When visiting Palawan, there’s a place that almost always comes to one’s mind: the enchanting El Nido. Situated at the northernmost tip of Palawan mainland, the municipality of El Nido showcases the Philippines’ geological and biological richness. To protect its terrestrial and marine environments and promote the sustainable use of resources, the government named a 360-square kilometer area in El Nido as a turtle sanctuary in 1984. The area was expanded in 1991 to include portions of the El Nido mainland and several islands along Bacuit Bay and its surrounding waters, thereafter renaming it as El Nido Marine Reserve Park.
Fast Facts about El Nido
First, a little bit of background about El Nido. This municipality was named “Bacuit” in 1890 during the Spanish colonial period and was only changed to “El Nido” in 1954 by virtue of law. It takes its name from nido, or the edible nest of the bird called swiftlet, used as main ingredient for the popular nido soup. These nests can be found in between the crevices of the limestone cliffs in the area.
Because of its remote location, the potential of El Nido’s environment as a tourist destination only emerged in 1979. It was said that a group of divers had trouble with their boat in the middle of the night and were forced to drop anchor. The next morning, they woke up to the sight of towering cliffs, stunning beach and turquoise waters. Word caught on and years later, a dive station, resorts and other tourism establishments were established in the area.
Points of Interest
The abundant flora and fauna at El Nido Marine Reserve Park are what drives tourists to go visit. Aside from limestone cliffs and white sand beaches, the marine park is home to lush forests, 16 endemic and 10 endangered species of birds such as the Palawan Peacock Pheasant and Palawan Hornbill, terrestrial creatures including the Palawan Tree Shrew and Palawan Stink Badger, and several endangered marine turtles. Once in a while, the native dugong or sea cow shows itself to lucky guests. The waters are teeming with more than 800 species of fish and a hundred species of corals.
In Bacuit Bay, there are around 30 dive sites that underwater enthusiasts can choose from. Sabang Beach, one of the settings for Expedition Robinson, the Swedish version of the reality television show Survivor, is located in Cadlao Island. Matinloc Island is visited for its secret beach, a small strip of white sand beach hidden in the middle of limestone rocks. If you want to be in on the secret, you have to swim through an opening in the limestone wall but during high tide, you have to go underwater to pass through.
The high-end, internationally-acclaimed El Nido Resorts can be found in the islands of Miniloc and Lagen. It has a variety of accommodation types, including cottages standing above water on stilts. It offers guests a wide range of activities including snorkeling, kayaking, diving, hiking and spa treatments.
Because El Nido Marine Reserve Park is a protected area, there are rules that must be observed. Guests are advised not to throw trash, plastics and other pollutants within the islands, beaches and waters. Gathering molluses and fish for sport, commercial, recreational or souvenir purposes is also not allowed. Moreover, tourists are prohibited from disturbing or killing marine turtles and eggs, dugongs, game birds and other protected wildlife in the area.