, but with the new regulations, you need to choose just one. These new rules are to minimize tourists and to practice sustainable travel to these beautiful lagoons. I’ve been to the Small Lagoon and its gorgeous. Our guide said that it is just a small version of the Big Lagoon, so I can only imagine how more beautiful Big Lagoon is.
Read more about these new regulations here. Technically, Small Lagoon is moved to Tour D, so if you’re in a joiners tour, you’ll visit Big Lagoon.
- Do I need to book these tours before my travel dates?
Not necessarily. There are a lot of operators around El Nido town where you can avail of different tours quickly and conveniently. I just booked ours in advance because I don’t like the feeling of being hassled looking for tours for ten people on the trip itself. And I like everything planned so it will depend on your travel style.
- To whom El Nido tour operator should I avail?
As I’ve told you, there are A LOT of tour operators in El Nido. You can easily find one by searching online. We availed ours in Northern Hope Tours because a friend already recommends it. Personally, their service and tours are a thumbs up!
- What to pack for El Nido Tours?
Don’t forget to pack aqua shoes (mandatory), dry bag, waterproof phone pouch, underwater camera, sunblock, and, of course, a cute bikini.
MY EL NIDO TOUR A EXPERIENCE
A week before our trip, I contacted Northern Hope Tours to book El Nido Tour A with them. We talked about the details via phone in the afternoon, and by evening, they sent me already a quotation. Since we booked other tours (i.e., Underground River, Tour C, and van transfers) with them as well, I tried to ask for some discounts, and they did give us. It was easy to talk with them, so I pushed our bookings by depositing 25% of our total balance. They instantly replied to confirm and sent me our travel vouchers with details regarding our tours.
On the day of our El Nido Tour A, we were scheduled to meet at their office at 8:30 AM. They told us that they’re still preparing our inclusive lunch and that we can wait for our guide and boatmen by the beach. We left already around 9:30 AM.
Our first destination is Secret Lagoon, and the boat ride took maybe around 30-45 minutes. Our tour guide, who can speak English btw, introduced himself and discussed some rules like respecting nature and always wear your life vest if you’re not confident with your swimming skills. He’s funny and knows what his customers want. He initiated some boat photos because, as he said, it is mandatory to have it when you’re in El Nido.
ARRIVING AT SECRET LAGOON
When we arrived at our first destination, I observed that we are a little far from the island itself. It turned out that the water is somehow low that day, so the boats can’t get near the island because it might damage the corals. We jumped out of our boats, and the waves are unquestionably strong, making it hard to swim towards the island. I’m not a good and strong swimmer, so thank God for our guides to save us.
We were ushered in the rocky side of the island. We were the second group in the line upon a small hole. Oh, that’s why it is a secret lagoon! You have to struggle to enter a small opening to be inside a lagoon. We have to wait for the groups inside to come out before we can enter to avoid an overcrowding inside. It’s warming to see how all the local guides work hand in hand towards sustainable tourism. We don’t need another Boracay!
Inside, the lagoon is enclosed by limestones. It is pretty, and your voice echoes to the stones. It reminded me of Tangke Lagoon in Gigantes Islands, Iloilo.
LUNCH AT SHIMIZU ISLAND
At 11:30 AM, we parked a little far away again from an empty island. Our tour guide explained to us that again we can’t get near Shimizu and if it’s okay to have our lunch in the boat instead. We agreed since I can see other boats, as well, parked nearby, preparing for lunch. As our boatmen and guides prepare our lunch, we jumped out the water to snorkel for the corals and fishes are said to be prettier at this side. My other cousins swam toward the island, but I decided not to tire myself out. As per looking from afar, the island seems like any typical island here in the Philippines.
When our guides announced that our lunch is ready, we all instantly went out of the water. We were already starving, and the food smelled so good. Why do grilled foods are two times more delicious when served in island hoppings?!! The food is good even tho they were not able to buy us some fish (and they’ve been apologizing for it since the morning, so apology accepted).
KAYAKING AT SMALL LAGOON
Just a few minutes’ travel from Shimizu Island, we arrived at the highlight of the tour – the small lagoon. I wanted to visit the Big Lagoon, but Northern Hope Tours had reserved us a time slot in Small Lagoon before our trip. They told us that Big Lagoon tends to be overcrowded during weekends. True that when we got to Small Lagoon, it felt like we have the whole place to ourselves. And it is so gorgeous, my mouth can’t complain at all but can only utter “Ang gandaaaaa ~~~.”
The lagoon is the perfect place after a heavy lunch because you’ll undoubtedly burn some calories kayaking. We have to rent a kayak (P400 for two people | P500 for three people) to be able to go inside. I’m not an athletic girl, so 10 minutes of trying to paddle, I gave up and passed the duty to my boyfriend. We kayak while being mesmerized by this paradise until we reach the dead-end, then from there, we went back to the open sea.
We were sharing the lagoon with some foreigners, and they kept telling us how gorgeous our country is. I felt proud and realized that it is a feeling that seldom creeps in when you’re in Manila.
CHILL AT 7 COMMANDO BEACH
We perfectly end our island hopping day by chilling at 7 Commando Beach. We settled along the shady part of the beach and lay by the white sands. There are hammocks and tire swings around that you’ll only see in the provinces. I did nothing here but to take photos and lie down by the beach while watching the sea and listening to the calm sound of the waves. I fell asleep while the boys played basketball with the local and other foreign tourists.
Of course, I woke up with a mermaid tail made of sand and just the right time for us to leave. It was not a tiring day tour; I just have this habit of being sleepy when I hear the sound of the waves. It’s my lullaby.
IS EL NIDO TOUR A WORTH IT?
YES. I’ve been to different island hoppings around the Philippines, but the paradise in Small Lagoon is surely something you’ll not see in others. If you wanted to experience the beauty of Palawan, then you shouldn’t miss these lagoons. The local government regulates the price of the tours, but I think P1,200 is reasonable enough for its quality and also to sustain the tourism of El Nido. I saw some operators in Facebook travel groups who offer this tour for as low as P800, but please do some research first on them. Let’s all be responsible travelers and not support unregistered operators.
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Have you experienced El Nido Tours A as well? Or planning to anytime soon? Let’s talk in the comment section below!