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Nov 4, 2012

Apulit Island, El Nido Resorts Travel Guide: The Lost Eden


East Water Cottages
Apulit Island Resort is part of the El Nido Resorts (Miniloc, Lagen, and Pangulasian) although this dragon shaped island is located in Taytay, Northern Palawan and not exactly in El Nido.

Formerly Club Noah, Apulit Island Resort was acquired by the El Nido & Ayala Group and formally opened again last December 2010. They changed the name from Club Noah to "Apulit" to use the actual name of the island, which means "napadpad" in Tagalog.

If you are up for a total relaxation, isolation and communion with nature, then heading to Apulit Island Resort is probably your best choice. Price may be a bit steep but after your trip, you can say that all's worth it and you really get what you paid for.

Below is a 3 days and 2 nights travel itinerary to Apulit Island Resort in Taytay, Palawan.

Photos courtesy of  Liz Reyes



Getting There:
Puerto Princesa Airport

There are actually two ways to reach Apulit Island which is beautifully and strategically secluded in Taytay Bay. Via the ITI plane which is very expensive or go for a long road trip via Puerto Princesa.

Via Puerto Princesa: Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, Air Philippines, Zest Air and Air Asia have daily flights to Puerto Princesa. Be sure though to take the earliest flight so you can catch the 9:00AM van going to Taytay. The free boat service in Taytay Port to Apulit leaves at exactly 3:00PM but be sure to be at the port an hour before lest you want to pay for a Php5,000 special trip if ever you get left behind.

Below is the list of vans that can transport you from Puerto Princesa to Taytay. Note that all of them are headed to El Nido and will just pass by Taytay van terminal.


* Lexus Van - 0912-1002651 (Puerto Princesa terminal)
 - 0917-8599602
-  0917-5859619 (Taytay terminal)

***I highly recommend Lexus Van because even though they only have plenty of passengers, when they say they leave at 9:00AM they will leave at 9:00AM with an allowance of only 15 minutes in case they are still waiting for someone.***

* Eulen Joy - 0949-4498858
 - 0927-5209197
Email -eulenjoyexpress@yahoo.com
Website: http://eulenjoyexpress.com

* Fort Wally - (048) 434-2004
             - 0917-2762875
             - 0921-3118755
             - 0920-9815702

There are already lots of tricycles waiting outside Puerto Princesa Airport so going to San Jose Terminal, where all the vans are located, is a breeze. Fare from the airport to the terminal is Php120.00 and will take you 15-20 minutes at most depending on the traffic.
Lexus Van Terminal in San Jose, Puerto Princesa

Travel time from Puerto Princesa up to Taytay is approximately 4 hours with two brief stop overs. If you will leave Puerto Princesa at exactly 9:00AM, then it is expected for you to arrive in Taytay terminal by 1:00PM. Too early for your 3:00PM trip to Apulit, but again, it's better to be early than to cram. Take a tricycle from the terminal to Taytay Port which costs Php60.00. At the port, there's a nice restaurant there with lots of nipa huts where you can order some snacks or even take a nap while waiting for the service boat.

Boat travel from Taytay Port to Apulit Island usually takes 1-1.5 hour at most depending on the water current. Once all your luggage are securely sealed in their water protector bag, you will be offered cold towels, coconut cookies and hot salabat (ginger tea) by your tour guide.

Via ITI: The Island Transvoyager, Inc. or ITI is a 19-seater Dornier with a flight time of approximately 75 minutes from Manila to Cesar Lim Rodriguez Airport (CLRA), Taytay, Palawan.
Photo taken from El Nido Resorts Website

ITI’s private terminal and passengers’ lounge is located at A. Soriano Aviation Inc. (ASAI) Hangar along Andrews Avenue, Pasay City (not at the Manila Domestic Airport).

Upon arrival at the Taytay airport, guests will be taken to a 10-minute jeepney ride to Tamisan Jetty (port) then a boat transfer of approximately one hour to Apulit Island. Flight reservations via ITI can be done by contacting holiday@elnidoresorts.com. Guests are only allowed 10kg of luggage including hand carry items. Excess baggage will be charged Php100 per kilogram.

Roundtrip transfer via ITI costs a total of 11,144.00. Same with Batanes' airfare already.

