Now You Know: EL NIDO TOUR PACKAGES THEN AND NOW

To all those who plan to have a vacation in El Nido, did you know that there are changes in their standard tours? Well, Tita S wrote this post to compare the tour packages before and after November 27, 2018.

First of all, what I like about El Nido1 is that the tour operators agreed to standardize the types of tours, destinations therein, and cost per person. Thus, the tourist need not haggle nor feel shortchanged wondering if s/he paid more than other tourists did. Our resort even gave us a 20% discount for booking two tours with them.

You can either join a group tour (and find new friends) or charter a private boat (and enjoy the tours with family/friends on your terms, as to what spots to visit and the length of stay therein, as well as what food to eat).

The Eco-Tourism Fee2 is PHP200 and is good for 10 days. No worries, when you book your first day tour, this will be included already. This is a one-time payment for most tourists (who only stay for 10 days or less in El Nido). See a related post. Short and Simple: EL NIDO’S ECO-TOURISM DEVELOPMENT FEE

I wish Coron Island, a beautiful destination located in northern Palawan, would be able to follow suit. We had to haggle during our trip there last month to get the best deal for our tours (a difference of PHP100-200 per person among competitive tour operators there). I was told that there are still Coron tour operators who do not want to cooperate on a standardized rate. Let’s hope someday soon they will.

Back to El Nido1: most boat trips last about 7 hours, usually starting at 9:00 am and ending between 4:00-5:00 pm.

A beach towel and mask/snorkel are included in the package tour, so you need not bring either, unless you are very particular about using your own towel/swimming gear.

Lunch is also included in every tour, usually consisting of grilled fish/seafood, pork/chicken, rice, vegetables and fruits (banana, pineapple, or watermelon). A designated boatman grills the meat/seafood/vegetables at the rear of the boat, so you will get these freshly cooked and artistically presented/decorated just in time for lunch. For sure, you will want to eat a lot after swimming and snorkeling all morning!

Single-use plastic water bottles are banned from all tours nowadays and the MARINA (Maritime Industry Authority)is strict in ensuring that boats do not carry them. Tour operators have insulated containers with ice to chill reusable plastic water bottles/jugs with potable water. Tumblers are provided for each member of the tour. In one of the day tours we took, the operator also offered chilled small (glass) bottles of Coke but we declined. Definitely, no single-use plastics during island hopping in El Nido!

I personally brought my own eco-friendly reusable water container and filled it up with mineral/distilled water for every day tour during my December 2018 El Nido vacation. Why don’t you too? This way, you will be sure about the quality and safety of the water you drink while island hopping.

Anyway, there were only 4 standardized tour packages in El Nido1 before November 27, 2018:

  1. Tour A – PHP1,200/person – This was the most popular tour package of El Nido, and it showcased some of the area’s beautiful lagoons. Destinations included: Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island or Payong-payong Beach (for lunch), Entalula Island and 7 Commandos Beach. Snorkel/Swim all you want, subject to the schedule set by the tour guide and the conditions of the waters.

Take note, I used the past tense since this tour package was changed, effective November 2018. I will discuss that below.

This group tour was priced at PHP1,200 pesos; a private boat tour was PHP4,000-6,000, depending on the size of the group/boat. A kayak could be rented for PHP200 in the Big or Small Lagoon. If you notified your boatman when you arrived there, they would have arranged the kayak rental for you.

2. Tour B – PHP1,300/person – This nature-tripping package tour consists of the following stops: Cathedral Cave, Codugnon Cave, Pinagbuyutan Island (a very good snorkeling spot), Snake Island (the long narrow sandbar connecting mainland Palawan to Vigan Island is the main attraction), and sometimes, Entalula Island or Pangalusian Island.

3. Tour C – PHP1,400/person – This is another popular tour package as it features some of the best beaches of El Nido, perfect for swimmers and snorkelers. This is a long tour since Matinloc Island is one of the farthest limestone islands from the town proper.

Please take note that Matinloc Island faces the West Philippine Sea (which is prone to big waves), so ask your tour operator if the weather will be ideal for your selected date.

Other destinations include: Helicopter Island, Matinloc Shrine (you need to pay PHP100 entrance fee), Star Beach, Secret Beach, and Talisay Beach.

4. Tour D – PHP1,000-1,200/person – This package tour includes four beaches and a lagoon, mostly in mainland El Nido: Bukal Beach, Natnat Beach, Paradise Beach, Pasandigan Beach, and Cadlao Lagoon.

An inland tour is also offered in El Nido and is good for tourists who do not want to go island hopping. You can rent a motorcycle (PHP500 per day), tricycle (PHP1,500 for four persons), or a van (PHP3,000 for up to 12 persons). The main attractions are Calitang Twin Beach, Nacpan, and Nagkalit-kalit Falls. You can also go to Las Cabanas (for a memorable sunset) and/or Marimegmeg Beach. Do not forget to bring your own food/drinks.

Other tours could be arranged, like Overnight Camping, Combo Tour, Private Tour, or even an El Nido-Coron Adventure. It would be best to book ahead of time any of these tours, especially during peak season (December till March/April).

Take note that the tour guide/boatmen can make changes, depending on the number of people in a stop, the tide, or how calm the waters are. The MARINA personnel need to approve all boat trips prior to sailing.

Bottomline, if you only had 2 whole days to spend in El Nido, taking Tours A and C is suggested. But that was prior to November 27, 2018.

What happened on November 2018?

El Nido1 was rehabilitated but was not closed off, according to the Department of Tourism (DOT). There were many establishments that abided by government requirements and the local government took initiatives to address the town’s problems, so total closure was not necessary. Hurray to those who booked a vacation to El Nido starting November!

El Nido Municipal Administrator Dela Calzada said authorities would limit the number of tourists visiting key island destinations to preserve the area. The local government has set the tourist limit at the island’s Big Lagoon to 60 per hour with kayak trips at 30 per hour; and, for the Small Lagoon, at only 30 tourists and 15 kayak trips per hour.Oh no! Tour A, one of my favorite day tours, was affected!

