Bacuit Bay is littered with 45 islands and islets. Some of them are sole limestone islands towering up to three stories high while the larger islands has beautiful stretches of blinding white sands against the deep cobalt blue of the sea. There are also beaches partially hidden by limestone coves and secret ones that can be reached by swimming through small crevices. Other islands have scenic lagoons and caves waiting to be explored. With so many islands it can be daunting for first time traveler to choose which islands to visit first.
Our first day in El Nido found us walking M. Quezon Street under the mighty summer sun. We were shopping for a good Island Tour Package bargain among the many tour operators found along the stretch of Quezon St. El Nido Botique and Art Café, at the end of Serena St was our first stop since they are more established and highly recommended by guidebooks. We did learn the gist of how tour operators here do their island hopping trips.
Islands in Bacuit Bay are grouped into sets. The first set which they conveniently named Tour A is the most affordable of the lot which starts at P500/pax. It takes visitors at the heart of Bacuit Bay to explore the lagoons and beaches of Miniloc Island except for the private beach run by El Nido Resorts. A side trip to Shimizu Island is included and depending on the tour operator, 7 Commandos beach can also be in the itinerary.
Tour B is for cave explorers with a visit to Cathedral and Cudugnon Caves found south of the Bacuit Bay. After spelunking visitors can wash up at the white beaches of Snake Island and Pangulisan Island. This package starts at P600/pax
Tour C goes farther up North-west of Bacuit Bay for Matinloc and Taiputan Island. Also depending on the tour operator, a stop at Helicopter Island then Ipil beach for the sunset is included. Price starts at P700/pax
There is also the half day tour around Cadlao Island which some tour operators call Tour D.
Those tour sets are pretty standard among Tour Operators and the only difference is the price and service they offer. Some tours operators have bigger boats, the type of food also vary and some allow a private group minimum of 5 for the package price while some have to fill up the complete numbers.
We didn’t go with the El Nido Botique and Art Café since their price is on the premium side and they fill up the boats. Since we were a selfish lot and wanted to have the boat to ourselves, we looked for other operators. In the duration of the trip, we tried out two operators. Servant Tours along Rizal Street and at the end of M Quezon has a good price and nice big boat. Islanen Outdoors Tour at M. Quezon has cheaper price but since the later is fairly new, they are a lot slower in preparing the tour.
We chose Tour A first on our first day of touring the islands. We decided to go early at 8am than their usual 9am schedule. Before going through the islands, there was an environmental officer at the beach which each of us has to pay P200 for the Eco-Tourism development Fee. This ticket is good for 10 days access around the islands of Bacuit Bay which I thought was reasonable. So off we go excitedly to the islands that morning.
Join our next Backpack Photography series, Batanes Outdoor and Travel for as low as P12,500 (exclusive of airfare) on June 24-27, 2010. Take advantage of Seair’s 15th Anniversary special for P1500 off on flights to Batanes until May 15. Check details here.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.