Things You Need to Know

Water Cottage Room
Accommodation: Apulit Island resort has 50 cottages that are built on stilts above the sea with surrounding islands, and majestic limestone cliffs. There are 30 Water Cottages, each has its own private veranda overlooking the bay and can accommodate a maximum of two persons. On the other hand, each of the 20 Deluxe Water Cottages has a loft and staircase in its private veranda that leads you directly into the water in case you feel like swimming anytime of the day. The Deluxe Water Cottage is ideal for families because aside from the bed on the second floor, a double bed may also be set-up in the ground floor.

El Nido Resorts gives complimentary Buri Bag, Eco Nido Bag, polyethylene bag for trash (they encourage guests to pick up trash around the resort to help them maintain the cleanliness of the place), native slippers (you can't take home this one ^_^) and the Eco Diversity check list where there are list of animals and underwater creatures that you need to spot while you are on the island. Once you have spotted the animals on the check list, be sure to take note of the date and place where you saw it. This is actually a fun way to be more observant of the fishes, birds and other animals living in the island.


Meal: The Apulit Island El Nido package is already inclusive of full board meals so no need to worry. You only have to pay for incidentals in case you get something from your room's refrigerator or order something from the restaurant or bar.

Breakfast
The buffet meal, I must say is just so-so. Nothing really special, though I must say that I love their raisin and cinnamon bread. I love the food in Dos Palmas, Palawan more. Lots of choices. I am not sure if choices of food has something to do with the few number of guests that time or it’s really like that. I know someone who also went to Apulit Island and she said food was great so I am not really sure if it's just me.

Tour: Activities like caving, trekking, kayaking, Hobie Cat sailing and island hopping is already included in the package. Every guest is assigned with his/her very own Activity Coordinator who will fix the preferred activities every day. Activity Coordinator will assign tour guides for every activity, but in our case, we only have one tour guide during the duration of our stay, he’s Kuya Eddie.

Tip is not compulsory but we gave our guide (Kuya Eddie) and activity coordinator (Angel) a tip because of a job well done.

Perfect spot for breakfast


Important Things You Need

* Sun block.  Aside from island hopping you need more sun protector when you go kayaking and Hobie Cat sailing.

* Camera and underwater camera. (your guide will take you to the best coral reefs near Apulit Island so having an underwater camera is a no brainer. You can also take it with you during kayaking and hobbie cat sailing. Bringing your precious DSLR during these activities is actually risky so better shun away the thought of shooting using your DSLR while kayaking and sailing.)

* Shades. (protect your eyes)

* Insect repellent lotion (there are many trees and plants in Apulit Island, which we all know is a favorite spot among mosquitoes. You will also need this during the trek)

* Snorkeling gear. (free use of snorkeling gear but much better if you bring your own if you happen to have one.)

* Good book. Just in case you want to lounge in the pool side or in the comfort of your room's veranda.


Budget

Good for 2 persons (3D and 2N stay via Puerto Princesa)



- Airfare: Php 1, 730.00 (roundtrip airline promo fare) Approximately Php5, 000 (roundtrip without promo)

- Trike and van transfers: Php 2,000 (back and forth)

- Accommodation and food: Php30, 000 (Water cottage, good for 2 nights and based on lean season from June 1-Sept 30)

- Pasalubong: (there are few souvenir items at Apulit Island so you can just buy pasalubongs in Puerto Princesa)

- Miscellaneous:  Php 4,000 (for tips and conservation fee. This price also covers your accommodation and meals if you plan to stay overnight in Puerto Princesa or even hire a tricycle to take you to Baker's Hill and Tiangge for pasalubong)

You need to have:  Php40, 000 for 2 persons is a very safe budget. This is also considering you were able to score an airline promo fare to Puerto Princesa. This price already covers terminal fees and taxi fares to and from the airport. If you are planning to take the ITI, then obviously, you need to add at least Php20, 000 to this budget.


Daily Itinerary

FIRST DAY: Catch the earliest flight to Puerto Princesa to make sure you catch the 9:00AM van to Taytay. Pray that flight won't get delayed because any delay will drastically change your schedule and break your budget. In our case, everything seems to be an amazing race and we were always in contact with Lexus Van Puerto Princesa terminal to inform them where we are already so they don't leave without us.

Take off time in Taytay port is 3:00PM so estimated time of arrival in Apulit Island is between 4:00-4:30PM. Few meters from the island, you will be transferred to a speed boat to take you to the resort’s main jump off point. You will be greeted by a welcome song and dance by the staff with welcome drinks and snacks to boot. After settling down in their lounge, you will be greeted by your Activity Coordinator to give more information about the island and activities available for you to enjoy. Your Activity Coordinator will recommend activities for the day and will call your room from time to time update you on your schedule.
Water Cottage veranda

First days in Apulit Island are usually meant for just settling down, lounging in your room's veranda or for a night swimming. The long road trip can be pretty tiring so enjoying your room and the sunset view is the best way to spend your first few hours in paradise.