The government has yet to determine the carrying capacity of El Nido as a whole, but funds for the study are already on standby, according to Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat.4

Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat said the government will make sure that thousands of tourist boats will not spill wastewater nor oil into the bay.

Tour packages will also be redesigned to regulate the number of tourists. El Nido used to offer 4 standard tour packages, with 5 to 6 attractions per package; soon, there will be 7 tour packages with fewer destinations per package.4

In early 2018, single-use plastics, particularly water bottles, were banned from tour packages. Coast guard personnel shall inspect boats and confiscate plastic bottles before they are allowed to sail.4

Personally, I noticed that some (hard-headed?) tourists still bring single-use plastic water bottles. I think the tour guide should announce/remind beforehand that this is banned and reassure everyone that the operator’s chilled water is safe. To the tour operators, just be sure that your containers/tumblers are clean/sanitized and your source of water is safe. We don’t want any upset stomachs, do we?

So, what are the November 2018 package tours in El Nido?

There is a slight change in the tours but the stated price still includes lunch, mask/snorkel, and beach towel. We got the information below from our resort staff during our December 7-11, 2018 stay:

The Small Lagoon and Big Lagoon were separated in Tour A since a cap was made on the number of persons and kayaks that can enter per hour. Thus, there are now two Tour As:

TOUR A – Big– PHP1400/person – Big Lagoon, Simizu Island (lunch), Secret Lagoon, 7 Commandos Island, and Papaya Island. (inclusive of the P200/person entrance)befunky-collage-tour-a-enido-text

TOUR A – Small– PHP1400/person – Small Lagoon, Payong-Payong, Entalula Island, Papaya Island, 7 Commandos Island – inclusive of the P200/person entrance in the Small Lagoon and the PHP200 eco fee good for 10 days – see a related link: (I will place the link here)z-tour a - small - text

Tours B, C and D remain the same:

TOUR B – P1300/person – Snake Island, Codugnon Cave (lunch), Cathedral Cave, Entalula Island, Pinagbuyutan Beachz-tour b - el nido - text

Tour C – P1400/person – Matinloc Shrine, Secret Beach, Star Beach (lunch), Hidden Beach, Helicopter Islandbefunky-collage-tour-c-enido-text

Tour D – P1200/person – Pasandigan Beach, Bucal Beach, Natnat Beach (lunch), Cadlao Lagoonz-tour d - el nido - text

Again, please take note that the guide/boatmen can make changes, depending on the number of people in a stop, the tide, or how calm the waters are.

During my December revisit I availed of only 3 tours, since I had first-time El Nido tourists with me. I will write a separate post about this visit.

Bottomline, if you only have 2 whole days to spend in El Nido, take Tour A-Big and Tour C. If you arrive in the early afternoon and still have some energy left after the 6-hour ride from Puerto Princesa, take the inland tour, to at least enjoy Nacpan, and savor the sunset (and even zipline) at Las Cabanas.

To the authorities who will finalize the tours, please make sure that the destinations are different for each package.

I will write another post should there be an official announcement regarding the 2019 tours of El Nido.

Did you find this post informative? I would like to hear from you. Have you experienced El Nido package tours before and/or after November 2018? Do you have immediate plans to revisit El Nido? Do share your comments about the tours you took. Simply scroll to “Leave a Reply” and enter your comment in the box. Please scroll and click the “Like” tab and “Facebook” to share this post. Do not forget to follow me by clicking “Follow” on the lower right corner of your device.

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These footnotes are specially made for foreign viewers and those who want more information about the terms below:

1El Nido is a first class municipality5 in the province6 of Palawan7, in the Mimaropa Region8, in the Philippines, known for its white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, and awesome landscapes.9 It is considered the country’s last frontier, with the nickname “Heaven on Earth”. It was founded in 1916, has 45 islands10 and 18 barangays11, according to the Wikipedia page “El Nido, Palawan”.12

2El Nido’s Eco-Tourism Development Fee (ETDF), or simply eco fee/tax, is PHP200 and is required to be paid when you go on an island hopping tour, valid for 10 days. It was established in 2008 and is used to finance the Eco-Tourism Development Fund geared towards environmental and tourism-related projects.13

3The Philippines’ Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) is an agency of the Philippine government under the Department of Transportation. It was created on June 1, 1974, and is responsible for integrating the development, promotion and regulation of the maritime industry in the Philippines. See www.marina.gov.ph

4www.news.abs-cbn.com

5A municipality is a small, single urban administrative division, or local government unit (LGU), in the Philippines that has corporate status and powers of self-government or jurisdiction as granted by law. It is a unit under a province6, subdivided into barangays11, and is locally called “bayan”. In the Philippines, a municipality is headed by a mayor, a vice mayor and members of the Sangguniang Bayan (legislative branch). It can enact local policies and laws, enforce them, and govern its jurisdictions. It can enter into contracts and other transactions through its elected and appointed officials, and can tax as well. It enforces all local and national laws.

