“Are you serious?” I half-squealed, half-shrieked, as I leaned over the boat to sneak a peek at the tiny entrance within the limestone walls. It was almost impossible to see with the strong current and the boat rocking from side to side.
I looked back at the boatman who was busy setting up a buoy for us.
“We’re really going to go. In there?” I repeated, a little flabbergasted. My mind raced to the many things that could happen while we go through the entrance.
Not only was the cave entrance tiny, but it looked pretty dangerous too, with all the pointy, jagged limestone rocks surrounding the entrance.
I frowned, as a big wave crashed noisily into the entrance.
We were headed to our 3rd island of the day, the Secret Beach, included in the famed Tour C of El Nido.
The Secret Beach, interestingly, is the island that once inspired Alex Garland to write the book, The Beach. This book became a phenomenon, and a movie came out of it. However, the movie was shot in Thailand. But for those who really want to see the real Secret Beach, this was it, about an hour away by boat from the main town of El Nido, Palawan.
I looked up at the skies, the bright sun dancing over us. Despite the beautiful day, the current was pretty rough, especially for mid-February, a time in the Philippines when summer is fast approaching and the weather and seas become greatly friendly with tourists.
I watched the boatman throw the buoy into the water and slowly step off the mini-ladder. He shook a little as the boat rocked him back and forth, but eventually, he jumped into the clear, blue-green waters of El Nido.
My companions followed suit, both already accustomed to travel and experience. However, this was my first time traveling alone and in Palawan. I didn’t really know what to expect.
“It’s okay,” the other boatman tells me, as he watched me hesitate.
Finally, after much self-encouragement, I got myself off the bench and slowly stepped onto the ladder.
As I touched the water, I shivered, the cool temperature of the water creeping into my body.
I know how to swim. I do. So I wasn’t really afraid of drowning. Not really, anyway.
I waded out, testing if I could challenge the strong current.
Then a wave hit me and practically pulled me away from the boat.
Nope, I thought. I’m not a very strong swimmer, you see.
I quickly swam against the current, my feet struggling, frantically under the water, while my thin arms fought to reach the buoy. I relaxed a little as I found the rope that tied the buoy to the boat. I used it to pull myself to my companions and the guide. My two companions got through easy, even if one of them didn’t know how to swim.
I approached the entrance, gingerly, patting the limestone walls in hesitation, just to see how seriously rugged they were. Oh, they were pretty jagged. Like seriously jagged.
Just then a strong wave of current pushed us into the entrance. Everyone in the hole went through easy with the current.
But I wasn’t completely in the clear yet. Despite my hold on the rope, I crashed into the walls of the entrance and I could feel toothed ridges slicing into my thighs, knees and feet. I immediately fought to kick myself off the wall, sacrificing my left leg and arm in the process.
Ugh, I thought, my mind racing into both panic and fear. One part of me just wanted to get through the entrance. Another part couldn’t help thinking about the pain I was now feeling from the crash.
The boatman saw me struggle and helped me aim for the entrance.
I finally got in, sneaking a peek underwater through my goggles.
It was magnificent. The entrance was huge underwater, divided by the limestone walls and decorated by corals. It was so deep; I couldn’t even see where the bottom was. Imagine what could be under there.
Another wave of current pushed me into the cave and this time, I let it.
Suddenly, I found myself in a different world entirely.
I stared in awe at the scenery before me. Just a few seconds ago, I was behind limestone walls, in the middle of who knows where, with no beach in sight.
But here it was. Right there.
Complete with live, toothy corals, colorful fishes, blue-green clear waters, white sands, coconut trees and limestone rocks, there stood a beach. A beach within limestone walls. Under the blue skies.
I couldn’t help it. I laughed out loud. I didn’t care who’d hear or think I was crazy.
The beach was mesmerizing. And I was blessed to be here. To witness nature, to see it right in front of me. To breathe the warm, pre-summer air in the midst of the fresh ocean breeze.
To know how wonderful, how beautiful Mother Nature really is.
The fear. The adventure. It was worth it.
Brenna Bustamante is a lover of travel, learning and culture. In between her full time Internet marketing job she finds herself wandering in South East Asia and her home country, the Philippines. Find out more about Brenna and her travels at The Philippine Travelogue.