El Nido Paradise
The municipality of El Nido, on the northern tip of Palawan, is known for the jagged limestone cliffs that spike up from the turquoise waters and that are home to the island’s endemic swiftlets. Known locally as balinsasayaw, these birds use threads of their saliva instead of twigs to build their nests in crevices on the cliffs (El Nido means “nests” in Spanish). Climbers called busyador scale the cliffs each day to collect the edible birds’ nests, which are mostly sold to China, where the nests are believed to contain a high level of natural minerals that provide health benefits. But the recent decline of the swiftlet population has caused the deterioration of the industry, and many busyador have shifted to tourism instead. El Nido attracts millions of visitors each year to its beautiful white-sand beaches and unspoiled natural landscapes, which include caves and hidden lagoons as well as the legendary cliffs. Activities here include hiking, sea kayaking, snorkeling, and diving, and everything is a lot more low-key than at busier destinations like Boracay.
By Tina Lim, AFAR Local Expert