There are almost 1,500 municipalities in the Philippines and there are 6 income classes of municipalities in the Philippines: first class municipality (with at least 55 million pesos annual income; second class municipality (between 45-less than 55 million pesos annual income; third class municipality (between 35-less than 45 million pesos annual income; fourth class municipality (between 25-less than 35 million pesos annual income; fifth class municipality (between 15-less than 25 million pesos annual income; and, sixth class municipality (at most 15 million pesos annual income). The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Municipalities of the Philippines”.14

6A province in the Philippines is divided into cities and municipalities5 (or towns), which in turn, are divided into barangays11, formerly called barrios, according to the Wikipedia page “Provinces of the Philippines”.15

7Palawan is a provincelocated in the Mimaropa Region8 of the Philippines, founded in 1818. It is called the Philippines’ Last Frontier and its capital is Puerto Princesa, according to the Wikipedia page “Palawan”.16. It was chosen as the “World’s Best Island of 2017”17and of 201618 as well as of 2013 by Travel + Leisure travel magazine19. As early as 2007, National Geographic Traveler’s magazine chose Palawan as one of the best travel destinations in the world.20

8The Mimaropa Region is an administrative region of the Philippines which is an acronym for its constituent provinces6: Mindoro (Occidental and Oriental), Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan7. It was designated as Region IV-B until 2016. It is now also called the Southwestern Tagalog Region. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Mimaropa”.21

9www.gmanetwork.com

10www.philstar.com

11A barangay is the smallest administrative division in the Philippines, headed by a barangay captain, aided by a Sangguniang Barangay (Barangay Council). It is the native Filipino term for a district or village. It was formerly called a barrio. In a metropolitan area, a barangay is an inner city neighborhood, a suburb, or a suburban neighborhood. The word barangay originated from the term “balangay”, a kind of boat used by a group of Austronesian people who migrated to the Philippines. A number of barangays grouped together is called a district. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Barangay”.22

12“El Nido, Palawan,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Nido,_Palawan.

13www.elnidoparadise.com

14“Municipalities of the Philippines,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Municipalities_of_the_Philippines.

15“Provinces of the Philippines,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Provinces_of_the_Philippines.

16 “Palawan,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palawan.

17https://philnews.ph/2017/07/12/travel-leisure-magazine-ranked-palawan-worlds-best-island-2017/

18https://www.travelandleisure.com/worlds-best/islands#palawan-island-philippines

19https://issuu.com/filjapmag/docs/filjap_issue__10

20https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/lifestyle/content/71504/palawan-listed-among-world-s-best-tourist-sites/story/

21“Mimaropa,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimaropa.

22“Barangay,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barangay.

Short and Simple: EL NIDO’S ECO-TOURISM DEVELOPMENT FEE

Island-hopping is the highlight of your El Nido1 adventure, and there are four standardized tour packages to choose from, with slight changes that started on the 27th of November 2018. Read a related post: Now You Know: EL NIDO TOUR PACKAGES THEN AND NOW

Did you know that part of the price you paid for your stay is the Eco-Tourism Development Fee (ETDF), or simply eco fee/tax?

It started in 2008 to finance the Eco-Tourism Development Fund geared towards environmental and tourism-related projects.

A non-Palawan resident is charged PHP200 and is then issued a receipt in their name, valid for 10 days, or PHP500 for more than 10 days.

A Palawan2 resident must pay PHP100, valid for 10 days, but a Palawan resident-student is only required to pay on PHP50, valid for 10 days.

Do not be surprised if you will be charged this amount as part of the tour fee even before you board your tour boat for your first island hopping tour. Actually, all visitors are required to pay this fee before going to any tourist destination within El Nido.

The municipality3 claims that it would cost PHP10 million a year to effectively protect El Nido’s environment – all 92,000 hectares, 45 islands, 2,645 hectares of mangrove forest, 447 species of coral, 888 species of fish, 5 species of marine turtles, and  114 species of birds.4

The breakdown of the ETDF is as follows: 50% goes to environment and tourism-related projects, 10% to barangay5 eco-tourism projects, 10% to the Protected Area Management Board, 10% to the general fund of the municipal government, and 20% to implementing costs.4

The ETDF Task Force manages the collection and disbursement of this fee, composed of representatives of government office, non-government organizations, and people’s organizations.4

So, to all El Nido visitors, just be glad that you are enjoying the beauty of El Nido and that part of what you paid for your tour will be used to preserve the environment, for the future generations to enjoy as well.

Did you find this post informative? I would like to hear from you. Simply scroll to “Leave a Reply” and enter your comment in the box. Please scroll and click the “Like” tab and “Facebook” to share this post. Do not forget to follow me by clicking “Follow” on the lower right corner of your device.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

These footnotes are specially made for foreign viewers and those who want to know more about the terms below:

1El Nido is a first class municipality3 in the province6 of Palawan2, in the Mimaropa Region7, in the Philippines, known for its white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, and awesome landscapes.8 It is considered the country’s last frontier, with the nickname “Heaven on Earth”. It was founded in 1916, has 45 islands9 and 18 barangays5. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “El Nido, Palawan”.10

2Palawan is a provincelocated in theMimaropa Region7 of the Philippines and was founded in 1818. It is called the Philippines’ Last Frontier and its capital is Puerto Princesa, according to the Wikipedia page “Palawan”.11. It was chosen as the “World’s Best Island of 2017”12 and of 201613, as well as of 2013, by Travel + Leisure travel magazine.14 As early as 2007, National Geographic Traveler’s magazine chose Palawan as one of the Best Travel Destinations in the World.15

3A municipality is a small, single urban administrative division, or local government unit (LGU), in the Philippines which has corporate status and powers of self-government or jurisdiction as granted by law. It is a unit under a province6, subdivided into barangays5, and is locally called “bayan”. In the Philippines, a municipality is headed by a mayor, a vice mayor and members of the Sangguniang Bayan (legislative branch). It can enact local policies and laws, enforce them, and govern its jurisdictions. It can enter into contracts and other transactions through its elected and appointed officials and can tax as well. It enforces all local and national laws.

