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10 Reasons to Have your Next Holiday at The Apartments at El Nido

Like most people caught in the daily grind, a thought that gets us through is the prospect of the next restful weekend or the next long holiday. Days of rest and not thinking about work invigorates us and compels us to take that leap, pack our bags, and embark on the next big adventure of our life. And why not? What’s keeping you from making the most out of the holidays and mini-breaks? Why not do something amazing for a change? You deserve to take a break too! May it be summer vacations, mid-year breaks, or Christmas time, holidays are perfect opportunities to create something special and extraordinary.

If you’re like many others who feel the gloom of cabin fever, chances are, you want something different for the holidays. You want to go out, experience the great outdoors and bask in some ecotherapy. How many times have you dreamed of the beach? A nature trek? A road trip? Meeting new people? The excitement is as real as it gets and your search online is likely pointing you to the right direction – visit El Nido and book your stay at The Apartments!

With the reopening of countries and destinations for travel, what better way to celebrate the coming holidays than to go to the best island destination in the country. You deserve a one-of-a-kind adventure, starting your day with beautiful vistas, filling each moment with exciting activities, and capping off the night in a relaxing haven. If you haven’t booked your next holiday yet, here are 10 perfect reasons to visit El Nido and stay at The Apartments:

1. World-famous, Award-winning Beach Destination

El Nido is a league of its own and has been ranked as a top destination by countless travel experts, organizations, and personalities. In the 2021 World Travel Awards, El Nido was cited among the leading beach destinations in Asia. 

Nacpan beach, which is 1.5/2  hours away from The Apartments, is one of the most famous destinations in El Nido. Nacpan is known for its long stretch of fine sand and serene environment. Vigan Island or Snake Island is another popular destination – known for its long sandbar shaped like a snake. Tourists who visit this spot often trek to a view deck to admire the landscape from a bird’s eye view. Other mesmerizing beach destinations that are accessible from The Apartments are Lio Beach, Papaya Beach, Duli Beach, Seven Commando, and more! Exciting beach tours can be arranged with The APT team, with in-house speed boats that will take you to the islands fast, so you can take your time enjoying the sights. 

Don’t take our word for it. A lot of world-famous personalities have vouched for the pristine beaches of this island. Among the long list of celebrities are pop singers Beyonce Knowles and Mariah Carey, Jeremy Renner and Rachel Weisz who starred in The Bourne Legacy, and even Bill Gates and his family. You need to tick it off your bucket list – or maybe it’s time to come back and experience the magic again!

2. Safe and Ready for You

Being a prime island destination, El Nido is among the first in the country to be tourist-ready. The APT team is at the forefront in the call for safe travel and tourism. Our staff will ensure every guest will be taken care of and will have nothing to worry about. When it comes to health and safety, the APT Team has taken the following precautions:

  • Initiated full vaccinations for all staff 
  • Undergone training on safety protocols
  • Regular testing for staff
  • Guests have exclusive stay to the APT property  

And we have the DOT accreditation to prove/show fitness and readiness to operate. You can enjoy your vacation to the fullest, worry-free.

3. Picture-perfect Lagoons. No-filter required.

Have you come across a picture of an enchanting lagoon with happy travelers enjoying the pristine waters? That’s probably one of the lagoons in El Nido. Part of the quintessential El Nido tour is experiencing the big lagoon, the small lagoon, and the hidden lagoons. 

Travelers from around the world get mesmerized by the enchanting water enclaves hidden around Miniloc Island. The lagoons are so beautiful that people who visit them feel they are straight out of a fantasy paradise story. The lagoons are perfect for kayaking, snorkeling, or simply relaxing and wading in the waters. A trip to El Nido is never complete without the Instagram-worthy backdrop of these lagoons. Capture those truly unforgettable snaps perfect for throwback moments in the future!

4. Haven for Ecotherapy

El Nido shares Palawan’s stature as the Philippines’ Last Ecological Frontier with its rich natural resources and unrivaled biodiversity of flora and fauna. The island is home to a variety of plants both on land and at sea that are abundant and cannot be found anywhere else in the world. 

For your next holiday, go back to the earth and appreciate the beauty and intricate artistry of mother nature. The lush green surroundings mixed with vibrant colors of flowers, plants, and other wildlife make for a one-of-a-kind experience. Connecting with nature is one of the best ways to heal from the daily stressors you experience. 

