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Last updated on January 10, 2021
With its stunning limestone formations rising majestically above the turquoise water, El Nido is one of the most popular destinations in the Philippines. To visit and snorkel the area, you’ll have 4 standardized boat tours (A, B, C and D) to choose from, with different destinations. Tour A, leading to the world-famous Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon, is El Nido’s most popular excursion. The included snorkeling stops, around Shimizu Island and Paglugaban Island, are some of the best of the archipelago.
El Nido is a village in the north of the island of Palawan. This is the starting point for tours to visit the Bacuit archipelago, made up of 45 paradisiacal islands bordered by coral reefs. Tours in the Bacuit archipelago (“island hopping”) are standardized: all local agencies offer tours called Tour A, Tour B, Tour C and Tour D, with the same itinerary.
These day tours combine visits to different sites, as well as one or more snorkeling stops. Tour A costs 1200 pesos pp., + a 200 pesos environmental fee. Boats usually depart from El Nido Beach or Corong Beach. If you want to avoid the crowds in the most visited sites, it is possible to organize a private tour (around 7,500 pesos pp.) with a custom itinerary.
Water entrance is from a beach or directly from your boat, depending on which snorkeling spot you visit.
Tour A mainly takes place around the island of Miniloc. It is the most popular of the four tours offered in El Nido. Its route goes through the Big Lagoon and/or the Small Lagoon, two iconic sites of the archipelago, as well as the Secret Lagoon.
If these “lagoons”, surrounded by jungle and cliffs, are heavenly, they are not really suitable for snorkeling (the Big Lagoon is mainly explored by kayak).
The coral reef that borders Shimizu Island and Paglugaban Island is the main snorkeling stop on Tour A. It is home to a wide variety of corals, such as tabular coral, massive coral, branching coral, and several species of soft coral.
Clams, blue sea stars and nudis (the most common being the three colored phyllidia) are found here and there on the seabed. In the shallow areas, large schools of spinefoot and surgeons can be seen.
Butterflyfish (the Eastern triangular butterflyfish, the eightband butterflyfish) are common on the reef. During your snorkeling, you may also find sea anemones inhabited by pairs of spinecheek anemonefish.
Tour A’s last stop is usually 7 Commando Beach, near the village of El Nido. You can snorkel there from the beach, but the reef is less healthy than around the islands.
Standard itineraries may vary depending on the weather, local authorities’ regulations, and the site’s frequentation. You can get the confirmation of the itinerary when booking.
You’ll find in El Nido village and around Caalan Beach and Corong Beach a wide choice of accommodation and restaurants. On Miniloc Island, it is possible to stay at El Nido Resorts Miniloc Island. Tours A, B, C and D include lunch on the beach.
These spots are accessible to anyone with basic snorkeling skills, and feeling comfortable in the water and with his snorkeling gear. You will enter the water from the shore (beach, pontoon, ladder, rocks) or from a boat. The water height in the sea entrance area is reasonable, but you will not necessarily be within your depth. Moderate currents can occur in the area, even when the sea conditions are good. The distance to swim to reach the most interesting snorkeling areas of the spot does not exceed 200 meters.
This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.
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Snorkeling spots are part of a wild environment and their aspect can be significantly altered by weather, seasons, sea conditions, human impact and climate events (storms, hurricanes, seawater-warming episodes…). The consequences can be an alteration of the seabed (coral bleaching, coral destruction, and invasive seagrass), a poor underwater visibility, or a decrease of the sea life present in the area. Snorkeling Report makes every effort to ensure that all the information displayed on this website is accurate and up-to-date, but no guarantee is given that the underwater visibility and seabed aspect will be exactly as described on this page the day you will snorkel the spot. If you recently snorkeled this area and noticed some changes compared to the information contained on this page, please contact us.
The data contained in this website is for general information purposes only, and is not legal advice. It is intended to provide snorkelers with the information that will enable them to engage in safe and enjoyable snorkeling, and it is not meant as a substitute for swim level, physical condition, experience, or local knowledge. Remember that all marine activities, including snorkeling, are potentially dangerous, and that you enter the water at your own risk. You must take an individual weather, sea conditions and hazards assessment before entering the water. If snorkeling conditions are degraded, postpone your snorkeling or select an alternate site. Know and obey local laws and regulations, including regulated areas, protected species, wildlife interaction and dive flag laws.
Vibrant coral reef with colorful fish
Rocks and corals area with fish and turtles
Free shore access
Vibrant coral reef and seagrass meadows with sea turtles
Coral reef with a nice diversity of corals
House reef with colorful coral and tropical fish
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