Calauit Safari Park (Busuanga, Palawan)

Calauit Safari Park

Part of the Sophia’s Garden Resort-sponsored tour

We all woke up 4 AM early in the morning as we were to slated to experience one of Coron’s as well as the country’s popular eco-tourism attractions – the 3,760-hectare Calauit Safari Park. Formerly known as Calauit Game Preserve and Wildlife Sanctuary, it would be the closest we would get to an African safari.

Check out “Calauit Island Game Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary

Malecachiao Pier

It was still raining when we all boarded our van (4:30 AM) for our 2-hour drive to Macalachao Pier in Salvacion, Busuanga, arriving there by 6:30 AM.  The pier has a souvenir shop selling really beautiful Calauit T-shirts. Here, we all had our packed breakfast before proceeding on our short, 10-minute motorized boat ride to Calauit Island.

Boat ride to Calauit Island

This would be my second visit to this island, the first happening nearly 25 years ago (February 25, 1995 to be exact) with my mother and sister Tellie.  We went there all the way by a motorized outrigger boat from Club Paradise Resort in Dimakya Island.

Calauit Island

Making landfall at Calauit Island

Located just off Busuanga Island’s northwestern coast, this park was established on August 21, 1976 by Presidential Proclamation 1578 issued by the late Pres. Ferdinand Marcos and opened to tourists since 1985.  To transform it into a savanna, the island residents were relocated and its bamboo forests were cleared to provide a suitable environment for the animals.

Information Center

Park rates

Upon arrival, we were all requested to sign up on the registration area of the Information Center and, from here, we walked a short distance (the tour truck, the park’s safari vehicle, wasn’t available), accompanied by our local guide Orlando “Orlan” Cruz, to where the animals grazed.  It had stopped raining by then.

Briefing with guide Orlando “Orlan” Cruz (right)

At the time of my 1995 visit, the park still had 8 species of herbivores from northern Kenya (Africa) comprising 43 Reticulated Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata), 78 Grévy’s zebra (Equus grevyi) and 6 types of antelopes –  155 Impala (Aepyceros melampus), two Thomson’s gazelle (Eudorcas thomsonii), 122 Waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus), 50 Common Eland (Taurotragus oryx), 14 Topi (Damaliscus lunatus jimela) and 16 Bushbucks (Tragelaphus sylvaticus).

A pair of Gervy’s Zebras

Since my first visit, the original individuals imported from Africa have all died, leaving behind only the offspring of the Reticulated giraffes, Grevy’s zebras, waterbucks and common elands (the Thompson gazelles, bushbucks  topis and impalas have all died because of infighting and poaching), which were all born in Calauit.

A small herd of Reticulated Giraffe

Of the remaining four species, we only spotted some the 24 zebras and the 32 giraffes (the 14 waterbucks and elands are shy and prefer to distance themselves from tourists).  The giraffes, captivating us with their magnificent colors, stood tall in full regal and charm while the zebras, with their black and white stripes, looked so classic.

Celine and Gabrielle bonding with a giraffe at the Feeding Station

The highlight of the tour was the Feeding Station.  Here, within an enclosed pen, we got to feed the giraffes with leaves from the bakawang gubat or malwandit (Carallia borneensis) provided by Orlan and got up close to them, something I wasn’t allowed to do during my first visit.

The author up close and personal with a giraffe

This was my first time close encounter with this graceful and beautiful animal, among the iconic and the tallest land animal in the world. The giraffes have names such as Isabel (the biggest giraffe of the lot), Miller, Terrence and Mylene, all named after their sponsors.

Calamian Deer

Though the giraffes and zebras are the crowd favorites, there were other animals in the sanctuary too. We also saw local, critically-endangered Calamian Deer (Hyelaphus calamianensis) grazing with the giraffes and zebras.

Palawan Bearded Pig

Philippine Porcupine

We also observed, in their pens, pools and cages in the mini zoo, the Philippine crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis) , the Philippine porcupine (Hystrix pumila) , freshwater turtles, reticulated python, leopard cats, the Palawan bearded pig (Sus ahoenobarbus) and the Philippine macaque.