5. Exciting Speed Boat Tours

There are so many breathtaking and iconic places to visit in El Nido, you’d want to visit them all. The good news is you can stop worrying about how to complete the tour on time. The APT team offers exciting speed boat tours so you can “get there fast, and then we’ll take it slow”. Dock early at Commando Beach, enjoy a stretch of time at the Secret Lagoon, explore Cathedral Cave, and feast on a lunch buffet at Pinagbuyutan Island.

All our  seacraft and equipment are disinfected and properly maintained. An experienced captain and a licensed tour guide will assist you and ensure you have a safe, fun, and memorable experience. And for guests of The Apartments, we’ll bring along towels, snorkels, masks, fins just to get a few more things off your mind.

Enjoy the thrill of the speed boat and make the most of every moment in the breathtaking seascapes. 

6. Healthy Choices within Reach

No guilt vacations are possible! The best way to keep healthy is to have healthy choices within your reach. Another benefit of traveling to an island destination like El Nido is indulging yourself with fresh food choices, fresh air and wide open spaces. Imagine being served the fresh catch of the day, organically grown vegetables and fruits, and savoring every bite with a beautiful view of nature.

7. The Holiday Continues at The Apartments

After a full day of island hopping, trekking, and touring, the holiday fun continues when you get back to The Apartments. Take a dip in the pool and continue your hydrotherapy. Enjoy a good conversation with friends and family at the bar area. You can also sit back and relax for some quiet time. Comfortable couches, soft and clean linen, and a spacious area await in your suite. Enjoy movie night with your family, or indulge in a TV series marathon. 

8. No-stress Butler Service

Give yourself the chance to fully relax on your next holiday. You’ve stayed home long enough and done your share of household work. Treat yourself to a holiday of true rest, relaxation, and time to unwind. Ditch the general cleaning, laborious cooking, house repairs, and preparations. When all of those tasks add up, that sounds like a lot of work for the holidays. Your APT reservation includes butler service to help you with your food needs whether for a delicious take out or ingredients for a special meal you’d like to prepare. Other services like shopping assistance, organizing transfers, and booking island tours are also available. Our staff will also assist you using our laundry equipment.

9. Less Presents, More Presence

Go for the true holiday spirit! The gift of family and friends. Less material, more on what matters. Invest in experiences and create lifelong memories with people who are dear to you. Learn more about the many, holistic health benefits of investing in experiences like holidays by reading our article on how vacations enrich the whole family’s experience – from the young once to the young ones.

10. Take Part in Safely Rebooting the Tourism Industry

As the saying goes, we rise when we lift each other. Taking part in the safe rebooting of the local tourism industry will go a long way. Choosing to visit places that have been hard-hit in the last year but are demonstrating safety compliance, resiliency, and social advocacy deserve a chance to thrive again. When you make intentional decisions to support local, you strengthen a chain of goodness.

So the next time you feel the bouts of monotony, go find the next holiday, long weekend, or mini-break and plan that much deserved vacation. Safe and fun travels await!

Understanding COVID-19 Testing

In navigating the new normal, chances are, you or your loved ones have been, or will be required to take a COVID-19 test.

The reasons will vary.  It could be for travel, to be allowed to work, or simply to find out if one is currently contagious or has been infected in the past.

As of this writing, COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 1.4 million people around the world.

There are currently three types of tests you might be hearing that are related to the SARS-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19.

Here’s a brief description of each:

RT-PCR (Reverse Transcriptase PCR) test

The COVID-19 RT-PCR test is currently considered the gold standard in COVID-19 testing.  It detects the virus’ genetic material. Most, if not all countries, base their official number of cases on those done via PCR tests, not by any other method.

This is also the test required by most authorities in allowing inbound travelers. 

Usually, testing is done through a nose and throat swab test.  A six-inch stick (like a long cotton bud), is inserted in each nostril, and some include the throat, to get secretion samples.

This sample is processed in a laboratory to detect the genetic material of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.  A positive result means the virus’ RNA is present in the patient.  It could mean he is currently infected or was previously infected.  Remember the virus’ RNA can stay in a patient even if he is no longer infectious.

A negative result is generally considered a safety pass, although no testing is 100% accurate.  

The margin of error on an RT PCR test can be due to handling of samples, and delay in processing. Samples need to be kept in temperatures of -8 to -20 degrees celsius, and the ideal time for samples to be processed is not later than 72 hours after collection. 

