THE WEEKLY #16: QUIET SABANG & EL NIDO PARADISE
We are now in the thick of our one month adventure in the Philippines. This week on Palawan began with a short trip to Puerto Princesa. One of our local drivers called it ‘the city in the jungle’, which described the town well. Hotels hidden behind trees, large overgrown fields next to big resorts and a small town atmosphere.
We stayed for two nights with our couch surfing host in Puerto Princesa. On our only day in the city we found a great cafe with wifi and worked from 8am til dinner.
The next day we headed to the underground river in Sabang. It was named one of the New 7 wonders of the world in 2011 and the visitor numbers subsequently tripled. It is labeled as a must-do on Palawan so we decided it would be hard to miss despite the $35 USD price tag.
It was amazing to be inside an underground river that extended over 8km. It was impressive but not overwhelming and we left the tour feeling like we needed a bit more of an adventure. We were now staying two nights in Sabang and used this time to explore the beaches, waterfalls and play soccer with kids on the beach at night. Sabang has no electricity, which was fun but also a bit of a test for us. Luckily our hostel had a generator and solar panels.
Similair to Bali in Indonesia, El Nido is referred to by many as the star attraction of the Philippines. We caught a 5 hour bus from Sabang to El nido, which began with a 1 hour rooftop ride on a rickety old bus. It was actually pretty fun to watch everything pass by on the roof. Probably not the safest ride of our lives but that’s how it is in Sabang.
We arrived in El Nido ready for adventures in paradise and we weren’t disappointed. Sometimes the reputation of a place means that it can often be underwhelming by El Nido lives up to its reputation and then some.
The highlights were two big adventure days. The first was taking Tour A to five surrounding islands. As we traveled through the islands it seemed as if every corner we cruised around was another stunning beach, with a huge cliff behind it. It is truly an amazing area and it is impossible to have a bad time on any of the tours! The lunch on the tour was a gourmet spread, prepared on a grill on the back of the boat while we were moving. These guys are good at what they do.
The second highlight was a day-long moped trip to Nacpan, Duli and Verde-Safari Beaches. We amassed a huge crew of 12 people from our hostel. Our moped clan drove north up the coast to Nacpan beach, which is a huge stretch of coast with great little trails to vantage points. There was so much to explore at this beach and as always cheap mango smoothies. How can you go wrong.
Duli Beach and Verde Safari Beach (We ended up here by mistake) were completely deserted bar one or two random people doing their own thing. It is a crazy feeling to arrive at an amazing beach when there is a complete absence of people. It doesn’t happen often so when it does you have to make the most of it!
I spent the entire sunset by myself in the water at Duli beach. The waves were a solid size, reminding me of being on Oahu, Hawaii. The water was deep so I was safe ducking under the big swell and messing around in the ocean as the sun gave off a little light before fading away beneath the horizon.
A one hour moped ride home in the dark in balmy weather was a peaceful end to the day. Lightning lit up the sky but we managed to stay dry and make it back to El Nido in one piece.
We have a couple more days left in El Nido to soak it all up before we are off to Coron – our new paradise.
Of course I have other costs such as food, gas for moped, tips, drinks etc. Luckily in the Philippines everything is super cheap. For the purpose of recording my expenses I just include the accommodation and activities so anyone can see how much they would need approximately if they were to plan a similar week of travel.
2 nights couchsurfing: Free
2 nights in Sabang: $12
3 nights in El Nido: $18
Underground River Tour: $35
Tour A, Island Hopping El Nido: $22
Moped rental split two ways: $4
Entrance fees to beaches: $2