… because 10 is too mainstream (Part 1 of 2)

When you live and work for the environment in El Nido, Palawan, it’s impossible not to have awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping and adrenaline-pumping experiences. I’ve travelled all over the world, have seen and done wonderful things, but nothing compares to the raw beauty of El Nido and the amazing adventures I had there. If you haven’t been yet, I hope my unforgettable moments will push you into making that leap of having the most incredible trip of your life.

1. Paddle boarding into the first sunset of the year.

On January 1, 2013, my colleagues and I had the marvellous idea of watching the first sunset of the year “up close.” The two guys I was with chose to kayak, while I decided to paddle board. As the sun melted into the water, we started heading back to our island, which was now about 3km away.

A smiling Kitsie, paddle-boarding into the sunset, not knowing she’s about to have one of the scariest moments of her life.

But after a few minutes of paddling, we realised we weren’t making any progress because the strong current and waves were going against us! Feeling nervous, I decided to tell my friends to go ahead and get help.

Alone in the dark, I paddled harder and faster, trying not to think of the sharks in the water… They were only black-tipped reef sharks after all (see photos in no. 4). As I paddled for what seemed to be an hour (but was more like 20 minutes), I reached our island’s shore with my heart in my throat.

The first sunset of 2013.

When I asked the people on the island why they didn’t come to help me, they simply said, “We knew you’d make it eventually, we just wanted to see you sweat. Did you learn your lesson?” Needless to say, I watched the rest of 2013’s sunsets on land.

2. Swimming Between Islands

My favourite Disney movie growing up was The Little Mermaid and I would always pretend to be Ariel whenever I was at the beach. I loved swimming so much that I became a competitive swimmer.

While I was in El Nido, our guides and I regularly went swimming to the nearby islands, which were about 2-5 kilometres away. Every time, I would challenge myself to swim farther and farther into the open waters.

Popolcan (island in the foreground) was one of my favourite islands to swim to.

Some people asked me if I get scared of what could be lurking underneath. Well, let me tell you now — there’s nothing to be afraid of, as long as you’re an experienced swimmer, you always swim with a buddy, and you have a life can (that red thing Baywatch lifeguards always carry) with you.

3. Barefoot Nature Walks

One of the things I do at work is to take guests for nature walks around the island of our resort. Being the free-spirit, hippie treehugger that I am, I decided to start doing my walks barefoot.

It’s an ethereal feeling, being totally connected with Nature. Some guests thought I was a bit cuckoo, but others were into it too!

I also noticed that we saw more wildlife when we were barefoot than with footwear! It’s probably because we were making less noise, but I’d like to think it’s because in those moments, we were one with Nature… <3

I love climbing trees just as much as hugging them. 😀

4. Snorkelling with sharks

I am not a morning person, but waking up at sunrise to see sharks is worth it! Every so often, I would drag myself out of bed to snorkel at our house reef and look for our resident black-tipped reef sharks, which you are more likely to see in the morning. They’re very elusive, but if you’re patient and lucky, you can see 20 of them at one time.

Most people’s first instinct is to swim away when they see one, but the truth is — sharks don’t give a damn about you. They are gentle and magnificent creatures whose reputation was ruined by a movie. They’re actually more like Katy Perry’s dancing sharks than the one in Steven Spielberg’s, “Jaws!”

A black-tipped reef shark, named for the black color on the tips of their fins.

Sadly, a lot of shark species are now endangered, due to to the ridiculous demand for shark’s fin soup. If you ever see sharks or rays being sold in the markets or restaurants of Palawan, please don’t buy them!!

Black-tipped reef sharks can grow up to 1.6m long and weigh up to 13.6kg.

5. Night Diving with Sea Turtles

You never really know what to expect on night dives, which always makes it exciting! On one of my night dives in El Nido, my buddies and I chose to explore West Entalula. We saw a lot of crustacean species that are more active at night, like lobsters and mantis shrimps.

Our best sighting though was a reptile… A sleeping green sea turtle! I can still remember the excitement I felt when my friend pointed it out to me with her dive light. Actually, we were so happy that we didn’t realise how long we were looking at it with our lights — that we woke it up! It looked at us grumpily, then swam away into the abyss.

So when you see a sleeping turtle, please don’t make our mistake and wake it up. They need their beauty sleep too!

Keep posted next week for part 2!


Would you like to take on an El Nido adventure yourself? Read more about the Best Places in El Nido!

About Author

My name is Emilia - I love versatile trips! You might find me at a trendy new restaurant one night, but the next day you're just as likely to find me at a local market sampling exotic foods. I'm open to just about anything when I travel and I want to encourage you to be open too!