El Nido, Palawan is known to be the haven of best beaches in the Philippines. Its spectacular islands and islets drew crowds of tourists from all over the world. The town is around 230 KM from the capital city of Palawan. Tourists usually travel from Puerto Princesa by land for almost 6 hours.
Aside from its crystal clear waters, white sand beaches, marine sanctuaries and diving spots, El Nido is popular to have these marvelous Limestone rock formations. One of the famous rock formations is the Taraw Cliff. Thousands of tourists already have had their photo taken on top of it and even the National Geographic Channel had been there as well. The summit is picture perfect and as a visitor, I will never miss the opportunity to trek this formidable structure.
On the evening of our arrival, we tried to look for a tour agency that offers trekking at Taraw early in the morning the next day. These tour agencies are ubiquitous, and tourists would not find it hard to look for them since they can be found in every corner, offering different island activities such as island-hopping, taraw cliff hike, scuba diving, etc. We found ourselves skeptical upon learning that the guide fee for Taraw trek is ₱500 per person. And since there are four of us, it is too pricey for us backpackers to pay ₱2000 for an hour trek. But we were also determined not to miss our chance for this wonderful experience. We checked every tour agency that was still open to find a reasonable deal.
After a tiring search, we finally closed a deal with Ian, our tour guide, for ₱1400 in lieu of ₱2000 good for four. Later we found out that he also has ilonggo decent like Teddy, and that he works in a restaurant and accepts tour guiding as his second job but not on a regular basis. We were really lucky that he accepted the deal before I lost all hope in trekking Taraw, since the LGU does not allow anyone to trek the cliff unless accompanied by a local guide.
We started our trek at 5AM the next day wearing our sandals, shorts, and shirt, even if Ian reminded us to wear proper hiking attire the night before. According to him, the rocks are sharp and pointed and easily cuts through unprotected skin, and shoes and gloves are preferred. Unfortunately, we did not anticipate from the start of the trip that the trek would require such attire, given that it is just a very minor climb, and all we had at that moment are our beach wear. But we convinced him that hiking is not new to us with assurance that we can finish the trek even with only our current attire.
At the base of the cliff, there is a ladder constructed intended for the climbers. We were all excited and were already hopping from one stone to another before even realizing it. The trail was still dark at that time, but as we went further, dawn came and I can see that the trail was covered by trees, their roots winding and clinging onto the rocks. I can smell the freshness of their leaves blending with the scent of the ocean, which invigorates me.
A few several meters into the trail, Mico experienced difficulty in breathing. Perhaps it was because of fatigue from the travel the previous day coupled with lack of sleep. Mico and Charlie decided to go down first as we don’t want to risk Mico’s safety if he continues. Our guide accompanied them up to the jump off while the two of us waited on him at the trail, since having a guide is necessary. The trail is relatively ascending and there are big boulders on the way, and you need to climb these to pass through. Our guide returned after a few minutes and we started to ascend as fast as possible since we plan to catch the approaching sunrise. There were mosquitoes and insects on the trail. For precautionary measures, it is advisable to bring mosquito repellant because of the high cases of malaria in Palawan. Luckily, we did not catch any infection during our entire stay in Palawan.
A few several meters more into the trail, there is a vertical stone wall that one needs to overcome before reaching the summit. The rock wall stands at around 10 meters tall and will surely test your strength and resolve. And since we were used in outdoor activities such as mountain climbing, swimming and fun run, this challenge will be a lot easier for us. One may have to climb this wall with your bare hands and without any other gears/equipment, but worry not since the wall has natural hand holds that you can grip on to while climbing. Caution should be exercised always especially on the sharp edges, and the hiker must be mindful of his/her steps as the stone is quite slippery.
The last few meters of the trail was a challenge because we will now have to walk through a narrow trail, with one side on the edge of the cliff. Any wrong step may cause a fall. We were very careful, since the rocks beneath will surely crush our bones in addition to the fall.
Reaching the summit was very rewarding. Lots of local and international tourists were occupied in taking pictures and watching the magnificent sunrise. The view was spectacular and unparalleled. We can see the whole town of El Nido, including the blue ocean, the rock formations nearby and in faraway islands, the shoreline, and the dense forests. What an awesome sight to behold, in blue and green colors. We spent a few minutes admiring the greatest art that nature patiently constructed for millions of years.
In hiligaynon (visayan language), Taraw refers to Limestone Rock or Boulder which usually has sharp and pointed edges. El Nido is believed to be in the deep ocean millions years ago and the rock formations we have today were coral reefs formed massively for hundreds or thousands of years.
The whole trek lasted three hours and we walked approximately five kilometers. Taraw stands 100 meters above sea level.
If you plan on visiting El Nido, do not miss the chance to climb this massive rock formation. You will definitely have a great time at the summit. And this is just one of the long list of activities that you can enjoy while in El Nido.