In the Philippines, tests usually come out in 24 to 72 hours or longer, depending on the load of the laboratory. 

Antigen test

The COVID-19 Antigen test detects certain proteins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.  This means if the proteins are present, then so is the virus.

The method of testing is also through a nose and/or throat swab, similar to RT-PCR.

The antigen test is particularly useful if a person is currently infected or at the height of infection.  That’s because antigens would be at their peak, and have more chances of being detected.

Unfortunately, it is not very accurate at the first few days of exposure.  This is because it usually takes a few days before the antigens are detected in one’s system.  So one could be exposed at an early stage — and might already be infectious — and get a negative result.

Despite chances of false negative results, an antigen test could still be useful, because of its lower cost and fast result.  Antigen test results can come out as quickly as 15 minutes after the swab. 

If one suspects possible exposure, an antigen test could be taken a few days after the suspected exposure (best to stay isolated in the interim).  If it yields positive, there’s almost a sure infection.  A confirmatory RT-PCR can follow or medical treatment as advised by a professional.

Antibody test

According to the Mayo Clinic, “COVID-19 antibody testing, also known as serology testing, is a blood test that’s done to find out if you’ve had a past infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). An antibody test can’t determine whether you’re currently infected with the COVID-19 virus.”

“Antibody testing for COVID-19 may be done if:

  • You had symptoms of COVID-19 in the past but weren’t tested
  • You’re about to have a medical procedure done in a hospital or clinic, especially if you’ve had a positive COVID-19 diagnostic test in the past
  • You’ve had a COVID-19 infection in the past and want to donate plasma, a part of your blood that contains antibodies that can help treat others who have severe cases of COVID-19”

Webmd further says, “The antibody test isn’t checking for the virus itself. Instead, it looks to see whether your immune system — your body’s defense against illness — has responded to the infection.”

A Filipino doctor and testing expert, Dr. Mike Vergara however says there are antibody test kits that could determine current infection.  “Some antibody kits detect IgM and not just IgG”.  IgM and IgG are types of immunoglobulins that attack viruses such as SARS-CoV2.  IgM is the first set of immunoglobulins produced by the body to determine if a perceived intruder is foreign or not.  If it is identified as foreign and threatening, the IgM calls for “backup” and the IgG takes over.  The IgG is also the one giving the body immunity.  

So a positive IgM (present in some antibody kits) means current infection, and a negative IgM, but positive IgG means past infection.

Purpose and Timing of tests

All three types of tests — PCR, ANTIGEN and ANTIBODY have their place in COVID-19 detection and prevention of spread:   

  • Before one becomes infectious – RT PCR can detect
  • Currently Infectious – RT PCR, ANTIGEN and ANTIBODY (with IgM measure) can detect.  Although ANTIGEN and ANTIBODY may miss the early parts of exposure 
  • Past Infection – RT PCR will still be positive, ANTIGEN will yield negative, ANTIBODY IgG will detect past infection and current immunity.

Reliability of tests

The reliability, efficacy and sensitivity of the type of tests depend on the institutions conducting it and the brands being used.  Always go for reliable and reputable agencies and products.

Developing Technology 

New tests and procedures on determining SARS CoV2 infections are continuously being developed, and so are vaccines.  As of this writing, at least three firms have reached final stages of vaccines testing. 

A detection method using just saliva is also underway. 

The best way to avoid spreading COVID-19

The best way to avoid spreading COVID-19 is still to go on a 14-day quarantine before travel or engagement.  If no symptoms come out, it is highly likely that one is negative from the virus, even without testing.  It is the best practice to employ before seeing loved ones. And of course the frequent washing of hands and wearing of face masks.

Definition of Terms

COVID-19 – The name of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and is short for “Coronavirus Disease 2019.” (Source: WHO)

SARS-CoV-2 – The name of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 disease. (Source: WHO)

Coronavirus – A family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases, such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). The novel coronavirus recently discovered has been named SARS-CoV-2 and it causes COVID-19. (Source: WHO)

Coronavirus – A family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases, such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). The novel coronavirus recently discovered has been named SARS-CoV-2 and it causes COVID-19. (Source: WHO)

*This article, though thoroughly researched, is not a substitute for a medical consultation. It is still best to speak with a medical expert on testing questions.

6 Things to Know About Travel Bubbles

What is a travel bubble?

