The ultimate El Nido: how to explore the islands without the selfie crowds

Mellow Yellow private boat tours aim to show El Nido as it’s supposed to be seen — with no other tour boats around. Mellow Yellow’s Tour Z will explore virgin beaches, untouched islands, and hidden spots for snorkeling

By Monica De Leon

Mellow Yellow tours is now offering tourists private boat tours in El Nido, Palawan, going off the usual high-traffic cruising areas, showing the beautiful island destination without the crowds.

The tour company recently launched private boat tours on board newly constructed small boats able to accommodate up to 24 people. In December last year, it also started boat tours onboard a 20-tonne 50-seater outrigger boat, taking tourists off the usual high-traffic tour routes to explore the hidden El Nido.

The tour agency says it aims to show El Nido as it’s supposed to be seen — with no other tour boats around. Mellow Yellow’s Tour Z will explore virgin beaches, untouched islands, and hidden spots for snorkeling.

The big boat has three decks, a kitchen, bar, beds, bean bags, toilet, electrics, sound system, kayaks and various games onboard. The smaller boats for private tours have the same amenities. Both boats go to under-the-radar locations in El Nido, away from the busy tour routes. The tour starts off at Papaya Beach for snorkeling and the chance to spot sea turtles, then on to idyllic Pinagbuyatan Island and its sandy beaches and palm trees, then to a little sand bar just off Lagen Island sandwiched by stunning limestone cliffs and the forested mainland, and finally Lagen Island itself, which has grand limestone cliffs. The tour ends with a cruise back to mainland El Nido at sunset.

In October, the tour company is also launching a five-day expedition between El Nido and Coron, exploring the Linapacan archipelago, onboard either the Mellow Yellow boat or a luxurious motor yacht.

Tour operator Andrew Wolff says “the whole experience has been designed to be unique. Given that we don’t cruise in the same places as the other boats, we have the benefit of unexpected encounters with marine life. Guests have often swam with sea turtles and in one particularly special trip, we had a whale shark circling our boat for an hour and a half. We just started playing volleyball on a sandbar in the middle of the ocean — certainly a memorable snippet of the tour for most.”

Wolff says “onboard, guests often go to the third floor and jump off, play beer pong, dance away to their favorite songs on the decks or just kick back and enjoy the sunset and scenery. We will shortly be investing in standup paddle boards.”

Mellow Yellow Tours are daily and cost P1,500 (US$30) per person and includes stops at four locations, sunset cruise, use of masks, snorkels and kayak, massage and buffet lunch. Beer and cocktails can be purchased at the bar. Try the unlimited bar pass for the day, which costs P500. 

The five-day El Nido to Coron expedition in October costs P25,000 per person onboard the Mellow Yellow, and P35,000 per person onboard the luxurious motor yacht. To book, call +63915 957 9044, follow them on Facebook.

Originally published on InFlight Traveller Volume 4 Issue 16. Updated July 2017