Beach Camping in El Nido: Sea Kayaking to Helicopter Island

Kris and Kristen bought a small traditional Filipino boat known as a bangka to take on short trips to the islands surrounding El Nido. Preston and I borrowed their little boat one day to take an overnight trip to Dilumacad Island which is located about 4 or 5 miles from El Nido. We didn’t have a tent or sleeping bags so we just put sarongs on the sand and went to sleep. Unluckily, in the middle of the night, it poured rain on us.

  • Thar Be Storm Clouds 'A Brewin'!

    Thar Be Storm Clouds 'A Brewin'!
    Ominous dark clouds veiled the horizon on the morning Preston and I were set to paddle to 'Helicopter Island'. The real name is Dilumacad Island, but someone decided it looks like a helicopter (or Homer Simpson) so the name stuck. You can see it at the end of the 'Bourne Supremacy' when the guy is escaping Treadstone by attempting to disappear into the sunset with his girl.

  • Breakfast at the Shipwreck Restaurant in El Nido

    Breakfast at the Shipwreck Restaurant in El Nido
    I hear real seafaring folk are a pretty superstitious lot. The same can't be said for my brother and me. On the morning we were to set sail for Dilumacad Island, we decided to eat at the 'Shipwreck Restaurant'.

    Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Long John!

  • Paddling to Paradise in El Nido, Palawan

    Paddling to Paradise in El Nido, Palawan
    As luck would have it, our disregard for seafaring superstition was rewarded with clear skies and not a breath of wind. We landlubbers decided to set out from El Nido and make a break for the island before the rain arrived again.

    We would later discover that the sea has a pretty ironic sense of humor when it comes to trying to predict the weather.

  • Blue skies and Blue water for Sea Kayaking

    Blue skies and Blue water for Sea Kayaking
    With nothing but blue skies and calm seas ahead of us, we were the kings of the world.

  • Landing on the Deserted Island Beach

    Landing on the Deserted Island Beach
    After less than an hour and 4-5 miles of **somewhat** synchonized paddling, we scraped our little 'bangka' outrigger canoe against the coral sand on the deserted beach of Dilumacad Island. Not trying to brag or anything, but this felt like a lot of adventure for a Sunday afternoon.

  • Skipping stones in the surf

    Skipping stones in the surf
    One big problem with a deserted island is that there's not much to do. Preston gamely tried to ward off any boredom by lobbing chunks of coral out into the deep blue water of the dropoff. Nice toss, brah!

  • The Schultz Brothers

    The Schultz Brothers
    Gratuitous bro photo.

  • Pizza on the Palawan Beach

    Pizza on the Palawan Beach
    For anyone who might be fooled by our toughness in the previous photo, in the interest of full disclosure we must admit that someone (likely Preston) smuggled a Squido's pizza somewhere down in the bilge water of the little boat.

    No teeth cracking hard tack or worm infested salt pork for us!

  • Squido's Pizza Commercial

    Squido's Pizza Commercial
    Yes Squido's Pizza, you can hire us to design your next ad campaign.

  • The Taste of Success

    The Taste of Success
    Robinson Cruesoe didn't have it this good--how about that for a new tagline, 'Squido's'?

    Ok, enough shilling for Squido's. One thing that you must know about Squido's Pizza before you use it to stock your next open sea adventure is that the 'cheese' wasn't actually mozzarella 🙁

    Known in the Philippines as 'Eden' cheese, it's a pretty sticky, gummy, and generally crappy alternative to real cheese. But hey, we were on a deserted beach and sticky Squido's was better than eating benthic worms.

  • Relaxing on the Palawan Beach

    Relaxing on the Palawan Beach
    Right on cue, the sun started to drop behind the South China Sea horizon shortly after we scarfed down the last soggy bits of Squido's. Life was good.

  • El Nido Archipelago Sunset

    El Nido Archipelago Sunset
    It's pretty easy to see why so many TV shows and movies are filmed / set around the Bacuit archipelago.

  • That's Not a Campfire

    That's Not a Campfire
    With the sun setting quickly and darkness closing in, Preston decided we needed some light. Observant readers might be thinking 'hey, that's not really a campfire, it's just a pathetic little candle'.

    And you would be absolutely right.

  • Burning the Candle at Both Ends

    Burning the Candle at Both Ends
    Remeber the saying about burning the candle at both ends? Preston decides to see what happens when you burn two candles on one end. Yeah, the effect is not the same.

  • Beach Night in Palawan

    Beach Night in Palawan
    After the sun set, the moon rose over the sea and lit everything with a ghostly light. I shot this photo with a very long exposure to capture what it was like there.

  • Beach Campfire in Palawan

    Beach Campfire in Palawan
    The candles were a pretty lame substitute for a proper campfire so we found a few sticks and build a cheerful little fire in the shadows of this creepy tree.

    Please note the gathering clouds in the background. Our as-yet uneventful beach camping trip was about to change drastically.

  • El Nido Island Beach Sunrise

    El Nido Island Beach Sunrise
    In the hours between this photo of the island sunrise and the previous photo of the campfire, the sky opened up with a downpour.

    'Cats and dogs' doesn't really do it justice, it was more like 'horses and elephants. The torrent arrived sometime in the cold hours of the night when we least expected it. I remember waking up shivering and already soaked completely through with no tent or shelter to speak of.

    Luckily Preston had accepted Kris's generous offer to bring his oversized poncho. Since we only had one, we somehow managed to create a makeshift lean-to using the 'bangka' sea kayak hull and its paddles. The two of us barely fit under it, but we were able to avoid the heaviest part of the rain and even get back to sleep for a few hours.

  • Sea Kayak Lean-To on the Beach

    Sea Kayak Lean-To on the Beach
    Behold the aftermath!

    We were totally soaked, and luckily I brought my dry bag for the cameras or they would have been ruined. This photo was taken at daybreak when the rain finally stopped and we could get out from under the cramped confines of our makeshift shelter. My bed consisted of a wet beach towel and a Crozet Pizza t-shirt for a pillow.

  • Beach Sunrise on Dilumacad Island

    Beach Sunrise on Dilumacad Island
    We didn't even bring sleeping bags so here you can see Preston trying to keep warm with two sodden sarongs.You can also see how much room we had to work with in our poncho lean-to. Somehow we both managed to fit under there.

  • Sleeping like a Rock on the Beach

    Sleeping like a Rock on the Beach
    I don't think anyone has ever accused Preston of being an insomniac.

  • Castaway on the Beach

    Castaway on the Beach
    What has two thumbs and hasn't showered or shaved in days? This guy!

  • Palawan Beach Camping

    Palawan Beach Camping
    Here's the setting for our camping trip. Not too shabby, eh?

  • Return to El Nido

    Return to El Nido
    I know everyone says pizza is good for breakfast, but pizza that's been soaked in salt water in the hull of a boat and topped up with three inches of rainstorm ain't really all that good.

    After cleaning up our makeshift camp on Dilumacad Island, Preston and I paddled back to El Nido for some real eats (possibly an encore at Squido's).

    This photo was mostly taken for the benefit of our mom, but I figured I'd include it in the gallery (hi mom!).

  • El Nido beach night in Palawan

    El Nido beach night in Palawan
    Before Trip Advisor and iPhones, people used to carry this instantly out-of-date and biased book called a 'Lonely Planet'. In this photo, Preston reads ahead to see what the next adventure on our trip will be.

    And for anyone who's wondering, yes that really is another one of those pathetic candles like the one we had on the island.