There are almost 1,500 municipalities in the Philippines and there are 6 income classes of municipalities in the Philippines: first class municipality (with at least 55 million pesos annual income; second class municipality (between 45-less than 55 million pesos annual income); third class municipality (between 35-less than 45 million pesos annual income); fourth classmunicipality (between 25-less than 35 million pesos annual income); fifth class municipality (between 15-less than 25 million pesos annual income); and, sixth class municipality (at almost 15 million pesos annual income). The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Municipalities of the Philippines”.16

4www.elnidoparadise.com

5A barangay is the smallest administrative division in the Philippines, headed by a barangay captain, aided by a Sangguniang Barangay (Barangay Council). It is the native Filipino term for a district or village. It was formerly called a barrio. In a metropolitan area, a barangay is an inner-city neighborhood, a suburb, or a suburban neighborhood. The word barangay originated from the term “balangay”, a kind of boat used by a group of Austronesian people who migrated to the Philippines. A number of barangays grouped together is called a district. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Barangay”.17

6A province in thePhilippines is divided into cities and municipalities3 (or towns), which in turn, are divided into barangays5, formerly called barrios, according to the Wikipedia page “Provinces of the Philippines”.18

7The Mimaropa Region is an administrative region of the Philippines. Mimaropa is an acronym for its constituent provinces6: Mindoro (Occidental and Oriental), Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan2. It was designated as Region IV-B until 2016. It is now also called the Southwestern Tagalog Region. The information was obtained from the Wikipedia page “Mimaropa”.19

8www.gmanetwork.com

9www.philstar.com

10“El Nido, Palawan,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Nido,_Palawan.

11 “Palawan,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palawan.

12https://philnews.ph/2017/07/12/travel-leisure-magazine-ranked-palawan-worlds-best-island-2017/

13https://www.travelandleisure.com/worlds-best/islands#palawan-island-philippines

14https://issuu.com/filjapmag/docs/filjap_issue__10

15https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/lifestyle/content/71504/palawan-listed-among-world-s-best-tourist-sites/story/

16“Municipalities of the Philippines,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Municipalities_of_the_Philippines.

17“Barangay,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barangay.

18“Provinces of the Philippines,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Provinces_of_the_Philippines.

19“Mimaropa,” accessed November 2, 2018, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimaropa.

Say, Say, Say: NO BORACAY-LIKE CLOSURE FOR EL NIDO

Have you booked a vacation in El Nido for the end of 2018 or for the first half of 2019? Are you alarmed by the current news about its rehabilitation and afraid that your dream vacation in this beautiful island will be affected?

Well, fret no more! Here are some updates and tips, since I am also affected with my December 7-11scheduled vacation to this designated “best beach and island destination”.1

Let’s look back on this year (2018):

  1. In February, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) MIMAROPA2 formed Task Force El Nido to address the environmental problems of the island, prioritizing the delineation of the standard easement zones and timberland areas, the degradation of water quality in Bacuit Bay3, garbage disposal, unregulated construction of structures, and the wastewater management.4
  2. In March4:

(a) Malacañang urged the local government and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to immediately demolish illegal structures built along the town’s foreshore in violation of zoning and easement laws, and to take the initiative in implementing environmental laws;

(b) the local government underwent a cleanup drive and regulated the use of plastics, cellophane and Styrofoam as food and drink containers, among others;

(c) DENR Secretary Cimatu ordered the eviction of 32 businesses5 found to have been in violation of the 3-meter coastal easement provided under the Philippine Water Code for classified urban areas like El Nido, inspite of an order from local officials that gave a grace period to the affected establishments before they voluntarily demolish the structures;

(d) the Task Force issued 407 eviction notices to structures built on declared easement zones and forestlands and served violation notices to 253 establishments found non-compliant with laws regulating wastewater discharge and easement compelling them to pay penalties ranging from PHP20,000 to 200,000 per day. Erring establishment owners were given time to comply through technical conferences facilitated by the regional Environmental Management Bureau (EMB).

3. Thereafter, national government officials met with local officials to discuss several problems, especially overcrowding and pollution in the lagoons due to the large influx of tourists (peaking at over 200,000 in 2017), as well as cooking and throwing trash.

4. President Duterte told Palawan residents to impose stricter regulations and put a cap on the number of tourists to protect its natural wonders.

5. In May, the town and DENR cleared the main beach in Bacuit Bay so it is now accessible to tourists.

6. In August, a photo of garbage floating around the Secret Lagoon went viral on social media.6 Actually, 140 sacks of foreign plastic trash were collected, mostly (70%) plastic bottles of foreign origin that found their way into the Secret Lagoon on Miniloc Island. Other debris were Styrofoam, rubber scraps, plastic wrappers, nylon and ropes. A DENR official said that the waste was carried by ocean currents and strong winds, made stronger by monsoon rains that hit Palawan. This led to a cleanup drive by the owners and workers of local tourist establishments and members of the Philippine Coast Guard.

7. In October, the local government demolished 95% of illegal structures in the town proper’s easement zone, according to Municipal Administrator Rene Jay Dela Calzada. He added that these structures were legal until the shoreline receded due to the gradual rise in sea level.7

8. In November, water pollution levels around the main beach area in the island have gone down significantly, according to the latest tests conducted by the EMB. DENR MIMAROPA said the results of water tests in Barangays Corong-Corong, Maligaya and Masagana in Bacuit Bay, after 7 months of Task Force El Nido’s monitoring and cleanup drive, indicated that the fecal coliform levels had gone down to “normal”. However, Barangay Buena Suerte, a populated area, has a fecal coliform level of 1,600 MPN (most probable number) per 100 millimeters, and still needs to be improved, based on the prescribed 100 MPN.

The local government also intensified its crackdown on illegal tour operators and have started apprehending boat tour operators with no proper documents.7

9. On November 28, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año went to El Nido to discuss the rehabilitation plans for the island with the local government officials, just like what they did in Boracay.

What’s next, especially in the next 6 months?

  1. El Nido will be rehabilitated but will not be closed off, according to the Department of Tourism. There are many establishments that abide by government requirements and the local government took initiatives to address the town’s problems, so total closure is not necessary.

