Cheap Island hopping in El Nido, the local way …

by The Longest Way Home ~ August 25th, 2009. Updated on February 15th, 2011. Published in: Travel blog » Philippines.
Incredible blue water in El Nido, Palawan (click to enlarge)

Incredible blue water in El Nido, Palawan

After some time in El Nido I realized I really did need to bite the bullet and go island hopping. A side effect of cooking for oneself and eating in is not meeting anyone to share costs with for such activities. One of the most popular questions I kept getting was “Have you seen any of the islands yet?” or “Which one is your favourite.

Aside from that, finding a place called home means more than sitting in cottage writing a book. I can’t very well try to live in a place and not explore it, I know this already. At least be able to reference things a little better when meeting people and not seem like a complete new comer to the area.

Keeping in mind I’m not a fan of Island life, I find all this a bit of a contradiction. But, I am trying to prove a bit of point to myself and others as noted previously in this travel journal.

Anytime I did go out to meet with people interesting in exploring they only seemed interested in scuba diving, period. I needed an old tact. Make friends with the locals, other than my immediate neighbours … but be sure to tell them you are broke!

That’s exactly what I told a local boat man by the name of Rex. Most evenings I spend sitting out on an old stone wall looking on at the great sunsets. On many an occasion Rex would pass by on this way back either with tourists or taking a short cut home. He asked once if I wanted a tour. I told him I was alone.

“Private hire 2,500.”

“I can’t even afford 500 my friend.”

Sailing out for a day of island hopping

Sailing out for a day of island hopping

And so the conversations grew each time he passed by.

“You have money.”

“Yes, but if I give that much to you, then I will have none.”

“You go to your place and make more, come back!”

I laughed and mentioned my search for home. And so Rex stopped, looked at my map and asked the usual questions.

“So you just here writing a book? You sell it and make a lot of money!”

“Not these days Rex,” I replied.  “Times are different, it’s all commercial marketing now.”

It meant nothing to him. I was still just like all the other tourists in the area.

Then, unexpectedly Rex showed up in the morning. He had made a deal with some foreigners to take them out to an island everyday, leave them there baking in the sun, and then come back in the evening. He said I could come along on the days they passed by different islands, take photographs and write about them.

It was an opportunity not to be missed.

Clear jellyfish in El Nido

Clear jellyfish in El Nido

The couple were an old English pair who’s idea of tropical bliss was laying out on a different island beach every other day. They just thought I was paying Rex to take me to a different island on a tour similar to them.

After depositing the couple on one of the tiny outcrops of islands around El Nido we headed over to the nearby lagoon island. The water was about as clear as I’ve ever seen. Large clear jellyfish bobbed up and down around our little boat as Rex tried to make me swim into a hidden outcrop. Not exactly fun. But Rex had no issues in swiping up the jelly fish and throwing them further out to sea.

“Next time we go to Cathedral cave.”

And so it was that I had somehow made my first Filipino friend in El Nido.

Coming Soon:

Cathedral Cave (video)

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8 Great responses to Cheap Island hopping in El Nido, the local way …

  1. Jon says:

    I’m relocating to the Philippines in the next couple of weeks so I’ve enjoyed following your blog and gleaning information from your experiences. I had previously narrowed down my preferences to Palawan so I’m especially grateful for your recent entries.

    Some of my longer travels were made so much better simply by hanging out in one place and making friends so this entry doesn’t surprise me at all. While climate, weather, etc.. are all important, it is ultimately the people that make a place great. Everyone should be encouraged to get to know them because they make the country what it is (good and bad).

    Keep up the great posts & best wishes.

    • Glad you’ve found the entries helpful to you! Palawan is really easy going, so relocating there should be no problem, depending on what you are looking for!

      And yes, connecting with locals plays such a huge part in travel. Once sight seeing is complete, mixing with friendly locals really can make a day, or even a holiday seem ‘that’ much better. Especially if one can keep aways from the over touristy parts where things are not often that special due to the high turn over of tourist faces locals see day in and day out.

      Many thanks for the compliments and good wishes!

  2. I like your insights and everything about your site. I hope soon enough you find your home. I am new to the the blog world and luckily,I stumbled into your blog,and I can’t help but comment. I’m hoping I can travel the rest of the world too like you but I don’t wanna be a tourist who’s goal is to visit a place and do sight-seeing, I’ve done that and somehow it bores me. When I was young I wondered why foreigners kept coming to our country and I watch in awe on how they can easily relate with our culture, yet I have rarely seen fellow Filipinos esp girls do that and that’s when my dream started..traveling and immersing in different cultures like E.Hemingway & M.Palin & like most travelers do and the 1st step is to smile & talk with the locals. But I guess,here in our country, people are not used to meeting a Filipina in her mid-20’s traveling alone, somehow I;ve gotten used to locals asking me why I’m alone. I just wish I have all the time & the money in the world to hop from one country to another.
    I went to El Nido Nov of last year, solo too, I am glad you found your 1st friend in the Philippines. I’ve experienced sharing island hopping with a group on one of my travels but my experience is nothing compared to yours! =) I hope one day when you have your book, I can buy a copy and will surely treasure it. Keep walking, keep blogging, keep inspiring us & keep safe always! =)

    • -pinaysolobackpacker- Thanks so much for such an insightful comment into the experience of a solo pinay travelling her own country.

      Yes a package tourist does not always get the opportunity to mix with local people. And yes it would seem, and I have only recently been thinking this, that the age of independent travel exploration is perhaps coming to a close. While we can still travel alone, the fact is cultures are changing to meet the demands from the global tourism sector. That said, there will always me a few pioneers out there striving to find new places that have gone under the tourism radar.

      You might like my 5 stages of long term travel article for a look at how a travelers perspective changes over the years.

      So yes maybe even a solo pinay backpacker in the Philippines is making a differences to others that are not used to seeing someone like her traveling like she does. Well done to her! :)

      Thanks for stopping by, and hope to see you again!

  3. i sure will! i’ve subscribed to your blog! =)

  4. I’ve been quite busy the past few weeks, I kinda miss reading your post. hehe so here I am again dropping by. will keep following your blog. =)