If you had limited time and only had the opportunity to do one activity at one destination in El Nido, it has to be kayaking the big and small lagoons.
While named separately, they are only separated by a single, towering wall of rock that extends well below the surface, into the deep blue. Their entrances are in different locations, which helps avoid overcrowding.
On the early June day that I arrived at the lagoons, there was a significant swell to the sea and a strong current as well. The water where we anchored was approximately 8-10 meters deep, that’s 24-30 feet of choppy ocean; but it was the closest we could get in the crowded natural harbor.
I rented a solo kayak and did this alone, as I am a confident and strong paddler with much experience on a small craft. My life vest (tightly fastened) was my back up plan.
The overcast day eventually cleared up and the deep emerald waters began to turn their tint towards blue, as it welcomed in the strong sunlight.
There were many people around, but it never felt crowded
Nearly two-dozen boats of tourists occupy this area at any given time. They are well organized and move efficiently, while letting their passengers off in safe areas and guiding them to the lagoon.
Many tour guides stayed on the boats and began cooking lunch, while the tourists that opted out of the kayaking enjoyed snacks and drinks from floating vendors. The elderly men offered a wide range of options from their tiny canoes, while navigating the harbor as small dark plumes of smoke emanated from the boats’ makeshift kitchens.
Despite their names, both lagoons are rather large, with many hidden corners to explore
Tiny jellyfish drifted in the still, deep water. The most impressive feature of the lagoons is at the point where the rocks meet the water directly. The vertical cliffs continue to plunge straight down below the surface, beyond the reach of sunlight.
In the shallows, sea urchin gather in droves to hunt for food. Paddlers must be conscious of every stroke of their paddles in these areas, as the environment is delicate and there are no barriers to protect it from visitors here. There are no barriers anywhere in El Nido, which is what makes this Eco-Tourism destination one of the best you can visit in the Philippines.