The jarring brakes on the short run way of El Nido do not provide travellers with a great first impression of Palawan. But it does bring to mind similar landing strips throughout the world which have brought me to the most amazing places on earth. For travellers who have flown into Lookla, Nepal, or Bhutan, they will know what I mean. In fact, the El Nido airport doesn’t even make it in the top ten list of most dangerous airports, so really, no problem! Its just one more thing all travellers to El Nido can talk about.
In a way, El Nido is like a mini Thamel in Kathmandu. Narrow streets with no rhyme or reason, small shops with gear, trinkets, food stalls interspersed with shops selling adventures of all kinds. There is an air of carefree festivity amoungst travellers and locals alike. Streets are so narrow that vehicles are few and far between and travellers in El Nido get around on motorcycles that have been turned into Trikes, with seating for 2 or 3 people!
Two things that stand out the most for me about Palawan are the stunning beauty of the place and the easy friendship of the Phillipino people. For 9 days we explored the waters, Islands, villages and beaches of Palawan. Our boat crew of three locals, constantly amazing us with their easy manner, prompt service, great food, and conversation. The locals we met on beaches and in villages always went out of their way to say hi, to converse with us if possible, and make us feel welcome. The children always started off a little shy, but their curiosity enabled them to eventually come closer and accept challenges to races, give high fives, or just goof around at the water edge.
The Karst limestone Islands are covered by dense jungle lending a Jurassic park like feel to the area. Dozens of secret lagoons can be found by swimming through secret corridors, walking through secret corridors or paddle through openings just big enough to fit a boat. The nature of limestone creates incredible caves, some accessible by kayaks, others by foot. We never grew tired of exploring the endless caves in Palawan. The prefect white sand beaches gave way to surreal turquoise colored waters, inviting everyone into its refreshing embrace. Anytime we weren’t kayaking, you could find the crew swimming and snorkelling in the perfect waters, chasing tropical fish and searching for the brightest coral in the area.
Evenings we would gather together for the evening meal around a table, on the beach, with our tents in the background. The horizon line stacked with thunderhead clouds reflecting back the settings sun’s hues of pinks, oranges and reds. Staying up to watch the sun set, fill our bellies with delicious foods, and reminisce about the days activities.