The author besides a camouflage tree

There was also a tree they called the camouflage tree because it looks like the camouflage uniform of servicemen.

Philippine Freshwater Crocodile

Leopard Cat

Today, the park now faces a number of challenges. The number of workers in the park has dwindled from 300 to 30 dues to budget cuts. The former inhabitants (mostly from tribes of Tagbanwas) of the peninsula who were relocated decades ago are returning via the Balik-Calauit movement. Currently, The provincial government is still reaching out to settle the disputes between the locals and the authorities in the park.

A pair of freshwater turtles

Philippine Macaque

Reticulated Python

Calauit Safari Park: Brgy. Salvacion, Busuanga.  Mobile number: (0926) 114-4443 (Mr. Froilan Sariego – park manager). Admission: PhP200 (Filipinos) and PhP400 (foreigners).  Use of tour truck: PhP1,000/2 hours (divided by how many you are in the group, maximum capacity is 20 pax). Feeding time of the giraffes is from 7 -9:30 AM. The Calauit Office is closed on Saturdays and Sundays and all tours desired to be taken from Saturday to Monday mornings should be reserved by Friday afternoon. All reservations received later than Friday afternoon will be confirmed Monday morning at 10 AM.

Sophia’s Garden Resort: 5 Dinagpan Rd., Sitio Jolo, Brgy. Poblacion 5, Governor’s Dr., Coron, 5316 Palawan. Tel: (048) 723-1871.  Mobile numbers: (0917) 543-5775 and (0939) 915-0274. E-mail: sophiasgardenresort@gmail.com. Website: www.sophiasgardenresort.com. You can also follow them on Facebook: Sophia’s Garden Resort

CYC Beach (Coron, Palawan)

CYC Beach

CYC Beach

After lunch at Atwayan Beach, we again boarded our boat and proceeded on to our next destination – CYC Island, a part of the Coron Island Ultimate Tour we availed of from Asia Gran View Hotel.  From our boat, we had to alight into the waist-high and clear waters of the sea and walk, a little way, to the island’s beach.

Approching CYC Island

Approching CYC Island

Guests are advised to put on booties and be extra careful walking as there are rocks under the water and they may injure their feet.  Although there were other tourists already there, the beach was not too crowded.

Cheska, Kyle and Jandy land on the beach

Cheska, Kyle and Jandy land on the beach

CYC, short for Coron Youth Club, is the only free beach in the area.  Other beaches charge a PhP100 entrance fee (Coron’s islands are jokingly called the “Hundred Islands”). The island’s beach sand is white (though not as white as Banol’s and the other beaches in Coron) and its surrounding waters are crystal clear.

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Kyle playing in the sand

There were also some rock formations and beautiful mangrove trees located all over the island but guests are discouraged to go there by the guides due to the possible presence of stonefish partly hidden in the sand. There are also sea urchins and sea snakes (locally known as walo-walo).

Some of the mangroves surrounding the island

Some of the mangroves surrounding the island

Being a public beach, I expected the beach to be dirty but, surprisingly, it was clean. Its long, shallow sand approach makes it ideal for kids to swim in and its water temperature is perfectly lukewarm.  The sea breeze adds to the memorable experience.  Two dogs were serenely watching us as Kyle played with the sand.

The island's two resident dogs

The island’s two resident dogs

The dogs were said to have come from the opposite island, swimming back and forth before the day ends. The monkey who used to live here is already dead.  The wide beach has a division as part of its white sand was said to have been illegally quarried by a politician for his private beach, thus deforming the island’s beach.

View of the main island from CYC Beach

View of the main island from CYC Beach

The island has no cottages but the area is suitable for camping (just bring your own tent, food and water). Go there when it’s off season so you can get the most out of it. If you love snorkeling, you will love this beach as well.

