March 7-9, 2015: A week in El Nido was more than ample time for us. We were ready to get away from it all and see some more of the area beyond the reach of our kayaks and dinghy.
We decided on an anchorage on the east side of Malapacao Island. At a mere six nautical miles from Corong Corong, it would be just a short cruise south through a few of the small islands on the eastern side of Bacuit Bay.
We found out about this anchorage because somebody had uploaded it to the Navionics iPad app. The notes said there were bats at night, so we thought Nukaat might like it. (We’re finding more and more user uploaded information for the Philippines in the Navionics app all the time, although you can’t rely on everything 100 per cent. Where anchorages appear on the chart can be off, probably because the chart is far from accurate in some areas of Northern Palawan. Despite that, it is still a great backup to our main chartplotter and a fantastic route planning tool.)
Not unlike Cadlao and Miniloc islands, the topography in this part of Bacuit Bay was also dramatic. Sheer cliffs rising from the sea. Trees growing out of cracks in the vertical walls. Remnants of bamboo poles in the caves where birds’ nests can be found, scaled by climbers to reach the nests used for making Birds’ Nest Soup. Isolated sandy beached ringed with palm trees, some sporting uber luxurious resorts, some small fishing villages, some deserted.
It really made us want to jump in the water for a swim. Until we spotted all the enormous jellyfish below the surface. They came in a multitude of colours. Pink. Grey. White. Purple. Red. Quite spectacular in the crystal blue water, but probably not something you would want to cuddle up to.
Malapacao turned out to be an absolute gem. Rounding the towering southeastern point, we spotted a long stretch of white sandy beach, palm trees and a small fishing village with a few tiny bancas on shore. There was one small sailboat from Australia already anchored here. We dropped our hook in about 40 feet of water and spent the afternoon killing ants and wishing the easterly wind would die down so we could go for a ride in the dinghy. It didn’t until later, but at least it was a comfortable night.
A few bats did put in an appearance at dusk, but unfortunately not close enough to MOKEN for Nukaat to notice them as he lounged about on the deck or inside on the pilothouse floor.
When morning came and brought more winds with it, we decided to move. We’d read about another anchorage on the southwest side of Lagen Island, the next island over. This was probably our shortest cruising day ever, back through the channel between the two islands, around the western point of Lagen Island where there is another uber luxury resort to a spot in a small cove on the southern shore. Only four nautical miles. We had to watch out for a few shallow reef areas on the way in, which are always easier to spot when the sun is high in the sky and there aren’t any clouds, but aren’t all noted on our charts. This time, we were anchored in about 50 feet of water.
It was much calmer here, but we still received bursts of strong wind coming over the saddle between the higher rock cliffs on either side of MOKEN, described as “bullets” in the Navionics app. Despite that, it was a very comfortable anchorage.
Finally, it was time for some dinghy exploration. We headed over to two small but towering rocky islets about one nautical mile to the east. On Pinasail, we had no trouble finding our goal, Cathedral Cave. All we had to do was follow the island hopping banca boats. While all the tourists peered into the cave from outside — nobody wanted to snorkel with all the jellyfish about and the bancas were too big to fit inside — with our small dinghy, we were able to pass right by the bancas, go in and have a look around. We took a few photos…and were the object of many other peoples’ photos too. Not an uncommon occurrence.
Since the water was calm, we decided to zip back to the end of Lagen Island to see if we could pop in to the luxury resort we had passed on MOKEN and take a peek. But when we got there, the security staff wouldn’t allow us to enter. Apparently, we would have had to arrange it with the manager ahead of time. Oh well, instead we took our dinghy to a small deserted beach back near our anchorage. Here, we had this amazing place to ourselves…except for the birds and one rather large spider who tried to hitch a ride in our dry bag.
The next morning, we headed west to what promised to be our most interesting anchorage in a narrow, but deep channel between Mantiloc and Tapiutan islands, another of the island hopping banca tour highlights. We’ll let you decide for yourself if it lives up to expectations.