Having managed to sleep through your first flight in a 19-seater plane, you look out your window and see dark blue water below you. Suddenly, you find yourself overlooking a tiny speck of green on the blue. Then you see more specks, growing larger and larger as you get closer and closer. Finally, you see a beach coming right at you. After your plane lands and the cloud of dust stirred by your arrival settles down, your pilot says the magic words you’ve been waiting to hear: “Welcome to El Nido, Palawan”.
El Nido, a 27,000 population town inside the El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area, takes its name from the famous “nido” or nests of the edible nest swiftlet (Collocalia fuciphaga) found in the cracks and crevices of its equally famous limestone cliffs. These expensive nests made of saliva are the primary ingredient of birds’ nest soup. Aside from its share of the land, El Nido also includes Bacuit Bay, a picturesque bay containing 45 islands and islets.
You feel the laid-back lifestyle of El Nido as soon as you make your way through the airport. El Nido Airport, or “Lio” as it is more commonly known, is a humble compound featuring a single dirt runway and wooden huts for arrival and departure lounges. Some passengers however, prefer to wait for their flights while swaying on one of the three hammocks tied beneath the trees. It is in the arrival lounge where the guests on your flight separate: those headed for El Nido Town grab their bags and wait for a tricycle at the nearby terminal to take them to the town proper, while those headed for the El Nido Resorts located inside Bacuit Bay itself rest while their bags are brought to the pump boat for the 40-minute scenic ride that brings them to their island paradise. For the time being, we’ll be following the well-heeled guests headed for the world-class resorts.