A tangle of mangrove roots

A tangle of mangrove roots

There’s not much sea life in the shallows, with just a few sporadic clown fishes, but there’s some very good snorkeling farther off, in deeper water, to a coral forest on the reef to the east of this pretty beach. Here, you will find beautiful colorful coral walls and much sea life.  If you’re a non-diver, you can have your Discover Scuba Skills Test here.

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CYC Beach, great for a swim and relaxation, is still good for a 30-minute to 1-hour stay even if you are not into snorkeling or camping.

The author at CYC Beach

The author at CYC Beach

Asia Grand View Hotel: Governor’s Ave., Jolo, Brgy. 5, Coron, Palawan.  Tel:(+632) 788-3385. Mobile number: (0999) 881-7848. E-mail: gsd@asiagrandview.com. Manila sales office: Unit 504, Richmonde Plaza, 21 San Miguel Ave., Ortigas Center, Pasig City.  Tel: (+632) 695-3078 and 531-8380.  Mobile number: (0917) 550-7373 to 75 Fax: (+632) 695-3078.  E-mail: info@asiagrandview.com. Website: www.asiagrandview.com.

Atwayan Beach (Coron, Palawan)

Atwayan Beach

Atwayan Beach

From the Skeleton Wreck, we again boarded our outrigger boat.  Once on board with my family, we proceeded to Atwayan Beach, at the wreck’s backside, where we were to have lunch.  There were only a few guests on the island when we arrived. Atwayan, a great picnic location between island-hopping tours, is named after the abundant tuway (clam) shells that can be found here.

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The beach, a usual lunch stop, is a small stretch of sand beneath a limestone mountain.  Their amply shaded and cool cottages are clean, with plenty of large tables for picnics and eating and you can also take a quick nap on their bamboo benches as the soft breeze from the sea really lulls you to sleep.

Amply shaded and cool picnic sheds

Amply shaded and cool picnic sheds

The rudimentary toilet facilities

The rudimentary toilet facilities

The lunch prepared for us, courtesy of the tour company and our tour guide, was great, with grilled pork, fish and squid, eggplant, ripe mangoes and steamed rice, all washed down with bottled water.

View of outlying islands from the beach

View of outlying islands from the beach

My family frolicking at the beach

My family frolicking at the beach

The water in this wide beach, just right for frolicking, was also so clear, we just can’t help but take a dip, which we did, or go kayaking. Another activity to do here is snorkeling, with some very interesting corals, on the left hand side, but limited fish, some of which can get very territorial.

The beach's resident monkey

The beach’s resident monkey

Atwayan Beach, near Banol Beach, may not be the most beautiful white sand beach you will find in Coron, but it is still perfect for a stop if you want to picnic, lay down for a short nap, have a few drinks (it also had a little bar selling cold beverages) or go in the water. There’s also a beach volleyball court and rudimentary toilet facilities up a hill.

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Overall, our visit to this place was a good experience. It would also have been a nice place to view the sunset but boats are not allowed to stay here after 5 PM. Entrance fee: PhP100/pax.

Asia Grand View Hotel: Governor’s Ave., Jolo, Brgy. 5, Coron, Palawan.  Tel:(+632) 788-3385. Mobile number: (0999) 881-7848. E-mail: gsd@asiagrandview.com. Manila sales office: Unit 504, Richmonde Plaza, 21 San Miguel Ave., Ortigas Center, Pasig City.  Tel: (+632) 695-3078 and 531-8380.  Mobile number: (0917) 550-7373 to 75 Fax: (+632) 695-3078.  E-mail: info@asiagrandview.com. Website: www.asiagrandview.com.

Skeleton Wreck (Coron, Palawan)

Skeleton Wreck site

Skeleton Wreck site

From Twin Lagoon, we again swam back to our waiting outrigger boat.  Once boarded with my family, we proceeded to Skeleton Wreck, a snorkeling destination near Banol Beach off the northwest corner of Coron Island. When we arrived at the site, there were already a number of boats, divers and snorkelers milling around the site.  We donned our masks and snorkels and swam towards it.

