El Nido Snake Island and Sandbar
Snake Island is a small, uninhabited island tucked away deep in Bacuit Bay, but remains a popular destination as part of El Nido’s Island Hopping Tour B.
With a popular natural feature that comes and goes with the tides, its locale lends itself to be in mostly still waters. At times, the sandbar connects Snake Island to the mainland.
No snakes, But Other Sneaky Residents do Exist
As mentioned earlier, the island itself is uninhabited… by humans. There is indeed a small group of permanent residents of Snake Island, a group of Macaques. By now, these beautiful, wild creatures are so used to being around humans, that they are not only very comfortable, but rather aggressive at times, because they have learned to associate humans with food. That is the humans fault, not the animals.
The local tour operators are well aware of this potentially aggressive behavior, and along with the island’s caretakers, they help protect the macaques and the tourists alike, from each other.
Because the narrow beachfront of El Nido’s Snake Island is a popular spot for tour groups to have lunch, these guardians are always on high alert when people are around, because it means that food is most likely being served.
Are the macaques that live here dangerous? No, not necessarily; but they can become very aggressive when they sense that a food supply is available on their home turf. Imagine if someone set up a delicious picnic lunch in the front of your house, most people would feel like they were entitled to a small snack, at the very least. Macaques are no different, in fact, they are also very territorial by nature. This means that they feel that they have the right to the food brought onto Snake Island.
Need some advice on which El Nido Tour to take? Check out this article.
Life Above and Underwater
Below the water is always quite a different story. Because of the island’s location towards the back of Bacuit Bay, the flow of water is not very strong here. Also, there is much less open water or pockets of deep water, in comparison to one of El Nido’s outer islands such as Miniloc. This means that your chances of sea turtle encounters are extremely low, as are your chances of seeing any significant coral growth. The seafloor is also a bit muddier here, and a dark sea grass has taken root in the shallows surrounding the island. This can be seen much easier from the air, than at ground level. Visitors that walk the sandbar will notice that it is nearly enclosed by this dark seagrass, and tour guides discourage people from snorkeling or even walking through it, as this disturbs that fragile ecosystem. More on that in the paragraph below.
The Most Famous Sandbar in Bacuit Bay
Sandbars (also known as sandbanks to Europeans) are actually quite rare in Bacuit Bay. The geology and ocean currents of the area prevent the naturally occurring beaches from being common in El Nido, but Snake Island is the exception. The area’s most famous sandbar is long, thin and windy… like a … snake! This serpentine shape is the namesake for this island. It is common for many tourists to assume that the name meant that the island is populated with lots of snakes, which is of course, incorrect. There are no known serpents on snake island.
Unlike the majority of the famous sandbars in the Philippines, the one attached to Snake Island is actually connected to the mainland at times. The tides, and currents (albeit weak) are constantly changing the shape, and length of most sandbars and the one on Snake Island is no different.
Visitors to this location are encouraged to walk along the sandbar, or wade across it during high tide. The surrounding waters are not deep, nor do they have a strong undertow that pulls or pushes people in the water. A walk along the Snake Island sandbar is a low difficulty, relaxing stroll.
At high tide, the water is a meter or more above the sand of Snake Island’s sandbar, but it is still a very safe and easy walk. This is because the crystal clear water allows trekkers to confidently see exactly what they are stepping on. Some of the more environmentally savvy tour guides will recommend that visitors stay centered on the sunken sandbar to avoid disturbing any of the tiny marine creatures that call this place their home. A short stroll along the soft submerged sand will reveal many little bubbling holes that are the homes of crabs, snails and fish...nothing too scary or dangerous, just try and be considerate of the ecosystem that you are visiting, and also try to be very careful not to disturb it.
Along with walking along the sandbar, the next most popular activity on El Nido’s Snake Island is the short climb to the observation deck. This simple hike and wooden staircase brings visitors up to the islands best view. While short in comparison to most observation decks, it will take you to the highest point on this small island.
What Should You Bring Along
The beach is nice, but you won’t be doing much swimming here. Its rocky and full of broken coral, the surrounding waters are still and not as aesthetically pleasing as the coral reefs surrounding nearby islands.
Tour A is very low impact in general, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get caught unprepared. Make sure to have the island hopping essentials such as sunblock and insect repellant. A good pair of hiking shoes or better yet, water shoes would come in very handy.
In summary, Snake Island is quite a popular destination on El Nido Island Hopping Tours, and is most often included on Tour B. This is a tour that is far less physically demanding and therefore a much more enjoyable day for those that do not wish to spend most of their tour in the water. Snake island is indicative of this mindset and visitors here will enjoy plenty of land based activities. It is a great place to hike, eat, sit on the beach, fly a drone, or wade in the water. Enjoy your visit to Snake Island and the rest of El Nido.