If your cottage is situated on the east side of the resort, taking a long night exposure shot is perfect. The majestic limestone behind your water cottage is truly an amazing sight to behold. Enjoy your dinner, lounge in the pool for a while and call it a night. Place is usually quiet as early as 8PM or 9PM. You may even schedule a massage in their very cozy massage area.




Massage area

Infinity pool at night


Big Limestone
SECOND DAY: 1st stop:  Trekking. After taking your heavy buffet breakfast, rev for a long hike. You would be surprise that there are lots of activities to do in the island alone. Little did everyone know, aside from water activities, the huge limestone houses lots of plants and animals like the Palawan Squirrel and Tabon Bird.

If you have hiking shoes or sturdy sandals like Sandugo, then climbing the steep limestone is a little bit easy. The rocks are spiky and you really have to hold on to them so as not to fall. However, if you only have flip flops, then that would do, just be careful where you'll step. I was wearing my havs when I hiked and it's still okay until now.
Trekking with our guide, Kuya Eddie

There's really nothing much to see up there but the challenging trail makes the hike worthwhile and perfect way to burn some calories in the morning. If you are in luck, you might see Tabon Birds, Palawan Squirrel, Palawan Mouse Deer and Monitor Lizard, you just need a quick eye though. From the top, you will also get to see the water cottages below, nice site for taking photographs although trees may block the view at times. Aside from animals, you will also get to encounter interesting plants and orchids. Ask your friendly tour guide about the names of each plant and he'll gladly identify them for you.

You can opt to go down the west beach where you can take a swim or just near the Deluxe Water cottages where you can walk to the waiting area or jump off point for your next activity, which is the island hopping.

Interior of the Deluxe Water Cottage (1st floor)




Deluxe Water Cottage's veranda

 


Lopez Reef. Can you see the small white sand bar?
2nd stop: Island hopping.  You have the option to choose what islands to visit although this also depends on the water current. Your tour coordinator would know what's best. Apulit management has a long list of islands for their guests but most popular are Lopez Reef, Isla Blanca and Nabat Island. By the way, aside from a tour guide, every touring boat has its own security so don't be surprised when you see security people with a firearm hidden in a bag. That's how El Nido Resorts value the security of their guests.

Lopez Reef is a place great for diving (you can do diving but with an extra charge) and snorkeling. Your boat will just dock in the middle of the sea where you will get off and swim your way to the rich marine life. Few meters away is a small white sand bar. There's a small water current in that area so even though I have this strong urge to go there, I shun away that idea. Better be safe. Although taking a picture on that very small sand bar must be really cool. Lopez Reef, as the name implies, is surrounded by large coral reefs.

Isla Blanca
Isla Blanca, on the other hand, is a stretch of 50 meters white sand dotted by coconut trees. This is where a kunch picnic under coconut trees are usually set up by your tour guide. (There are some island dogs in Isla Blanca and they are so thin and look famished so please spare them some food from your lunch. They are good and behaved dogs ^_^)

While eating lunch Kuya Eddie, our tour guide, seized that moment to make a hat made out of coconut leaves which he later gave us as a gift.


My hat woven out of coconut leaves

Isla Blanca has an amazing coral reefs and abundant fishes. We're not really great swimmers but Kuya Eddie brought with him a lifesaver where we can hold on to while we snorkel so we can check out the majestic underwater life of Isla Blanca. Saw bloat fishes, Christmas tree worms, parrot fish and lots of underwater life. He took time pointing interesting creatures to us and occasionally tells us the name and some trivia about those creatures. One thing more, I saw again a territorial fish and Kuya Eddie pointed it to us when I told him I was bitten by one in Coron.

At Isla Blanca

After island hopping your boat will take you back to Apulit Island where you can first lounge at the pool while enjoying the view and waiting for the sunset. A large cross sitting on top of the limestone is hard not to miss. Management said that guests can climb on top off it then rappel down, but the Resorts Manager was not there during the time of our visit so climbing and rappelling the huge limestone was prohibited.

Waiting for the sunset in our room's veranda


Black Tip Reef Shark below our Water Cottage
 THIRD DAY: Wake up really early on your last day to wait for the sunrise. Every morning you will notice a school of dilis just below the water cottage, be very observant since just few minutes after it, black tip reef sharks will start appearing from anywhere. These tamed sharks hunt dilis for food every morning.

