camping trek day 4: lagoons, lagoons, and more lagoons / by mmkeyes

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When you go to bed at 7:30, nature wakes you up at 5. But since nature also shows you beautiful sunrises and MORE MONKEYS, you don't complain. I think I spent a good hour watching monkeys. There were dozens of them. I thought I was in heaven.

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We put out a banana to attract the shy monkeys, and one of them came and snatched it up.

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We also saw two monkeys cuddling in the most adorable way.

As much as I would have loved to spend the whole day monkey-stalking, El Nido's sites were calling our names. This breakfast happened

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and then we went to El Nido where we got to meet Pastor Ilde--the owner of the company that took us on our camping expedition. He was so great! We got to chat with him for quite awhile, and he is the most inspiring person. He lives with and supports 17 other people in a small house. He told us about his struggles to support such a family on the very low wages offered in that area of the Philippines and of his journey to create his tour company. His company has been so successful that his boat has been sabotaged multiple times by a jealous competitor. Since the sabotage always happens at night, they've taken to sleeping on the boat to protect it. Despite someone sabotaging the boat three different times, Pastor Ilde and his son (our captain) Jayson, are forgiving and kind. In fact, one day the saboteur's boat began to sink. Who came to the rescue? Jayson. Because of the kind of service Ilde and his family provide, they've had customers send them large sums of money to thank and to help them. When this happens, Pastor Ilde always gives the money to the church, even when his family is in need of food, because he knows that his family is blessed when he sacrifices for God. It was so inspiring to talk to him! That's part of the reason I love travel so much--it puts me in touch with people I would normally never have the opportunity to get to know.

After our talk with Pastor Ilde, we headed out with Jayson on a tour of some El Nido sites.

First stop: Seven Commandos Beach

I really loved this place. We relaxed in front of these unbeatable views with fresh fruit shakes in hand, and we swam in the lovely water.

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We could've spent hours there without tiring of the place. BUT, we had places to go, things to do.

Second stop: Miniloc Island and Resort

We stopped at a little cove near a resort that people pay nearly $700 a night to stay in. Jayson told us of another resort not far away where the per night cost was $3400. I will never understand some people's decisions. Not that the place wasn't beautiful--it was definitely a lovely stop!

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We ate lunch on a little beach that was surrounded by beautiful limestone cliffs and snorkeled around, as per usual.

Third stop: Hidden Lagoon

We anchored the boat and trekked through some beautiful water to get to the lagoon opening.

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The views were spectacular. The limestone cliffs in El Nido are breathtaking. Add in some palm trees, sand, and clear water, and you've got this:

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The actual Hidden Lagoon is a small, shallow lagoon accessed through a little opening in one of the cliffs. Unfortunately, the water is brown from so many tourists kicking up the sand as they wade into the lagoon. However, the concept of a hidden lagoon is pretty cool, right?

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I preferred the surrounding views to the actual lagoon, though.

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Fourth Stop: Big Lagoon

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This place was rad! We had to walk and swim quite a ways to get to the entrance of the lagoon, but the walk was basically through a canyon. In this picture you can see where the lagoon starts in the background because the water color completely changes.

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We were told not to try to swim around the lagoon because it's much bigger than it looks (and it looks pretty darn big), and we would tire out midway through the swim if we tried. Travis saw a barracuda while swimming around at the lagoon entrance, and we saw some really vivid coral colors as well. I really loved this stop!

Fifth Stop: Small Lagoon

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At this lagoon, we rented kayaks. You can't access the lagoon without a kayak or without swimming the whole way. It was so fun to kayak around the lagoon and then relax while floating around, admiring the emerald water and beautiful cliffs.

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Small Lagoon brought to a close our four days of exploring with Midnight Sun Tours. In El Nido town, we found a hotel (Rosanna's) to stay in where we all were nearly overjoyed to have a real shower and air conditioning at night. Once we felt clean again, we scavenged for food. We actually sought out the same place we had found in Coron (Trattoria Altrove pizzeria) since the owner had told us there was one in El Nido as well. Pizza and pasta sounded so delicious after a rice and fish diet for four days straight.

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After dinner, we walked town a bit, but it was really muggy, and there was a lot of traffic.

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We bought some essentials (bandaids, shakes, and more toothpaste), and then went back to the hotel to rest. Brandon was feeling achy, so he got a massage. Unfortunately, he felt worse after the massage. That probably should've tipped us off that something was wrong, but we figured he'd be alright since we'd been going pretty hard the past few days and would be able to pace ourselves more now.

By this point in the trip, I had some serious Swimmer's Ear problems going on in both ears. I couldn't hear much at all, which was, I'm sure, super frustrating for Brandon. I know it was frustrating for me, and a little scary. We almost went to a clinic to make sure I wasn't going to be permanently deaf, since the problems had been going on for days and had only been getting worse. Thankfully my ears unpopped a couple days later, once we weren't swimming all day every day.

Our time with Midnight Sun was spectacular! I will never forget the experience of exploring and camping on remote, untouched islands with my husband and friends. If anyone happens to visit El Nido in the future, look up Ildefonso's company and give him a hug for me!