Approaching the site

Approaching the site

The Skeleton Wreck’s name comes from the fact that the keel, ribs and stringers of this old, 25 m. long steel-hulled fishing boat wreck are almost all that are left, giving it a skeletal appearance. It was beached, with the bow a dozen meters from Coron Island, and the stern pointing directly away from the island. The top of the wreck is in about 6 m, of water and it sits on a pretty reef.

Donning masks an snorkels, Cheska, Jandy an our guide Japeth take to the water

Donning masks an snorkels, Cheska, Jandy an our guide Japeth take to the water

The wreck slopes along the reef from 5 m. deep at the bow to 22 m. at the stern. Because the water is so clear, it can already be viewed from the surface.  Around it are beautiful corals. Somebody threw some bread to the sea and a variety of fish, with an amazing array of lovely colors, all shapes and sizes, came towards us

Bow of Skeleton Wreck (photo Christian Lucas Sangoyo of www.divesitedirectory.co.uk)

Bow of Skeleton Wreck (photo Christian Lucas Sangoyo of www.divesitedirectory.co.uk)

The Skeleton Wreck can also be done as a dive. A pass through on the starboard side of the hull, at 14 m., allows one to swim from the inside of the boat out over the coral reef. It won’t take long to cover the wreck, so those intending to have a long dive here will probably want to finish up on the reef. Beware of sea urchins. This is also a good spot to have lunch and you can have a quick dip before continuing on your tour. It costs PhP100 per person to moor up here.

(photo: www.cheaptravel-coron.weebly.com)

(photo: www.cheaptravel-coron.weebly.com)

Asia Grand View Hotel: Governor’s Ave., Jolo, Brgy. 5, Coron, Palawan.  Tel:(+632) 788-3385. Mobile number: (0999) 881-7848. E-mail: gsd@asiagrandview.com. Manila sales office: Unit 504, Richmonde Plaza, 21 San Miguel Ave., Ortigas Center, Pasig City.  Tel: (+632) 695-3078 and 531-8380.  Mobile number: (0917) 550-7373 to 75 Fax: (+632) 695-3078.  E-mail: info@asiagrandview.com. Website: www.asiagrandview.com.

Nacpan Beach (El Nido, Palawan)

Pristine Nacpan Beach

Pristine Nacpan Beach

Back at our van from Bulalacao Falls, we proceeded on the last part and main feature of our inland tour (often referred  to as “Tour E”) – lunch at pristine Nacpan Beach.. Located 17 kms. north of El Nido town, in Sitio Calitang, Nacpan Beach, together with its smaller twin Calitang Beach (on the southwest tip of Nacpan), are prime attractions of the town.

View of the cove

View of the cove

View of an island across the beach

View of an island across the beach

The nearly 4-km. long, bare and unspoiled Nacpan Beach, said to be the “Boracay of El Nido,”  has fine, cream colored sand (almost like Boracay’s) fringed by coconut trees and warm, crystal blue waters. It usually doesn’t have the usual crowds that the other islands of the town have.

Eateries and picnic sheds along the palm-fringed beach

Eateries and picnic sheds along the palm-fringed beach

There is no high-end resort along this beach, just 4 or 5 open-air bamboo eateries serving local food (grilled squid, adobo, etc.), snacks (bananacue, etc.), bear, bottled water, sandwiches, French fries, noodles, burgers and fresh fruit shakes, There are also stores, picnic huts and cottages where you can stay overnight.

Lunch at a picnic shed along the beach

Lunch at a picnic shed along the beach

The place offers serenity and an amazing view of the nearby islands, islets and the sunset plus a 360° wholistic view of what you see when you’re just in front of the beach. After lunch, we had fun swim there as the water is not completely calm. Great for skimming. It also  makes you want to do cartwheels out of joy. Highly recommended, we didn’t regret visiting this place.

