It’s only natural to expect a destination to change, especially if got more popular and the inevitable development creeps in. El Nido is one of those destinations where I have seen change since visiting the place several times since early 2000 and even lived briefly as a local. Recently, I was able to return as soon as the pandemic restrictions started easing. Aside from doing the El Nido Canopy Walk, I was able to join the El Nido Island Hopping Tour A. I noticed and observed some minor changes in how they do the tours these days since I last visited.
It was one splashy ride. We’re midway through hour 2-hour journey along Surigao strait for our first island hopping stop in Dinagat Islands, the Pangabangan Island. I knew the weather would be intermittent in a September but my birthday was coming up and I wanted to go to a place I haven’t been before. I’m fascinated about Dinagat Islands after seeing photos from friends who went there. The natural wonders looks raw and beautiful. The province is curiously wrapped in a mysterious culture and religion.
As if we were not wowed enough by what we found up north Catanduanes in Pandan, we ventured southeast of the Happy Island to find more amazement in the municipality of Bato. From Virac, it’s an 11km ride to the municipality of Bato. A familiar route on my first visit are the numerous waterfalls in the area, including Maribina Falls. But I never knew Carorian Adventure off the coast of Bato was something to rave about. We just got a taste and I’m already thinking when I’ll be back here.
Just checking in at Sohoton Bay Resort was already a preview of what Bucas Grande Island holds. This municipality has often been overshadowed by the nearby island of Siargao. There are even day tours from Siargao for Sohoton Cove and their stingless jellyfish which people often mistake as being part of their municipality. But Bucas Grande is a destination of its own. My tour starts at Tiktikan Lagoon (also referred to as the Tiktikan Lake), a serene body of water concealed within Sohoton Cove.
“Please don’t call it a junk! It doesn’t sound good. We call it a cruise ship!” our Vietnamese guide with a British accent, Duc, politely corrected me as I got accustomed to call those large wooden ships cruising Ha Long Bay as “junks” similar to what they call it in Hong Kong. From Halong Plaza Hotel, we were headed to the port for a Ha Long Bay day in this UNESCO Heritage site in the province of Quang Ninh, Vietnam. It is popularly known for its thousands limestone karst picturesquely dispersed on a bay off Ha Long City.
Buguey’s seafood buffet was more than enough to fill us during the two hour journey to Claveria, the last town in Cagayan next to Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte. I was enjoying the view from my window despite the rain while sliding sideways from our seats as we traverse the twisting highroads to the town of Claveria. A coastal town where the river flows, numerous blue boats parked on the shore and people in their blue rain coats were tending their nets were seen. It was really interesting.
Remember those gorgeous desktop wall papers or those java applets with crystal clear moving waters on WebPages with ridiculously beautiful looking beaches or scenery that led you asking yourself whether this place is real? Well, El Nido Palawan is like stepping straight into that screen and seeing it all for real with your bare naked eyes. Island hopping in Bacuit Bay showed us that Miniloc Island, the first island we’ll visit is just the tip of the iceberg and it keeps getting better.