“Travel bubble” is a new term coined during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 as a solution to revive the economy and keep the tourism sector afloat. 

Also called a travel corridor, corona corridor, or travel bridge, and is considered the new normal in tourism.  

It refers to 2 countries opening their borders to each other. But its definition broadens, as more places try to reopen.  Now, travel bubbles can also refer to a few places within the same country opening its borders to a limited population so long as certain conditions are met.

While it doesn’t guarantee safety, it limits the risk for travelers and locals by setting certain standards set by both destinations. 

What do governments consider when forging travel bubble agreements with each other?

Countries near each other are more inclined to forge travel bubble agreements due to proximity.  Having similar strategies in dealing with the virus can also be a factor.  Another consideration is the number of coronavirus cases.  Places with a low number of covid-19 cases will open only to a partner with few or no cases.   Having direct flights is also a consideration.

What places have travel bubble agreements?

Travel bubble agreements between countries have been implemented and suspended and some are in the middle of negotiations. Some countries that have, or are negotiating travel bubble agreements with each other are New Zealand and Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore and Japan and South Korea. India and the Philippines are also looking to forge agreements with a few countries. And some countries in Europe have tried and suspended it due to rising cases.

Are there places in the Philippines that are open to travel bubbles?

In the Philippines, the Tourism department studied opening a few tourist destinations by the last quarter of 2020.  Some of these are Boracay, Bohol, Manila, Baguio and Palawan.  

How can one be part of a travel bubble?

Requirements differ from place to place but general guidelines include:

  • A negative RT-PCR test 72 hours before travel
  • Absence of co-morbidities or health risks such as diabetes, hypertension, heart or lung conditions 
  • Filling up of health declaration form
  • Filling up a contact tracing form or downloading a contact tracing app.  

For establishments such as resorts and hotels, they need to:

  • Secure certificates to operate from appropriate government agencies.  Here in the Philippines,  the Department of Tourism (DOT) issues Certificate of Authority To Operate (CATO) and some Local Government Units (LGUs) issue separate permits.  
  • Apply reduced capacity, usually 50% or if more, schedule activities and implement crowd control.
  • Limit dine-in crowd to 50% capacity or as determined by authorities.  Some only allow take-outs or room service.
  • Review the use of swimming pools.  Depending on the setup, some might deem it best closed or for booking per party.

What can travelers expect?

  • Temperature checks as one enters any establishment from the airport to the hotel.
  • Covid-19 health check forms to be filled out 
  • Use of technology for:
    • Contact tracing 
    • Generating QR codes for several uses such as 
      • Forms generation
      • Restaurant menus
    • Online payment
  • Not all tourist sites are open.  For those that are, there might be a limit to the number of people allowed.
  • Face masks and face shields might be required 
  • Social distancing of two meters or two arms’ length should be maintained
  • Reduced staff in business establishments including restaurants, banks, etc.
  • Some restaurants might need advanced bookings to control the crowd
  • Some travel bubbles initiated by hotels or resorts form a “bubble” group that travels together If you’re part of a group

Sites of El Nido

BIG AND SMALL LAGOONS

The lagoons in El Nido are said to be caves millions of years ago. Their roofs collapsed, leaving majestic limestone walls. In the case of the small lagoon, the rugged cliffs created a magical sanctuary with supremely calm and clear turquoise water.

HIDDEN BEACH

El Nido’s Hidden beach is one of the “30 Best Beaches in the World” according to Conde Nast Traveler’s June 2020 list? In 2018, it was voted the most beautiful beach in Asia and 3rd in the world by Canada’s biggest flight agency, Flight Network.  “The wild, vegetation-covered rock formations and crystal-clear waters of Hidden Beach will make you feel as if you’ve been dropped into a movie” – Sachin Aggarwal, Carlson Wagonlit Travel

On the sandbar at Snake Island

SNAKE ISLAND

Also known to locals as Vigan Island, Snake Island was coined due to the winding shape of the unique sandbar that connects the island to the mainland. Appearing daily at low tide, it’s an amazing experience to stroll along the sandbar and feeling like you’re in a deserted paradise. On both sides of the white sand strip are shallow swimming areas. “The water in this area is nothing short of spectacular. Crystal clear and stunningly turquoise – it’s pretty easy to see why this place is considered by many Filipinos to be paradise.”- Elle Burne, travel blogger

DULI BEACH

November to March is surf season in El Nido. A consistent swell in Duli beach makes it an ideal surfing spot

HELICOPTER ISLAND / DILUMACAD ISLAND

One of the 45 islands in Bacuit bay in El Nido, one is shaped like a chopper, hence its nickname, Helicopter island. Originally named Dilumacad island is like many others in the area with its long, white sandy beaches. It a good spot for experienced divers. Not advisable for children due to sudden drop in sea floor. There’s an underwater cave on the northern end.