Frolicking with the waves

Jump shot along the beach

Jump shot along the beach

How to Get There: From El Nido town, there’s a once daily public jeepney that leaves for the beach at 12 noon and returns the morning of the next day.  The trip takes about 40 mins..  The last 20 minute stretch is along an unfinished, rough, bumpy and extremely dusty road. For those not joining a tour, you can rent a tricycle (PhP700-1,000) that can accommodate up to 4 people. For a big group you can rent a van for PhP2,000-2,500, goo for 10-12 people.

The Resort Bayview Hotel El Nido: Sitio Marimegmeg, Brgy. Corong-Corong, El Nido, 5313, Palawan.  Tel: + 66(0) 76 281 406. Fax: + 66(0) 76 384 369. Mobile numbers: (0915) 250-7368 (Globe) and (0920) 975-8690. E-mail: theresortelnido@gmail.com. Website: www.elnidobayview.com.

Bulalacao Falls – Small Falls (El Nido, Palawan)

B.E.A.T. Familiarization Tour to Bulalacao Falls

B.E.A.T. Familiarization Tour to Bulalacao Falls

On our third day in El Nido, after breakfast at The Resort Bayview Hotel El Nido, members of B.E.A.T. (Business Executives Alliance in Tourism) again boarded their van for another round of resort-sponsored familiarization tours of the town.  Our first destination was to be Bulalacao Waterfalls, one of the most beautiful falls in the town.  It is actually a series of waterfalls aptly named Big Falls and Small Falls.

The start of the trail

The start of the trail

The 70-ft. high Big Falls is a 2-part trek that first requires you take a 45-min. tricycle ride to Brgy. Pasadeña and, upon arrival, make a grueling 1.5 to 2-hour hike (not to be undertaken without a guide and must not be attempted during the August to October rainy season) down a heavily-vegetated trail that courses through rice paddies and a thicket of towering ipil, balete and kamagong trees.

The well-marked trail

The well-marked trail

We were to visit the easier and more accessible Small Falls (also called Naganlec Falls). Upon arrival at the start of the trail, we first paid the PhP25/pax entrance fee (payment for the family that keeps the trail clean). The trail to the falls was well shaded by trees and marked. The hike through the forest took all of 20 mins. and we had to make 5 boulder-strewn river crossings, its cool waters a refreshing break for us as it was quite humid that day.

One of five river crossings

One of five river crossings

As we got closer to the falls, we again had to pay a PhP50/pax entrance fee, this time for the family that keeps the area around the falls clean. This place was a really nice and there were two huts with picnic tables. The Small Falls, with 4 accessible levels, was calm and inviting. The first and lowest has a large pool that people can jump into from the cliff above as it has a 3 m. depth.  A number of foreigners tried it.

The lower level

The lower level

A foreigner takes the plunge

A foreigner takes the plunge

View of the lower level's pool from the escond level

View of the lower level’s pool from the escond level

However, most of us tried out the easy-to-reach second level which has a beautiful low cascade and a shallow, swimmable pool that everyone enjoyed. It was a nice, cool and refreshing break from the heat of the morning sun. It may not be a large fall but it has a great little swimming area. 

The second level

The second level

Frolicking at the second level pool

Frolicking at the second level pool

Bulalacao Falls: Sitio Naganlec, Brgy. Pasadena, El Nido, Palawan.

The Resort Bayview Hotel El Nido: Sitio Marimegmeg, Brgy. Corong-Corong, El Nido, 5313, Palawan.  Tel: + 66(0) 76 281 406. Fax: + 66(0) 76 384 369. Mobile numbers: (0915) 250-7368 (Globe) and (0920) 975-8690. E-mail: theresortelnido@gmail.com. Website: www.elnidobayview.com.

Seven Commando Beach (El Nido, Palawan)

Seven Commando Beach

Seven Commando Beach

The last part of our Island Tour A was to be spent at the picturesque and very laid back Seven Commando Beach which boasts the clearest beach waters in El Nido. Accessible only by boat, it is called as such because, a long time ago, seven soldiers (others say 7 fishermen) were stranded on the island. According to locals, their names can be seen printed on the rocks here.

