Monday, November 29, 2010

El Nido and the Bacuit Archipelago

We left Coron and embarked on a 6 hour ferry ride through stunning seascapes to the fabled land of the Bacuit Archipelago and the northern Palawan paradise of El Nido. I was endeared by El Nido almost immediately; the friendly locals, the beachfront restaurants, the trendy backpacker cafes, the random disco clubs, not to mention the seemingly endless host of uninhabited islands with private beaches.

The main attraction of El Nido is, in fact, island hopping. There are so many islands worth visiting, you need four days to cover them all. There's big lagoon, small lagoon, twin lagoon and secret lagoon; there's sunset beach, seven commando beach, and secret beach. All promise fantastic snorkeling as well, and while Therese is a qualified snorkeler, i'm not built for it. I've suffered debilitating ear infections since i was a child, and pouring sea water into my ears is not my idea of awesome. Diving, on the other hand, rarely gives me the same problem. Equalizing the pressure underwater generally keeps water from entering your ears, resulting in a happy Kev.

We got lucky on our first night there. We were staying at Greenviews Resort, about 5 minutes outside of El Nido. Highly recommended. Great staff, bungalow's and very reasonable prices. Right outside the front gate is Plankton Divers, a brand new dive shop. We chatted with the owner a bit and she gave us a deal we couldn't refuse: private boat with two divemasters, three dives, brand new equipment, lunch and drinks, AND island hopping during our surface intervals, for about $60 per day. That's a steal folks. Our divemaster turned out to be an old Ultimate player in Manila too, we had a lot of the same friends. Look up Jeff Panelo if you need to do some El Nido Diving.

We did two days of diving, 6 dives total, and made it to many of the most interesting lagoons and beaches in the process. Imagine taking your surface interval between dives here:

Or here...


And as is the custom now on this blog, i present for your consideration, "Scuba Diving in El Nido". Notable highlights include the awesome color-changing cuttlefish, the blue-spotted stingray, and the playful anemone fish. True fact: Therese has decided all anemone fish actually want to be petted, they just don't know how it works yet.

And a few stills... three nudibranchs and some awesome anemone fish.

Other than that, we mainly just relaxed in the town, ate good food, and randomly bumped into friends from Beijing. As if the world isn't already small enough, therese and i were hanging out in Small Lagoon, where there were only two other snorkelers at the time, and they happen to be marc and veronica from beijing's ultimate frisbee scene. The next day, we found jim and nina sitting at a restaurant having dinner in a remote beachfront restaurant. What are the odds?

Tragically, it wasn't all Nudibranches and Remote Beach Happy Fun Time. It was also Jellyfish Terror Hell Time. Poor therese got stung when we were playing frisbee in the shallow water in front of our resort. For the next two hours, her life would consist of agonizing pain. Imagine taking your lower lip and pulling it up over your head, and then being stung by some jellyfish. That's pretty much what it looked like. Some dude from the resort heard her and administered immediate first aid, which consisted of nescafe and hot water followed by vinegar. I'm not sure if it worked or not, because therese never really stopped weeping terror-filled pain-tears-of-agony, but maybe it would have been worse with it. Who knows? Hopefully we never have to find out.

The next day, i had the pleasure of sitting on a crown of thorns starfish that our dive master had taken from the dive and left on the stern (i'm so nautical) of our boat, with the purpose of killing it later. Wikipedia says:
The thorns are very sharp and are capable of piercing through standard wetsuits and other clothing. They are also venomous. The crown-of-thorns produces a neurotoxin which can be released through its spines. Not only are the wounds themselves serious, but the neurotoxin can cause a sharp stinging pain that can last for hours, as well as nausea and vomiting.
Painful, certainly, but also only a small fraction of the misery therese felt.

A few more random shots from our three days there, and that will wrap up El Nido in a nice little blogable package.

Spell check doesn't know what to do with "blogable" and i'm fine with that.


p.s. Two more posts to go! Up next: Port Barton and Sabang. You know you can't wait! No more diving videos, i promise.

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