With immediate effect today November 20, 2018 the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has banned all the Combination tours (Combo A&C A&B etc.) and Party Boats in El Nido. This new policy has been implemented to help minimize the negative impact of tourism in El Nido.
El Nido cannot afford any environmental blows, in fact is home to unique bird species and is frequented by large marine wildlife like the sea or marine turtles, sea cow or dugong, dolphins and sharks. Local authorities don’t want El Nido to face the same problem of Boracay.
New rules are imposed to limit the number of tourists and activities in three of the most-visited places in El Nido:
- Big Lagoon
- Small Lagoon
- Secret Beach
Moreover, activities such as fishing, cliff jumping, grilling of food, and playing of loud music have been prohibited in El Nido Bacuit Bay.
Due to the new regulations, it’s now compulsory to book your slot to Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon and Secret Beach in advance (Tour A, Tour C and Tour D).
See below the official message that we have received from the Ministry of Tourism about the new ordinance.
For more information about the new El Nido Tours, please contact our customer service at firstname.lastname@example.org
CHANGES TO EL NIDO’S ISLAND-HOPPING
El Nido is embracing sustainable tourism, and that means that changes are coming to our four island-hopping tours:
- Tour A: Big Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island, and 7 Commando Beach
- Tour B: Cudognon Cave, Cathedral Cave, Snake Island, Entalula Island, and Popolkan Island (the substitute for Pangulasian, now that it’s a private island)
- Tour C: Secret Beach, Hidden Beach, Matinloc Shrine, Tapiutan Island, and Helicopter Island
- Tour D: Small Lagoon, Cadlao Lagoon, Nat Nat Beach, Pasandigan Cove, Paradise Beach, and Bukal Island
I’ve attached made a map so you can see these stops visually.
So, what’s changing? Well, as of late November 2018, the Protected Area Office has designated Small Lagoon (Tour D) and Big Lagoon (Tour A) stops as Premium stops, subject to limits on the number of people who can go there. We also expect that Secret Beach (on Tour C) will soon be designated as a Premium stop as well.
As a result, there are seven changes that have already happened (or that we expect to happen soon):
1. You can’t do both Big and Small Lagoon on the same day
You can only visit one “premium stop” per day.
As of late November, this means that you can either visit Small Lagoon OR you can visit Big Lagoon, but you can’t visit both on the same day.
2. No Combinations
Before these proposed changes, you could choose to do a “combination tour” that combined whichever stops you wanted from two tours. As a result, many tourists did a “Combination Tour A/C” and visited the Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, and Secret Beach all on the same day.
However, going forward, all three of these locations will be Premium stops, and since you can only visit one premium stop per day, you will no longer be able to do that.
Going forward, we actually don’t know for sure whether combination tours will be completely banned. But no matter what, you will probably not be allowed to combine tours A and C together.
3. Pre-Registration now required for Big and Small Lagoon (and eventually Secret Beach)
You must now pre-register if you’d like to visit a Premium stop like Big and Small Lagoon.
As of late November, this means your tour operator must pre-register your name with the Protected Area Office if you want to go on Tour A. (We expect this to expand to Tour C shortly, if you want to visit Secret Beach.) To pre-register, you must contact your tour operator and tell us the Name, Age and Country of Residence for each passenger. We will then go into town and register you with the relevant authority. Only a certain number of pre-registered people on a pre-registered boat can go inside each lagoon on a given day, and it’s first-come-first-served to get access.
If a given premium tour has hit its limit, you will have to select a non-premium tour that doesn’t have a premium stop.
4. Extra fee beyond ETDF
The Protected Area Office is charging a ₱200 per-person fee for pre-registration to visit a Premium stop. As I understand it, this money will go towards the resources necessary to protect the lagoons and the protected area.
This fee will be in addition to the ₱200 charge for your ETDF (Eco-Tourism Development Fee).
5. Premium stops now have time slots
Your tour operator has to register you for a specific time slot at a premium stop. These slots start at 7 AM and the last entry is at 4 PM. For Small Lagoon, the slots are an hour and for Big Lagoon, the slots are an hour-and-a-half. Currently, island hopping boats leave at 9 AM and return at 4 PM, so if you have a 7 AM slot, you’ll have to be prepared to wake up several hours earlier as the boat will need to leave earlier in order to get to a specific premium stop by 7 AM.
6. Boats can’t go in Big and Small Lagoon
To protect their fragile marine ecosystems, when you’re at either Small Lagoon or Big Lagoon, island hopping boats will no longer be going inside the lagoon. Instead, you can rent a kayak from an approved vendor for ₱300 to go inside the lagoon.
7. Prices for Tours are going up
The local municipality is reviewing a proposed law governing tours. If it passes, then the prices of tours will go up. However, as of late November, this law has not passed, and tour prices remain what they have been for many years.
At this point in late November, El Nido has done two different dry runs to figure out how exactly to implement these rules.
After the dry runs, the pre-registration for premium tours was made permanent. We expect these rules to quickly evolve. In the meantime, we ask for your patience as the government moves to address the issues that come up!
The goal of these rules is to encourage sustainable tourism that allows tourists to enjoy the beauty of El Nido without destroying the environment. Sustainable tourism is an important issue, and one that we fully support.
Many thanks to the local government and the Protected Area Office for helping protect our lagoons!