Picnic huts along the beach

Picnic huts along the beach

Store selling food and drinks

Store selling food and drinks

Ideal for swimming, beach volleyball, silhouette shots or just beach bumming, it has fine and clean but a little coarse white sands, turquoise clear waters, calm waves (very nice for snorkeling and swimming), fabulous rock formations and coconut trees.Despite having a souvenir shop, a stall that sells quite pricey smoothies, water, alcoholic drinks (beer, pina coladas, mango daiquiris, etc.)and food (chips and bananacue), and a restroom facility in this area, the wide, clean and white beach still retains its natural charm.

Swinging hammock

Swinging hammock

Sunset at Seven Commando Beach

Sunset at Seven Commando Beach

For those who are not into swimming, you can just lounge around and have very refreshing halo-halo on a coconut shell (PhP150), fruit shakes, fresh coconuts (PhP50) and other thirst quenching refreshments at the store while enjoying the view, especially during sunset time. There is also a swinging hammock seat and sheltered beach tables which can be used for free.

The author (third from left) with, L-R, Meng, Osang and Melissa

The author (third from left) with, L-R, Meng, Osang and Melissa

Also within this beach is the 4-room Vellagio’s Resort which opened last January 2015. Full moon parties are held on this island in February. As the beach is only a 10-min. boat ride from the mainland, it is sometimes the first stop on the island hopping tour as it gets really crowded by beach bums in the afternoon.

Small Lagoon (El Nido, Palawan)

The Small Lagoon

The Small Lagoon

From Secret Lagoon, we again boarded our motorized outrigger boat for the continuation of our Island Tour A, this time to the Small Lagoon.  Along the way, we passed by, but didn’t stop, at the entrance of the Big Lagoon. On arrival, our outrigger boat parked , alongside other boats, just outside the entrance of the Small Lagoon as it could not access the interior as its entrance is narrow and its waters are shallow.

The entrance of the Small Lagoon

The entrance of the Small Lagoon

Boats parked at the entrance

Boats parked at the entrance

To view the wonders of the lagoon, we would have to either swim the 150-300 odd meters into the lagoon from our boat, if you’re a good swimmer, or kayak. Those who opt to swim usually get really tired going to the end of the lagoon, since the waters are deep inside.  We all chose the latter.

Jandy, Melissa and Osang get on their way ......

Jandy, Melissa and Osang get on their way ……

Our boatman, Luchie and I follow suit ......

Our boatman, Luchie and I follow suit ……

Kayaks here are rented for PhP300. Though made for two people, a third person was allowed to seat between the two sitting compartments.  Jandy joined Melissa and Osang in one kayak while I was joined by Luchie and another boatman.  Tess, Venus, Sandy, Pam, Melai, York, Lydia and Weng also rented kayaks.

Melai and Pam with their boatman

Melai and Pam with their boatman

Sandy, Venus and Tess

Sandy, Venus and Tess

York, Lydia

York, Lydia

Donning our orange-colored life jackets, we made our way to the narrow archway between the rock face.  Once through, we were ushered into eerily quiet and serene waters of a beautiful, turquoise lagoon enclosed by towering limestone cliffs. The giant limestone walls towering over us bounced around our echoes of wows.

The massive limestone cliffs enclosing the lagoon

The massive limestone cliffs enclosing the lagoon

The small cave at one end of the lagoon

The small cave at one end of the lagoon

We were always on the lookout as we kayaked as there were also a number of swimmers inside the lagoon. This place is also great for snorkeling and there were also some snorkelers checking out the underwater creatures beneath.

The author paddling away

The author paddling away

There was a rocky area where people could climb up and dive off or use it as a stage where they can do their selfies. We also checked out a small cave and pool at the end of the lagoon.

