I started off the day a bit gingerly after having a little of the ‘Revenge of the Chicken Curry’ last night. However, due to a friend’s recommendation the night before we had booked the Island Hopping tour so we had to be there early so after a quick bite, off we went. Upon getting to the rendezvous although it was scorching hot after I had had a Coke I was not feeling too bad at all. For anyone looking at this as a review we were on Tour C, which takes you around a few of the islands and halfway has a barbecue lunch stop.
The day was a beauty but as we were expecting to be in the sea for a lot of it cooling down should not be too much of a problem plus, now my tummy was feeling better I was up for anything. This tour had been reviewed by some as being as good as Halong Bay except here the islands are spread over a greater distance. We are presently still to see the Vietnamese version but the limestone islands and rock formations here at El Nido are definitely something to see. Especially on such a lovely day as this, the greys and greens of the islands were quite a stark contrast to the blues of the sky and the sea. The trip out to them was really nice and calm too and the Outrigger boats with the bit of cover they offer make light work of crossing the waters.
We saw many islands and beaches en route but our first stop was at Hidden beach. Hidden beach was as it says on the tin (Hidden!) and when the boat first pulls up you are not entirely sure where it is hiding. Then all becomes clear as you line up with the opening between two limestone walls and you catch glimpse of the sands on the inside of the opening. Me and Liz jumped in with snorkels and masks on and even the swim in was nice with lots of fish to see. Through the opening, as there were quite a number of tourists, the visibility was crap but it was lovely place to get to. The beach was more of a sand strip than anything else – isn’t that what a beach is? – but it was cool. We stayed here for a good half an hour then back on the boat for the next stop. On the way back we saw a Stingray but it moved away so I did not GoPro it but really cool to see – unless you are Steve Irwin that it!!
Next up was Secret Beach – now I am not one to suggest that a Secret beach and a Hidden beach are really not that different but for this one we did have to swim through a hole in a wall rather than between two walls as we had done earlier. There were quite a number of boats here so (how secret can it be?) it was a bit like one-in one-out in order to get inside but it was all worth it. As you went through the hole you could submerge and see the Sergeant Major fish following you. Apart from all of the other tourists – tourists eh! (lol) – it was a most beautiful place to see. If I had been the one first to find it I am not so sure i would have put it on everyone else’s itinerary but there you go.
Next we sailed to Talisay Island to Star beach and no, there were no stars on the beach, human or otherwise. Here we were to have our barbecue lunch but first we could go for a snorkel as the food was being prepared. This was an excellent place for fish and coral watching you really did not have any great depths to see lots of life and that made the colours of what you did see so much brighter. It is probably one of the best places we have been to snorkel but then the food was served and we were ready for it. It was excellent food too, chicken (my nemesis from last night) and a whole fish – come snorkel and see Nemo and then eat the little rascal eh? After dinner the crew did the packing away so once again we could have a dip and look for more fish which was great. Liz has reached a stage where she likes to taunt Anemone fish, the adult usually look after there young who hide in the anemone and if you get a bit close they fend you off looking quite mean as they do so!!
From here we went to the Matinloc shrine, this was a place intended to be a holy place for followers to come to but has long since been abandoned. Instead it had more (of us!) tourists poking around into every nook and cranny and climbing the viewpoints which were themselves quite lovely. No snorkelling to be had here though so thankfully the visit did not last too long.
The last place was Helicopter Island – not really sure what it was called before helicopters had been invented but if they had asked me, which they did not, I would have called it Pete’s Dragon Island after the Disney film because that is really what the island looked like. I mean, how can an island look like a helicopter unless it has the rotor blades? Here we were to stay for a couple of hours and once again this was a good place to snorkel as well so saw quite a bit of marine life. Liz relaxed on the beach whilst I went off like Jacques Cousteau snorkelling with a French accent – mais oui! On the way back our guide pointed out a beach where the nudists go but, as ever, these beaches are always a good way off in the distance so it may just have been an albino seal laid up on the beach! A really excellent tour though and although I have no idea what the other tours are like I would definitely recommend this one.