CUDUGNON CAVE

A stunning display of beautiful stalactites and stalagmites, the Cudugnon Cave is an archeological site where bones and artifacts were discovered.  It’s a must-see site that takes you back into ancient times when majestic rock formations, elevated cavernous ceilings and limestone cliffs dominated the landscape.

TARAW CLIFF

A hike to this highest peak in El Nido will reward you with a breathtaking panoramic view of Bacuit bay. The climb to Taraw cliff might be challenging due to the sharp rocks and tricky footing, but with an experienced guide and some caution, one should definitely consider scaling it. The incredible view makes it well worth it!

CATHEDRAL CAVE

Cathedral cave is on Pinasil Island, and is one of the many natural wonders of Bacuit bay.

There is an open chamber at the center of the Island where you can see that it has a shape of a cathedral surrounded by high rocky cliffs.

MATINLOC SHRINE

An alternative to Taraw cliff, Matinloc shrine also offers an amazing view of Bacuit bay, with its share of rock formations and scenic view, but with an easier hike. It’s an abandoned shrine with a port and a small gorgeous beach. 

Entrance fee is P100.

SEVEN COMMANDOS BEACH

A popular beach in El Nido, it has almost everything El Nido is famous for.  Situated under limestone cliffs, coconut trees line the stretch of the white sand beach where one can snorkel and swim

What is your favorite site in El Nido?

*This list is being continuously updated.

Tips for Traveling in Groups

Filipinos like to travel in groups.  Whether with family, or a group of friends, we love to share special moments and discover new things with our tribe. 

When we look through our travel photos, we don’t remember the planning that went into it.  But every wonderful travel moment was born out of good planning.

Here are a few tips to make your travel planning smarter:

DO:

Assign person/s in charge

Having a point person on areas of your trip ensures that you’ve got that aspect covered. Agree to have that person know details that matter: dates, times, requirements, documents, options, etc. Someone could be in charge of accommodations and another for transportation.  Don’t forget to have someone research activities in the area.  It might be best to do advanced booking.

Create a chat group

It may be moot to mention this nowadays but here goes. Use apps like Viber, Whatsapp, or Facebook Messenger to post updates or poll for decisions. Make a new chat specifically for the trip. That way, it’ll easier to find things you talked about!

Agree on a budget

Have a budget agreed on early, to avoid surprises during the trip. The last thing you want is not to have money to buy that must-have souvenir or to pay fare for that last leg home. Some might be willing to spend on things that others are not.  You might want to divide things equally or per family or per item (eg food will be shouldered by one, the other will answer for activities etc). It is best to have this figured out before the actual trip.

Photo by oxana v on Unsplash

Book early

Popular places run out of space fast during peak season.  If you’re a big group needing a sizable space, it would be good to lock it in early.  Always check for group rates. 

Use the perks of big group travel

Consider houses, apartments or villas instead of hotel rooms when choosing accommodations.  Some of the most stunning accommodations like castles or heritage houses are cost effective for a group.

Same goes for transportation.  A taxi might be too expensive if you’re alone or just for two travelers.  But for four, it might come out cheaper than a train or bus ride.  Consider also renting a van or coaster for bigger groups. 

DON’T

Don’t hesitate to ask

If the things you want are not mentioned explicitly in the website of the provider, drop them an email. You’ll be surprised at the possibilities when you ask.  Among them: room or vehicle upgrades, free extra beds, discounts, children’s rates, early or late check in.  Some establishments may be experiencing a slump or have extra inventory, or may have woken up extra generous! You never know what they can throw in a package.  Specially for big groups

Don’t over-schedule  

Plan the days as loosely as possible. Also put in free time to roam around. Best discoveries often happen this way.

Don’t feel bad about splitting up 

No one wants to be forced to do things while on vacation. You don’t have to be together all the time. It’s enough to come together for at least one meal a day.

Do you have any tips you can share?