The Resort Bayview Hotel El Nido: Sitio Marimegmeg, Brgy. Corong-Corong, El Nido, 5313, Palawan.  Tel: + 66(0) 76 281 406. Fax: + 66(0) 76 384 369. Mobile numbers: (0915) 250-7368 (Globe) and (0920) 975-8690. E-mail: theresortelnido@gmail.com. Website: www.elnidobayview.com.

Secret Lagoon (El Nido, Palawan)

 

Boats parked offshore during low tide

Boats parked offshore during low tide

After lunch at Star Beach, we again boarded our motorized outrigger boat for Secret Lagoon, a part of Island Tour A. As it was low tide, our boat docked some distance from the shore of a white sand beach lined with coconut palms beneath a massive and towering limestone cliff face.  Alighting our boat, we had the choice of carefully wading on top of sharp rocks (aqua shoes highly recommended) or be pulled by our guides while floating on a life jacket. Most chose the latter while I did the former.

Being pulled to shore by our guides while floating on a life jacket

Being pulled to shore by our guides while floating on a life jacket

We came ashore a very beautiful beach, with huge alien-like limestone formations surrounding it, offering you majestic views of the open water between the cliffs and a peek of Shimizu Island. To the left of the beach is a huge cliff with a small opening.  That, my friends, was the entrance to the Secret Lagoon, also known as Hidden Lagoon of Miniloc Island.

The beautiful palm-lined white sand beach

The beautiful palm-lined white sand beach

Some of the huge alien-like limestone formations

Some of the huge alien-like limestone formations

During high tide, it might be impossible to access the Secret Lagoon as, due to safety reasons, tourists might bump their heads on the sharp rocks of the tiny opening while swimming through it.

Entering the Secret Lagoon via a small opening

Entering the Secret Lagoon via a small opening

Fortunately, since it was low tide, the opening was now above the water so we didn’t have to swim through it. We just had to carefully crawl in or twist our body, like a pretzel, into the Secret Lagoon, making it the trickiest attraction of the day to get into. The water leading to the lagoon was shallow, so we were extra careful with the sharp rocks and corals to avoid scrapes and wounds.

Limestone cliffs surrounding the Secret Lagoon

Limestone cliffs surrounding the Secret Lagoon

Once through, we were mesmerized by the majestic limestone rock formations and cliffs surrounding it, its shadows making the temperature inside much cooler. As it was low tide, swimming was not enticing since the stagnant water was quite murky. The water inside looked shallow, but it gets deeper as you go farther so we didn’t dare. As it’s quite small, there’s not much to inside. For the adventurous, there’s a small passageway meters deep into the water where one can deep dive into.

Posing inside the Secret Lagoon

Group posing inside the Secret Lagoon

However, we just posed beneath the massive, quite photogenic cliffs then left as there were lots of tourists waiting in the wings. It’s hard to consider the lagoon a secret with dozens of other tourists milling around you. To avoid the crowds, pay a bit extra and go later in the day. However, its adjacent, quieter white sand beach is one great spot for swimming and snorkeling.

Star Beach (El Nido, Palawan)

Star Beach

Back to the wharf, we again boarded our boat for the short trip to the simple yet pretty Star Beach, a small, secluded area of white sand nestled between two large rock outcroppings. It was named Star Beach because this is the place in El Nido where you can find a lot of blue starfish. Unfortunately, I didn’t even see one.

Star Beach

Star Beach

Star Beach (8)

Located on one side of the narrow Tapiutan Strait, the relatively small Star Beach is nothing remarkable.  However, it offered rest and yes, food! Here, we had lunch of grilled fish, squid and chicken; steamed crab and fruits (pineapple, bananas and water melon).

Star Beach (7)

An overhang, over a small cave, offered us protection from the noontime sun. Star Beach offered good photographic opportunities, with the towering limestone formation as a background, and the place is also good for snorkeling just a few meters off the beach without walking over sharp rocks to see different corals and plenty of species of colorful little fish and other marine life from its vast reef.

Star Beach (26)

After lunch, we floated around the clear crystal blue-green waters. It was oh-so relaxing! The place can be littered with boats on peak season.