Environment Secretary Cimatu said that he ordered the deployment of 50 personnel from the DENR to conduct a baseline assessment of El Nido and oversee the rehabilitation effort.4

The government is preparing an executive order to be issued by President Duterte detailing the rehabilitation plan for El Nido. The DENR will also ask the national government to allocate funds for activities that the town would need, including a plan to transfer the local port.4

Secretary Cimatu, on November 28, 2018, gave local officials 6 months to complete a rehabilitation program to rid the town’s beaches of pollution and enforce environmental compliance of commercial establishments. By then, the town’s water treatment and sewerage project would have been completed.4

2. It was reported that 22 establishments will be closed due to various violations. Fifty other establishments will be strictly monitored by DENR.4,7

3. El Nido Municipal Administrator Dela Calzada said authorities would soon limit the number of tourists visiting key island destinations to preserve the area.

The local government has set the tourist limit at the island’s Big Lagoon to 60 per hour with kayak trips at 30 per hour; and, for the Small Lagoon, at only 30 tourists and 15 kayak trips per hour.7

Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat said the government will make sure that thousands of tourist boats will not spill wastewater and oil into the bay.

4. Tour packages will also be redesigned to regulate the number of tourists. El Nido used to offer 4 standard tour packages, with 5 to 6 attractions per package; soon, there will be 7 tour packages with fewer destinations per package.7

5. Early this year, single use plastics in tour packages, particularly water bottles, have been banned. Coast guard personnel inspect boats and confiscate plastic bottles before they are allowed to sail.7

6. An interagency body is set to undertake a massive cleanup of El Nido.4,7 The DENR will follow the same time frame it employed in rehabilitating Boracay Island since it has the same problems: quality of water, improper sewage system, and easement violations. DENR Secretary Cimatu said that the rehabilitation of El Nido will only cover small areas with minimum government intervention.7

7. DENR will continue its campaign against erring establishments off Bacuit Bay3, hopefully, by the end of the year.4

8. The government has yet to determine the carrying capacity of El Nido, but funds for the study are already on standby, according to Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat.7

9. DENR Secretary Cimatu is pushing for a 20-meter no-build zone. He said the current 3-meter easement zone from the shoreline should be adjusted “to allow tourists to enjoy the sand and the view with enough space,” as a tourist destination. Unfortunately, land titles were issued by the DENR in the 1980s/earlier.7

10. The local government is building a centralized sewage treatment plant that is expected to be operational in 2019.7

11. The government is pushing for the strict implementation of Municipal Ordinance No. 29, or the sanitation ordinance, that prohibits any house or establishment from discharging liquid waste directly to the ocean, according to Mayor Nieves Rosento.7

12. A dedicated security task force is also in the pipeline to ensure the safety of all tourists visiting the islands.4

So, what should tourists do when visiting El Nido, starting December 2018?

  1. Be a responsible tourist. Be cooperative; follow all new guidelines as well as rules/regulations set by the local government/Task Force El Nido, if any.
  2. Be an eco-warrior: bring your personal refillable water bottle. Remember, single use plastic water bottles are banned during island hopping.
  3. Drink alcoholic beverages only in licensed establishments. Do not drink on the beach to avoid generating trash and broken glass.
  4. Do not litter. Keep your garbage until you find a trash can.
  5. Smoke only in designated places and properly dispose of your cigarette butts.
  6. Respect the environment. Do not collect shells, sand, and other natural resources.
  7. Leave only footprints. Just keep taking photos and videos of the beautiful landscape and flora/fauna.
  8. Level your expectations, be patient and understanding. Bear in mind that El Nido is undergoing rehabilitation so there would be on-going construction, repairs, etc. Just remember that all these projects are for sustainable tourism in the municipality, for future generations to visit, appreciate and enjoy.

Did you find this post informative? I would like to hear from you. Are you a responsible traveler? Do you have any other tips for El Nido travellers? Simply scroll to “Leave a Reply” and enter your comment in the box. Please scroll and click the “Like” tab and “Facebook” to share this post. Do not forget to follow me by clicking “Follow” on the lower right corner of your device.

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1CNNGo named El Nido as the “Best Beach and Island Destination in the Philippines” for its “extraordinary natural splendor and ecosystem,” according to the Wikipedia page “El Nido, Palawan”.8

2MIMAROPA, or the Southwestern Tagalog Region (as of 2016), is a Philippine region located in the island group of Luzon, with Calapan as its regional center. It has 6 local government units (LGUs): Marinduque, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Palawan, Puerto Princesa (a city in Palawan), and Romblon. This region was formerly called Region IV-B (2002-2016). NOTE: MIMAROPA is an acronym for this region’s provinces: MIndoro (Occidental and Oriental), MArinduque, ROmblon, PAlawan.

3Bacuit Bay is a huge archipelago or group of 45 limestone islands clustered together, offering clear and cool watershome to interesting marine life and coral reefs, plus captivating beaches, marble cliffs, awesome lagoons, mangrove forests, enchanting dive sites, caves, among others. It is considered one of the most beautiful bays in the world. The largest town in the vicinity is El Nido so tourists enter this bay through that town.9

4www.newsinfo.inquirer.net

5A municipal order was served on March 2018 to the following establishments7:

  1. Amigo’s Inn
  2. Engel Nido
  3. Angel Wish
  4. Caalan Beach Resort
  5. Cadlao Resort
  6. Cadlao Resort Extension
  7. Café Athena
  8. Chislyk
  9. El Nido Beach Resort
  10. El Nido Boutique Art and Café
  11. El Nido Garden
  12. El Nido Reef Strand Resort
  13. Golden Monkey
  14. Hadefe Beach Resort
  15. Hidden Beach Resort
  16. Isla Expeditions
  17. Jarace Grill
  18. Kalinga Beach Resort
  19. La Salanganne
  20. Lally And Abet Extension
  21. Linda Leona Store
  22. Mezzanine El Nido
  23. Nido Bay Inn
  24. Organic Spa
  25. Palawan Pawnshop
  26. Prince’s
  27. Relucio Inn
  28. Rosanna’s Pension
  29. Shorepass Lodge
  30. Sonny Sails
  31. The Nest
  32. TTD Store

These establishments were given 30 days to vacate and demolish their property that crossed the 3-meter easement zone. I still need to find an article regarding an update on these establishments.

