"The Islands of El Nido" El Nido Travelogue by Palaweno

El Nido Travel Guide: 259 reviews and 700 photos

The El Nido Archipelago is an intricate waterworld of 23 large, and 22 smaller, exotic Robinson-Crusoe style islands; with towering midnight cliffs that jut thousands of feet above mirror flat emerald waters. The first glimpse of the bay is like opening a jewel box, with the islands are set out like cabochons of malachite, sparkling like jewels on a painters canvas, splashed with every hue of turquoise and aquamarine. The islands come and go like ships, with the decks of jungle, and the huge cliffs like sails, carrying the islands along with the prevailing light and the waxing and waning of clouds. The islands are covered in rich vegetation, and encircled by beaches of cool, powdery sand like finely ground white pepper that clings to your skin like dust. The beaches dip into crystal clear waters shaded like underwater rainbows, with a dozen variations of blue and green, with the deeper ocean stretching away to the horizon like a Persian blue carpet. At dusk a million bats exit caves high in the cliffs, a dark wave washing across the sky, heading for the moon. By night the Gods of El Nido seem incapable of calming their palette - by the full moon, the sea shallows glow green as old jade, and phosphoresence illuminates the water, a million pinpoints of light mirroring the milky way above the ocean.

In every direction you turn, you can see several of these cathedral-shaped islands, made of black marble and limestone protruding from the sea in spires, spines and wedges. The limestone cliffs of El Nido are massive rocks formed some 250 million years ago from thick layers of coral deposits. Numerous limestone formations are scattered about the waters of El Nido and no two cliffs are alike. Limestone “Karst” cliffs similar to those in Palawan can be found in Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, Guilin in China, and Krabi in Thailand; countries which are part of the Eurasian Plate from where Palawan was detached some 40 million years ago.

The cliffs look like barren sheets of inhospitable rock, but yucca and talisay trees, as well as wild flowering begonias and orchids thrive in the crevices. The sides of these islands present bare, perpendicular cliffs of every variety of tint, with numerous stalactite caves in which edible bird's nests are sought. The summits terminate in small clusters of needle peaks, and wherever it is possible for vegetation to take root they are luxuriantly clothed with foliage, of which the pandanus predominates. These, contrast strongly with the dark-coloured rock and white sandy bays in some of the secluded nooks, impart to the group scenery of a peculiarly picturesque nature. The bases of all the islands are worn by the action of the sea water, undermining in some parts the perpendicular sides up to 15 to 20 feet, thus rendering it almost impossible, except where an occasional slip or disruption occurs, to land on any part of them.

El Nido's limestone cliffs contain large caves with whimsical names like Cathedral Cave and Disco Cave because of their formation; look out for holes which could be the entrance to hidden caves. The subterranean passages were formed through thousands of years of rainwater penetrating the cracks and fissures of the limestone cliffs. At Pinasil Island's Cathedral Cave, one can see natural grooves on the walls which some say resemble the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. El Nido has many secret coves with beaches of pure white sand. Continuous wave action and erosion have created pockets of beaches like Secret Beach at Matinloc Island. This hidden beach can be accessed only by snorkelling through a small crack in the limestone walls. Stretches of limestone walls restrain the sea's rejuvenant waves and conceal a world of calm lagoons. At Miniloc Island, the Big and Small Lagoons' varied depths show breathtaking shades of blue and green. Its superb acoustics make it the perfect venue for a musical concert, conducted by either nature or man.

  • Page Written Jan 31, 2005
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