Like George Mallory was saying, “Because it’s there!”, is there any other good reason to explore? A lot of people mainly see the EL Nido town and the islands of Bacuit Bay, but that’s only a small part of the El Nido Municipality. Slowly the northern regions of El Nido are getting some good exposure but I’ve always wondered what the eastern part of El Nido looks like. Does it have some magnificent islands and beaches as the eastern side? Curiosity got me going, coming a long with a friend, we were off to Sibaltan on the eastern side of El Nido.
The Road to the East
We were exploring ways to get to Sibaltan. The tryke was the first option, while it is possible it is expensive at about P1500 just to drop us off there. In the end we just decided on the public transpo, North Star Bus, a non-aircon minibus that leaves from the El Nido market once every mid day to Sibaltan. The fare was only P70 one way. The bus was crammed with cargo and people, which is expected of provincial buses which travels back and fort only once a day. To add to the bus load, we also brought along our own kayak.
As I thought, the bus route would go through the northern towns first like Barotuan, Bucana then turn right to Teneguiban, San Fernando then finally to the eastern town of Sibaltan. It was interesting to see the views of the landscape while treading the dirt road to the east. From the high road in Teneguiban we could see the northeastern islands of Darocotan which I heard was a potential site for an upcoming Survivor series. From here I could see that a large part of El Nido is heavily forested, there was even an instant the bus had to stop when a humongous snake about 10-12 feet long crossed the road. Every time people would alight the bus, I’m just astonished how much cargo the bus has on the roof I wonder how our kayak was doing. After a couple of hours we finally reached the town of Sibaltan. We even have to traverse another way since one of the bridge was un-passable since it fell when a heavy truck was on it. The truck hasn’t been pulled yet.
Living in a Guard House
Sibaltan is a very small coastal town and I only see a few houses there. I got in contact with the Kapitana Acosta there to ask permission to stay at their guard house. There are no other accommodation in the area and the Guard House, a project of the El Nido Foundation serves as home to visitors and base for those studying and protecting the Marine Sanctuary in the area. A caretaker is there to help visitors and it’s well facilitated with dining tables, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. It’s actually very cozy with a matching hammock in the living area, I could stay here for days. It has a very scenic location standing above the ocean waters letting the natural breeze in all day long. In front are the many islands east of El Nido along with Bubog Island just in front which we were intending to kayak. Electricity in Sibaltan is only during the evenings at 6-10 pm in the evening, powered by the town fuel generator.
There is very little facility in the area, there are several Sari-sari stores for some supplies. For food, caretaker Esmeralda can prepare food by request. There’s a nice eatery at the center of the town and a short walk south there’s the Ursula Beach with a semi-fine dine menu with nice tables and lounge chairs.
Aside from an old Chinese national from Hong Kong who seems to have called this place his home and kept returning here, we were the only visitors at that time. The night was quiet with only a few villagers would seldom come up from the walkway to the entrance gate of the guard house since the Smart Mobile signal was much stronger there. It like the feeling of living in a remote village like this, where the tourist crowd is almost non-existent and detached from the familiar world on the other side.
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.