6www.news.mb.com.ph

7www.news.abs-cbn.com

8“El Nido, Palawan,” accessed October 26, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Nido,_Palawan.

9www.elnidotourism.com

Photo Credit: Some photos in the featured collage image were obtained from Gani Ricarte of Hello El Nido! Just search for his website: www.helloelnido.com

EL NIDO: Islands and Caves – Part 3

Location: Province of Palawan1, MIMAROPA2 Region, Philippines

In our fourth day in the picturesque town of El Nido3 in the province of Palawan, my husband and I felt that we gained weight after three days here especially with Sea Cocoon’s yummy buffet breakfast, Hello El Nido’s finger-licking grilled buffet lunch during our island hopping, and the seafood dinners we had along the beach! This is paradise, but is not-so-good for our waistlines! But what can I say! When on vacation, NO DIET! Or, we have a SEE-FOOD DIET, i.e., when we see food, we eat! Right?!

Did you see my posts of our first two tours of El Nido? If not, click here for EL NIDO: HEAVEN ON EARTH – Part 1 and click here for EL NIDO: HEAVEN ON EARTH – Part 2.

Anyway, our third tour called TOUR B – WHITE SAND GALORE: ISLANDS AND CAVES, costs 1,300 per person. Just like the first 2 trips, I packed my hard-plastic beach bag with my needs for the day: sun block, bottles of mineral water, comb, towels, sunglasses, cell phone and power bank, snacks, cash, etc. After breakfast, we all met at the lobby, trooped again to the beach and boarded our big “banca” (boat) for the day.

3-El Nido-Snake Island-Gani
Snake Island, El Nido, Palawan – Photo by: Gani

The first stop was SNAKE ISLAND. I enjoyed this unique island because it had a natural S-shaped sandbar visible during low tide. And guess what, it was low tide today, lucky us! My husband and I walked the whole sandbar and we wished we had a drone to video our walk. We finally reached the end of the sandbar which was a mangrove. We stopped a bit and headed back to the starting point where we were ushered to head up and hike to a small gazebo with a spectacular view of the sandbar and the clear water! The bottled water came in handy to hydrate us going up and down this trail. Take your time, dearest Seniors, it is worth the effort!

Next was ENTALULA BEACH, reputed to be the best beach in Bacuit Bay. It can also be reserved for an intimate lunch/dinner.

The CUDUGNON CAVE was the next stop and cash was handy to enjoy fresh buko juice/cold soft drinks. This site was believed to be the burial site during the Neolithic period4 (10,200 – 2000 BC).

7PHIy1521270737

A brief stop at the CATHEDRAL CAVE followed but we did not stay long because the water was a bit rough. However, each passenger was given a chance to have pictures taken with the cave as backdrop.

4-El-Nido-Pinagbuyutan Island-Gani
Pinagbuyutan Island Photo by Gani

The PINAGBUYUTAN ISLAND was the last stop. It is a powdered white sand island ideal for snorkeling, laying at the beach, or swimming with loved ones.

This last packaged tour is good but not as good as the first two … anyway, the sandbar was more than enough to make this a memorable trip! Thanks again, Gani Ricarte of Hello El Nido! Just search for his website: www.helloelnido.com

My final words re El Nido: This town is indeed a paradise and a precious treasure for all Filipinos and foreign visitors to visit and experience for generations to come! I pray it will not suffer the same fate as Boracay if they just continue to consistently and strictly implement the El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area (ENTMRPA)5.  I hope the local government will be able to continue to plan and successfully implement programs against the threats of high human activities and the booming tourism industry in the these towns such as: pollution from waste and sewage disposal; beach erosion; damage to coral reefs due to snorkeling, diving and illegal collection; and, disturbance of bird nesting and marine sites.

I would love to hear from you, dear Seniors! Did you find this post informative? Have you gone to El Nido? Did you also experience this package tour? What are your observations of the tourism impact to the environment? Just scroll to the upper right corner of this post and click “Leave a comment”. Follow me by clicking the “Follow” bar at the bottom right corner of your gadget. Thank you!

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1Palawan, according to the Wikipedia page, “Palawan,” accessed November 29, 2017, s a province in the Philippines located in the MIMAROPA Region of the Philippines, founded in 1818, and is now called the Philippines’ Last Frontier. SOURCE: “Palawan,” accessed November 29, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palawan.

2MIMAROPA, according to the Wikipedia page, “Mimaropa,” accessed November 29, 2017, is an administrative region of the Philippines which is an acronym for its constituent provinces: Mindoro (Occidental and Oriental), Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan. It was designated as Region IV-B until 2016. It is now also called the Southwestern Tagalog Region. SOURCE: “Mimaropa,” accessed November 29, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimaropa.

3El Nido, according to the Wikipedia page, “El Nido, Palawan,” accessed November 29, 2017, is a first class, highly urbanized city located in the western province of Palawan, the westernmost city in the Philippines, with 66 barangays, and the capital of Palawan. The airport is located in this city and it is also known for the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, named one of the New7Wonders of the Nature. SOURCE: “El Nido, Palawan,” accessed November 29, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Nido,_Palawan.

4“Neolithic,” accessed November 29, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neolithic.

5El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area (ENTMRPA) is the largest marine sanctuary in the Philippines, according to the Wikipedia page, “El Nido, Palawan,” accessed November 29, 2017, It covers 18 barangays in El Nido and 3 barangays of its neighboring town, Taytay, involving more than 900 sq. km, using various forest and marine conservation and protection programs, to protect and develop the livelihoods of the seaside local population, amidst the development of tourist in the area. A very small (50 US cents) daily conservation fee is required per visitor. SOURCE: “El Nido, Palawan,” accessed November 29, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Nido,_Palawan.

