The Boats of El Nido

El Nido is the land of outrigger boats. How else are you supposed to get around the different islands? Owning your own outrigger boat is a sign of prosperity, as they aren’t exactly cheap. Mr. Ellis Lim, the richest man in town, made his fortune in boat rentals. After all, as long as you take care of the engine and the boat doesn’t capsize, an outrigger boat can last for more than 20 years. I’ve also found boats to be the ultimate topic of conversation. At a loss of what to say? Ask a proud boat owner about their “baby” and they’ll happily spend 20 minutes talking about their baby’s recent paint job, oil change, engine overhaul, and the myriad other details that go into outrigger boat maintenance.


Since moving to paradise over a year ago, I’ve been indoctrinated in the way of the outrigger boat. What kind of wood to use. What the shape of the bow should be to avoid splashing the passengers. How long the outriggers should be. What to look for in an operator. Combining all of these factors produces an outrigger boat with its own distinct character and charm. Here’s a rundown of some of the boats you’re bound to encounter while going around Bacuit Bay.

See those outrigger boats with the distinct white-and-blue paint job and cursive text for boat’s name? All of those belong to Ellis Lim. Yes, all of them. From small boats like “Gannet”, the medium ones like “Ouzel”, large boats like “Cherimakar”, to the huge monsters like “Booby”, they all belong to the richest man in El Nido. All of his boats share the same rounded bow, invariably getting the passengers wet. They’re also pretty slow because of the bottom-heavy design. The most unique thing about this batch of boats is that almost all of them are named after birds. “Dunlin”, “Kestrel”, “Hornbil” [a typo!], “Fody”… the list goes on.

The one running like the hounds of Hades are after it is the “Wave Hannah”. It’s registered name is actually “Wave and Hannah” but the “and” painted on the side is so small that you have to squint to see it. It’s named after the childen of the owners, Wilven and Lorelyn. After years of living on only one paycheck to be able to save the other one, their efforts finally paid off when they bought a sizeable boat. The “Wave” is fast, light, and operated by a steady hand. It can make the trip from El Nido Airport to Lagen in 30 minutes, 20 if Wilven is at the wheel and in a foul mood. My only comment would be the lack of leg room, as they cut the space in the middle so that you can walk behind the seats.

Compared to the other outrigger boats in El Nido, “Francel” feels like a luxury liner. It’s big but fast, with lots of room for you to stretch your legs. There’s even a closed door bathroom in the back where you can do your business while in transit. It also sits pretty high on the water, making you unsplashable to all but the biggest waves. The name comes from the names of the two owners, Francis and Elma.

Let me say one thing: the “MM2” is an excellent boat to have breakfast in. With a largish space at the front and lots of leg room, there’s enough space to install a buffet table and assorted breakfast paraphernalia. Heaven must be munching on a warm croissant with Brie cheese while cruising in calm waters. “MM2” is named after the owners’ daughter, MM. In case you were wondering, yes, there was an original “MM” but she was sold and renamed “Rolly” after the new owner.

It was in paradise that I learned to treat owned transportation as members of the family and not simply a means to get from one place to another. The tender loving care that goes (or doesn’t go) into the maintenance of outrigger boats, especially the old ones, is fairly obvious. Mr. Lim is getting on in age and none of his children are interested in going into the boat business so it’s no wonder that they’re slowly falling apart. That’s a pity though, as if you listen hard enough, each of these boats has an interesting story to tell.

Banca Boy

2 Replies to “The Boats of El Nido”

  1. Your pictures are so beautiful. I envy you your paradise. For the moment I’m stuck here in sunny Phoenix, AZ. No complaints, though. Have house and home and family, and can jet over to CA if I need the ocean!
    Please keep on keeping on the blog, I’ve added you to my blogroll so that I can keep seeing your wonderful pictures!

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