As early as 6:30 AM your guide will meet you at the jump off point for caving. Surprisingly, aside from its lush virgin forest, Apulit Island is also surrounded by caves.
Bat Cave

1st Activity: Caving. First cave stop is the Bat Cave where thousands of bats thrive. We did not enter the cave since Kuya Eddie told us that we can't see anything inside that morning since bats are still sound asleep.  Few steps away is a small cave called the Secret Cave. It's a small opening few meters from the water. When you follow the track inside, it will then lead you to the bigger cave which is the Bat Cave. Yes, the Secret and Bat caves are connected. While in your speed boat, you may also enjoy watching Black Nip birds gliding in the water hunting for food. If you’re also in luck, you’ll see on top of some small limestone rocks their chicks.

Black Nip birds. Can you see their chicks?

Saint Joseph's Cave

Next cave stop is the St. Joseph's Cave. It's named as such because near the entrance of the cave is a naturally sculpted limestone which really looks like a giant statue of a saint. Saint Joseph's Cave is really big in the inside, in fact, it was also my first time to enter a dark cave with a spelunking headlight so I was very thrilled. To be able to explore the inside of the cave, one needs to climb a narrow bamboo stair leading to the seven chambers. There are many interesting formation of stalactites and stalagmites inside St. Joseph's Cave that are really worth exploring.

Going inside St. Joseph's Cave




Inside St. Joseph's Cave


North Cave
Another small cave that we did not explore is the Lobster Cave where lobster is abundant, Kuya Eddie said that lobsters there usually come out at night so we did not bother going inside anymore.

Last cave stop is the North Cave. North Cave has a sort of small pool inside where one can actually swim. The water is very clear and inviting. This cave is also perfect for marriage proposals since Apulit management can actually prepare a private, romantic dinner for two. Imagine having a candle light dinner inside a cave surrounded by water, you will feel you’re a star in the movie Castaway.

Hobie Cat
2nd Activity: Hobie Cat Sailing. After caving and taking your breakfast, put on lots of sun block and pray for some wind so you can enjoy Hobie Cat sailing to the fullest. Wind is what makes the Hobie Cat move that it can sail faster than a speed boat depending on the wind. Before sailing, your tour guide will teach you the basics in Hobie Cat sailing especially switching places with your partner and when to bend over for safety purposes. It's tempting to bring your DSLR during the sail but you'll never know what will happen so just bring underwater camera instead.


Hobie Cat sailing at Apulit Island

3rd activity: Kayaking. Since there are only few number of guests in Apulit, doing water sports is not limited so you can take all your time to master the art of kayaking. It was my first time to kayak but it did not scare me at all since I feel very safe at Apulit.

Preparing to kayak

4th activity: Swim at the pool. Seize your last few hours in Apulit by basking under the sun and swimming in their infinity pool. Order a fresh buko juice in a shell, admire the beautiful view and wait for lunch. Make sure all your stuff is ready for pick up already. If you still have time, you can ask your friendly guide to teach you how to wind surf.

Swimming at the beach

Relaxing view from the pool

Buko Juice by the pool

Like their welcome song, Apulit staff also sends off their guests with a song. Truly, Apulit is a secret paradise waiting to be explored and enjoyed, however, aside from its natural beauty, the staff is definitely one of its best assets that guests would always come back for.



***Shout out to our new found friends, whom we met while we were in Apulit. Hello Hallie and Lisa ^_^ ***



***Thanks to TravelBook.ph for this once in a lifetime experience. We owe you lots!!!***


7 comments:

sikat101 said...

I am one of those who enjoyed the buffet. There were many guests (100+) when we went. Could that be the reason that I enjoyed the food? Hmmm.

I wanna go back to this place. :D

Toni said...

hehehe...could be. 100+, that's many, huh. We were only 16 guests, I believe, when we went there. Anyway, I'm not really a foodie so food there isn't a big factor to me at all. hehehe. I am more interested ontheir service,amenities and activities. Wanna go back there too. =)

JASON Bond said...

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Mark Lloyd said...

Great information, looking forward to visiting in 2013

Toni said...

You should...it's so beautiful there...would love to go back if money permits. Hehehe. =)

chyngreyes.com said...

lovely! gusto ko din makarating jan sa el nido resorts =)

Toni said...

Hello Chyng,

Thought you've been there already. Anyway, I know afford mo yan. hehehe.