 

 

EL NIDO: Blue Lagoons – Part 2

Location: Province of Palawan1, MIMAROPA2 Region, Philippines

On our 3rd day in El Nido3 we had our 2nd tour, called TOUR A – BLUE LAGOONS, costing 1,200 per person. Join me as I recall this wonderful day!

We started the day with another hearty buffet breakfast at our El Nido hotel, Sea Cocoon! I packed my hard-plastic beach bag with my needs for the day: sun block, bottles of mineral water, comb, towels, sunglasses, cell phone and power bank, snacks, cash for renting kayaks and for purchasing fresh buko/cold drinks, etc. After breakfast, we all met at the lobby, trooped again to the beach, and boarded our big “banca” (boat) for the day.

The first stop was SECRET LAGOON which can only be accessed by swimming through a small window-sized cave. Again, no worries, dearest seniors, the kind boatmen will always be ready to assist us seniors, your “apos” (grandchildren), and whoever else needs assistance. Once inside, you will not regret entering this beautiful pool of clear water surrounded by limestone formation and thus, another secret no more!

Next was SMALL LAGOON, located at the cove of Miniloc Island, enclosed by rock cliffs. It is best to rent a kayak since bancas are only allowed to dock about 50 yards from its entrance. Talk about El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area4! The local government is really serious about protecting the areas in the various packaged tours.

Secure your safety vest, pay the kayak rental, ask someone you trust, or even one of your boatman, to join you in the kayak because the view is unforgettable! It is so easy to maneuver the kayak, just coordinate with your companion, get your rhythm, and voila, you are on your way to a beautiful site!

Of course, if there was a Small Lagoon, a BIG LAGOON would be next. This is the iconic symbol of El Nido, with 2 cliffs guarding the entrance. Again, rent a kayak to explore this lagoon. You can also snorkel, just be conscious of sea urchins.

2-El-Nido-Big Lagoon - 2- Ed Pingol

  Photos by Ed Pingol

The SHIMIZU ISLAND came next, ideal for snorkeling, swimming and kayaking. Our delectable grilled buffet was served in this island. Again our tummies were so happy while we devoured the yummy feast before us! The boatmen were systematic in clearing the make-shift dining area and disposed of all garbage! Now, this is how it should be; leave nothing on the islands except your footprints!

The last stop was 7 COMMANDOS ISLAND, a white sand party beach named after its original 7 inhabitants. Tourists tend to stay here to sunbathe, swim, snorkel, play volleyball, swing at the long-roped rubber tires, and for the men, girl watching! Now you can spend your cash for halo-lalo, mais con yelo, beer, cocktails, shakes, other cold drinks and other treats.

Personally, I appreciate the efforts of the local government to implement the El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area4 in terms of tourism. Other than mechanized bancas which give livelihood to the local fisherfolks, there are no visible “gas-operated” water-sports like jet-ski, para-sailing, etc. Kayaks are used to explore the various lagoons and the motorboats are not allowed to go near them, thus, the water is not polluted in these awesome lagoons!

This was another amazing tour and a beautiful sunset awaited us along the shore, fronting our chosen restaurant for the night! Thanks, Gani Ricarte of Hello El Nido, for another unforgettable day! Just search for his website: www.helloelnido.com

Did you find this post informative? Have you experienced this package tour? I would like to hear from you. Just scroll to the upper right corner of this post and click “Leave a comment”. Follow me by clicking the “Follow” bar at the bottom right corner of your gadget. Thank you.

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1Palawan, according to the Wikipedia page, “Palawan,” accessed November 29, 2017, s a province in the Philippines located in the MIMAROPA Region of the Philippines, founded in 1818, and is now called the Philippines’ Last Frontier. SOURCE: “Palawan,” accessed November 29, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palawan.

2MIMAROPA, according to the Wikipedia page, “Mimaropa,” accessed November 29, 2017, is an administrative region of the Philippines which is an acronym for its constituent provinces: Mindoro (Occidental and Oriental), Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan. It was designated as Region IV-B until 2016. It is now also called the Southwestern Tagalog Region. SOURCE: “Mimaropa,” accessed November 29, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimaropa.

3El Nido, according to the Wikipedia page, “El Nido, Palawan,” accessed November 29, 2017, is a first class, highly urbanized city located in the western province of Palawan, the westernmost city in the Philippines, with 66 barangays, and the capital of Palawan. The airport is located in this city and it is also known for the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, named one of the New7Wonders of the Nature. SOURCE: “El Nido, Palawan,” accessed November 29, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Nido,_Palawan.

4El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area (ENTMRPA) is the largest marine sanctuary in the Philippines, according to the Wikipedia page, “El Nido, Palawan,” accessed November 29, 2017, It covers 18 barangays in El Nido and 3 barangays of its neighboring town, Taytay, involving more than 900 sq. km, using various forest and marine conservation and protection programs, to protect and develop the livelihoods of the seaside local population, amidst the development of tourist in the area. A very small (50 US cents) daily conservation fee is required per visitor. SOURCE: “El Nido, Palawan,” accessed November 29, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Nido,_Palawan.

Please visit my first El Nido post EL NIDO: Heaven on Earth – Part 1

and

last post EL NIDO: Islands and Caves – Part 3

EL NIDO: Heaven on Earth – Part 1

Location: Province of Palawan, MIMAROPA1 Region, Philippines

My husband and I visited Puerto Princesa2, Palawan3 years ago. The former is a first class, highly urbanized city located in the western province of Palawan, the westernmost city in the Philippines, with 66 barangays, and the capital of Palawan. The airport is located in this city and it is also known for the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, named one of the New7Wonders of the Nature. Palawan is a province in the Philippines located in the MIMAROPA Region of the Philippines, founded in 1818, and is now called the Philippines’ Last Frontier.

We were invited by my high school buddies and their families to El Nido (a first-class municipality in the northernmost tip of mainland Palawan), from February 19 to 22, 2017. It was our first time to visit this wonderful destination known for its awesome coral reefs, white-sand beaches, unique lagoons and limestone cliffs.

