As with many good travel tales, this one starts with a bottle of rum.
We had been in the small beach side town of El Nido, scuba diving and island-hopping for 5 days before meeting our new adventurous friends from the UK & New Zealand. They checked-in to the rustic cabin beside ours and instantly we knew we would be travel companions. The four of us met up for an evening of overly excited (and excessively loud) banter, laughter and discussions, complete with a couple of bottles of the Philippines' finest rum. Apparently one of the local beach dogs enjoyed our conversation, he stayed with us the entire night as we shared stories from our prior travels.
We've had many adventurous ideas pop into our heads during our years on the road, but after a couple of bottles of this amber alcohol, there was no stopping the travel plans that were flowing from our minds and mouths! The four of us had decided that the following day we would all go to a deserted island about an hour away with nothing more than a knife and drinking water. We would hunt, fish and gather whatever sustenance we would need for two nights, or longer.
Fast-forward 9 hours
We awoke with foggy eyes, cloudy brains and churning stomachs. As the four of us peered out of our cabins, our amazing travel idea from the night before made its way back into our minds. We met outside and reconsidered our goals. Luckily, we were all in agreement: this was still a fantastic plan, but we definitely needed to make some alterations.
Excitedly, we put together a list of food and goods to buy at the local market, and wrote down the essential items we would need from our backpacks. We split up to make the shopping process more efficient and all regrouped later that afternoon to show off our purchases.
But there was still the matter of transportation. How were we going to get to this idyllic island we had etched in our minds? We didn't want to join a tour, and we didn't want a guide. We spoke with the owner of our guest house and expressed our desire (no, our need) to spend the night on a sandy beach away from the town. The woman described the perfect island and said there was a boat going on an island-hopping tour the following day. We could join that boat, but instead of hopping around, the captain would make a special detour and take us to our secluded island.
It was set.
We were going to live out our Robinson Crusoe fantasies on a deserted island in the Philippines!
The following morning the four of us loaded our backpacks, food, and cooking utensils onto the boat and prepared for the adventure we had all been waiting for. As I was about to take my first step up the ladder, the beach dog from the night before came barreling down the sandy shores and excitedly jumped up ahead of me. I guess our travel plans from the night before sounded like something he didn't want to miss out on! It was decided, he was coming with us and we named him Rex.
Our outrigger boat cruised effortlessly over the turquoise waters for about an hour before rounding the bend at our new home. Concerned looks crept over the faces of the other tourists on board as we disembarked on a random island with nothing more than our basic gear, some food and our dog.
The shore was lined with palm trees that swayed in the morning wind as if they were waving us over and welcoming us to the island. Monkeys screeched from the treetops at the intrusion and brightly coloured coral was glowing under the translucent waters. There were no sounds other than the monkeys and the rustling of the jungle.
Even though it was early morning, we eagerly set up our camp for the night. In place of tents, we had breezy, mosquito nets which we rigged up to a nearby tree. Instead of a stove, we made a campfire. Rather than having real fishing rods, the men devised knives tied to the end of bamboo sticks for spear fishing. We had everything we needed. Rex even dug a hole and made himself a bed for the evening - everyone was doing their part to set up camp.
We explored the lush, rocky island while gathering wood for our evening fire and lazed on the shores sunbathing in the hot rays. We swam and snorkelled in waters so clear that it was easy to spot the colourful sea snakes, lion fish and parrot fish that slithered, swam and snacked down below.
Come late afternoon we started our cooking fire and made our meal as the orange and pink colours of the sunset completely lit the sky around us. Our cooking fire soon became our bonfire and we chatted, listened to music and enjoyed each other's company well into the night.
With huge grins on our faces, we zipped open our mosquito net and crawled into our sandy bed for the night. We fell asleep under the stars to the soundtrack of deep bellowing frogs, high-pitched crickets and other mysterious jungle sounds which reminded us that we were in the tropics.
Having a see-through "tent" meant that even if we wanted to sleep-in, the morning sun prevented us from doing so. With the light beams shining in on our groggy faces, we awoke to the cool feeling of sand on our feet. Rex barked at birds and lizards down the beach and the wind gently blew our mosquito net from side to side.
It was our final day on the island.
We all enjoyed a meal together and spent our time swimming, reading and relaxing into the late afternoon. As the sun started to dip towards the sea, we packed up our temporary home and prepared for the boat captain to pull us from our fantasy, and bring us back to reality.
For more information about travelling to this stunning country, check out our Backpacking Guide to the Philippines.
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