I had to do El Nido Island Hopping Tour C on my own. My travel buddy dislocated his toe after a jump shot gone wrong. This is also how we discovered how far from basic the health care service is at the province.
El Nido Island Hopping Tour C explores the outlying Tapiutan and Matinloc islands northwest of Bacuit Bay as well as Dilumacad island.
Compared to our experience on Tour A, this tour felt less coordinated. First, our guide didn’t ask us to wear our life vests, I did anyway. Tour information were given while the boat is running – we weren’t able to hear anything due to the loud motor. They were also having a bit of commotion about the boat’s condition before we left the port. Later we found out it was not fit to sail and we were stuck on one of the islands for almost half the duration of the tour.
Here are some key points of our El Nido Island Hopping Tour C:
- There are several tour operators in El Nido. Many of them are clustered near the port area.
- You may also book El Nido Island Hopping Tour C with your hotel.
- Rates are regulated by the local tourism office, so they are all pretty much the same everywhere.
- Our El Nido Island Hopping Tour C included guides, generous buffet lunch and snorkeling gear.
- A separate environmental fee, valid for 10 days, needs to be paid before boarding the boat.
- Island hopping tours usually start between 8-9 in the morning and ends by 4 in the afternoon.
- El Nido Island Hopping Tour C takes you to the outlying islands, expect bigger waves.
Our contact, Mercy, took care of everything, I just gave her the needed amount. Since I was by myself, she picked me up on her motorbike. She also gave me a discount, saving me a couple of hundreds from the published rates.
Dilumacad, or Helicopter island as referred to by many locals due to its helicopter silhouette when viewed from afar, was our first stop on our El Nido Island Hopping Tour C. The cream-colored sand of the beach is not as fine as other beaches in the area. The short stretch of beach is bordered by dense forest and an imposing limestone cliff. The island provides stunning views of Bacuit Bay.
We were stuck in Helicopter island for more than two hours. There was something wrong with the boat’s engine. It won’t start. Since there was no reception on the island, our boatmen needed to hitch a ride with another boat to get back to the mainland and get another boat to continue the tour. They decided we have an early lunch here.
It was a bumpy ride towards Secret Beach. The waves were big. The rowdy group of foreign men began to quiet down as the the waves got bigger and started strapping on their life vests.
It was a tense moment as our boatmen navigate towards the narrow gap between Tapiutan and Matinloc islands. The waves were pushing us towards the sharp karst formations along the edge of Matinloc island. The dramatic landscape did little to quell the stifled shrieks let out by some of the passengers.
The passageway between the two towering islands was worth it. Matinloc, with its sheer cliff walls was like a fortress built to protect some hidden treasure. And treasure we found in the form of Secret Beach.
Access to the beach is through a small hole on the cliff that you need to swim through. Inside there is a small beach with fine, white sand. Corals and marine life is abundant. Water is crystal clear.
Depending on the size of your boat, the waves and the number of boats docked near the entrance to Secret Beach, you may need to do a bit of swimming. It was one of the most challenging swims I’ve ever made. The waves were unrelenting.
With the “unforeseen” breakdown of our boat, we weren’t able to visit Star Beach. Our guide compensated by giving us time to snorkel on an area just across Matinloc Shrine.
It’s amazing how clear the water is. You can see the corals and the sea bed. I saw schools of fishes, shoals of squids, sea urchins and starfishes. Those who ventured farther from the boat exclaimed excitedly that they saw sea turtles.
The last stop of our El Nido Island Hopping Tour C is Matinloc Shrine. According to our guide this site used to be a place of worship, but was never finished and later abandoned after a storm damaged it.
A huge building, a small cave with an image of the Sto. Nino, a gazebo with a statue of the Virgin Mary, a flooded underground museum and a small beach can be seen on the island.
The true star of visiting this part of Matinloc island is the view from atop one of the limestone cliffs. The stairs to the viewing area is easily overlooked, so I suggest asking your guide about it.
It’s hard to be in a foul mood when you’re in a place like El Nido. Despite the many misgivings of our El Nido Island Hopping Tour C, it was still a sunny experience. Both literally and figuratively. Secret Beach alone was well worth the troubles. And the view from Matinloc Shrine is something that will forever be etched in my memory.
It’s a shame that I was able to go on only two of the island hopping tours. The experience from Tour A and Tour C only made me want more of El Nido.