We were likewise curious how tourism can thrive amidst the so-called El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area (ENTMRPA)4, the largest marine sanctuary in the Philippines, covering 18 barangays in El Nido and 3 barangays of its neighboring town, Taytay, involving more than 900 sq. km, using various forest and marine conservation and protection programs, to protect and develop the livelihoods of the seaside local population, amidst the development of tourist in the area. A very small (50 US cents) daily conservation fee is required per visitor.

We heard so much about El Nido’s beauty so we did not hesitate to join the group to discover this new destination which was part of our bucket list.

21-El-Nido

Everything was pre-arranged by my very dependable and travel-savvy friend from the US so my husband and I just paid for our share. Here is the first part of our unforgettable adventure!

Our group arrived at the Puerto Princesa Airport and two vans were waiting for us provided by Daytripper Palawan. The mini-packs of banana chips, bottled water and, of course, the professional driving skills of our drivers were very much appreciated. It was about a 6-hour trip from the airport to El Nido, and we stopped a couple of times for the “call of nature”, to stretch a bit, as well as have our lunch. Some of us appreciated the view while some slept along the way.

We finally arrived at Sea Cocoon, our hotel, and we all checked-in. We used the remaining time to explore the town, its market and retail stalls, the beach, and savored its local and fresh seafood for dinner along a seaside restaurant. We slept early the previous night because this will be the first of our 3 day-tour that will take us around this awesome destination.

We had a good night’s rest after a hot shower and slept soundly on a comfortable bed in our air-conditioned room. We woke up to a beautiful sunny morning and the hotel’s sumptuous buffet breakfast was so good!

I am also lucky to have a well-organized friend who even provided durable hard-plastic beach bags where I could place all my (and my husband’s) needs for the day: sun block, bottles of mineral water for hydration, comb, towels, sunglasses, well-protected cell phone and power bank, snacks, cash, etc. Photos were taken after breakfast, all met at the lobby, trooped to the beach (which was just about 3 minute-walk from our hotel) and before we knew it, we were all aboard our big banca (boat) for the day.

My friend contracted Hello El Nido for the 3 packaged tours and may I say that my husband and I were very satisfied with the services of the management and all the boatmen/crew. Just search for his website: www.helloelnido.com

It also seemed that the local government has standardized the packaged tours of El Nido which is beneficial for us, first-time tourists. Our tour that day is marketed as TOUR C – SECRET ISLANDS AND BEACHES, costing 1,400 pesos each person.

We wore our safety vests and enjoyed the natural beauty – 360 degrees! Worried that you cannot swim? Don’t be! You can stay in the banca but I do not recommend that and I am so sure you will not because of the beauty of all the stops. All destinations are safe for all ages and all stops are worth the trip! So, listen up, it’s our first packaged tour of El Nido and I know you will be excited with me as I recall our tour.

The first stop was SECRET BEACH which can only be accessed by swimming and going through a small crevice in a rock wall. No worries, dearest seniors, I gained weight and still fitted LOL! Besides, the kind boatmen will always be ready to assist you: seniors, kids, and whoever else needs assistance. Once inside, you will be awed by this pristine beach and its beauty and thus, a secret no more!

Next was HIDDEN BEACH, surrounded by fantastic limestone rock formations. You can just float with your life vest or swim, just be careful not to be near sharp corals.

The STAR OF TALISAY BEACH was the next stop. It is a snorkeling site and was also our lunch stop. Now, I am sure you are curious to know about the buffet lunch. Let me tell you that all such meals for our 3 package tours were soooo good, thanks to Hello El Nido! The freshly cooked “inihaw” (grilled) pork and seafood (shrimps/fish/squids), along with fresh vegetables/seaweed salad, hot steamed rice, and fresh fruits were always a welcome feast for our group! Burp! Drinking water was also provided. Happy tummies always! My best advice is for you to bring cash for fresh buko (young coconut) or cold softdrinks sold in island stops.

1-El-Nido- lunch buffet

The MATINLOC SHRINE or the SHRINE OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN, is located in an island maintained by the descendants of the original owner. Be prepared for a 100 peso-entrance fee. The shrine is serene and satisfies the religious among us seniors. The big old house seemed abandoned but you can imagine its splendor when it was new and operational. Our group went up a cemented area with steps leading to the peak where we had an unforgettable view for miles and miles!

Last was HELICOPTER ISLAND, a helicopter-shaped island when viewed from afar, ideal for snorkeling and diving.

This first packaged tour was indeed wonderful! Thanks, Gani Ricarte of http://www.helloelnido.com! Your kind boatmen returned us to our shores early so we can enjoy the majestic sunset in this picturesque island! We felt so lucky to have another dinner along the shore for us to breathe in all the good vibes while we savored the fresh seafood treats we ordered!

Did you find this post informative? Have you experienced this package tour? I would like to hear from you. Just scroll to the bottom of this post and type your comment in the designated box. Follow me by clicking the “Follow” bar at the bottom right corner of your gadget. Thank you.

Watch out for my next post and discover the other beautiful islands of El Nido!

Do visit my El Nido posts:

EL NIDO: Blue Lagoons – Part 2

and

EL NIDO: Islands and Caves – Part 3

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1MIMAROPA, according to the Wikipedia page, “Mimaropa,” accessed November 29, 2017, is an administrative region of the Philippines which is an acronym for its constituent provinces: Mindoro (Occidental and Oriental), Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan. It was designated as Region IV-B until 2016. It is now also called the Southwestern Tagalog Region. SOURCE: “Mimaropa,” accessed November 29, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimaropa.

2“Puerto Princesa,” accessed November 29, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puerto Princesa.

3“Palawan,” accessed November 29, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palawan.

 4“El Nido, Palawan,” accessed November 29, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El Nido,_Palawan.