- overlooking view of the bay
- good price
- privacy in your own balcony
- personal service
- secluded and quiet jungle surroundings but still a short walk to the town/bay
- no power generator
- bathroom and toilet problematic
- water has metallic smell
- the room is hot (ceiling fan was not strong enough for such a big room)
- bed was not made up nor the room and bathroom cleaned
- no fresh towels
We stayed at Sea n Jungle for 3 nights at the end of March and had a wonderful time. This budget hotel in El Nido is set on a steep hill surrounded by a jungle. Staying there sure felt different from the usual beach/island places that we’ve ever been to.
We stayed in Room 2 (of cottage 1), the lowest part of the place. It has a very nice view of the distant El Nido bay from the private balcony. With a thoroughly island/tropical vibe, it has one thing other hotels and inns in El Nido probably don’t have: seclusion. It is calm and quiet there. None of the noise from the horde of tourists and the loud music coming from the establishments.
What you get, instead, is the sound of the wildlife in the jungle. We hear birds, lizards, crickets, etc. all the time; day and night. In the mornings, when I have my coffee at the balcony, we even hear the howls of the monkeys nearby. Bing, the staff at Sea n Jungle, told us that the monkeys sometimes come to the property in the afternoon. We were looking forward to seeing them but we weren’t so lucky as they didn’t come during the three days we were there.
When we arrived at El Nido via shuttle van, Olivia (the owner) sent Bing (her sister) to pick us up at the bus terminal. After a short tricycle ride, we arrived at a neighborhood that didn’t look like a resort area. The houses were so close to each other and the pathways so narrow. Bing led us “deeper” into the pathway until we saw a concrete step, with marbles embedded that read: Welcome to Sea n Jungle.
It was an exhausting steep climb after that. We had to climb 150 steps in order to get to our cottage—Olivia has warned us way ahead of time about the exhausting climb to the cottages, but we were still “go”, after all, we were going to stay at the cottage lower down than the others—but what view awaited us from our balcony. It’s what makes every climb worth it.
Cottage 1 which comprises Room 1 and Room 2 is a duplex type of structure. There’s a common lower balcony and a separate private upper balcony for each rooms. It doesn’t matter which of the balconies you choose to hang out because the view from both the lower and upper balcony is magnificent. It’s very hard to ignore, too, the jungle ambience as you see nothing but lush trees in the periphery plus the sound of the animals and insects that goes along with it—an antithesis to the raucous down below at the bay.
The rooms in cottage 1 are huge. The floor is made of wooden plank while the walls are “amakan“. It has a double bed and a single bed. There’s a mosquito net for the big bed. I didn’t see one for the small bed, but I bet they will provide one if you ask.
There’s a rotating ceiling fan too, but it proved very inadequate. The problem with the ceiling fan was, it cannot be switched to stay stationary. It goes round and round ventilating areas that didn’t need ventilating. We wanted to get constant wind in our direction, not to the walls nor to the other unoccupied bed. So what happened was, we suffer for 30 seconds or so of heat until the ceiling fan passes by in our direction, after which we get wind for only about a second or two before it faces the other direction. It was compounded by the fact that it was quite hot and humid on the day we arrived. My sleep quality was so affected by it.
The bathroom is where I rate them the poorest. While it had the usual shower head (there’s no hot shower), wash basin, faucet, and toilet bowl—it didn’t look clean.
The toilet bowl doesn’t have a toilet seat and cover either. It looks like it’s just waiting there, gaping; waiting for something to fall into it. But alas, it clogs easily too—I had the unfortunate experience of finding it out for myself. Never had I been so scared that the toilet might overflow and dump its contents on the floor. I had to ask Bing for help which she readily rendered, toilet plunger in hand and all. She’s such a trooper. (*Disclosure: to their credit, Bing actually gave us the option, many times, to transfer to their newer cottages which had clean bathroom and toilets, nice floors, and looked generally cozy overall.)
The placement of the shower rack, too, is ill-planned. There’s no way that your toiletry bag or what-have-you will not be wet when you shower with the shower head clamped on the wall. It sprays directly into the shower rack as soon as you turn it on.
There are no adequate racks or hooks to put your clothes or towels when showering. I guess they assume you just leave your clothes and towel on the small bed whenever you shower, which means that you’d have to track water from the bathroom into the room just to get your towel in order to dry yourself.
Last, but not the least, is the water. It smells metallic. Very rusty smell. I needed to let the water run for a few seconds, everytime, because it comes out brownish. The metallic smell is very pronounced. You can even smell it on your skin long after you’ve showered.
What they lack in the bathroom/toilet department, they more than make up for in their service. For example, when Bing fecthed us at the bus terminal via a local tricycle, she paid the fare and didn’t ask us for a fare refund. We just had a 6-hour journey from Puerto Princesa—completely exhausted—and the last thing on our minds was to worry about spare change or haggling with the tricycle driver about the fare. It’s a small gesture, but it didn’t go unnoticed.
On our entire stay, Bing made sure that the thermos jug was always filled with hot water; and the tea and coffee that came free was always stocked on our balcony table.
On our first day when we wanted to go on an island hopping tour, she personally accompanied us to the travel and tour office down at the bay while at the same time showing us the short way to the bay. This is how we knew that Sea n Jungle is actually quite close to the town, by foot, and especially to the bay where the restaurants are aplenty. She offered, beforehand, to keep our valuables for safekeeping while we were gone, to which, we did leave our laptop and documents to her for safekeeping.
On the second day of our stay, we left Sea n Jungle early in the morning. But this time, we forgot to leave our laptop and documents to her. Fast forward to late noon. Coming back to Sea n Jungle after spending a very pleasant morning at the bay, I saw a woman taking a nap on the bench of the upper balcony of Room 1 (which was unoccupied). It turned out to be Bing. Thinking that we went out on another island hopping tour with our valuables still inside the room (which was locked by the way), she took the initiative of keeping watch of our room (and by extension, our valuables) by staying at cottage 1 all day.
The ceiling fan thing. When I asked Bing if there was a way to make the ceiling fan remain stationary (there was none), she brought us a rechargeable electric fan. Problem solved, and more, because it being portable, we can set it in any direction and place it anywhere we want, e.g., inside the room or at the balcony, with the added bonus that we can use it even when the power is out (6:00am to 2:00pm).
Speaking of power out, El Nido has no electricity from 6:00am until 2:00pm. A lot of the hotels and resorts have their own power generator; Sea n Jungle has none. On the second night of our stay, the power went out in the evening anyway. Without any prompting, Bing came down and brought us a portable lamp. It was a very bright one at that. Chalk that up to another good service from them.
But of course, there are areas where they fell short. We stayed 3 nights and no time was our room or bathroom cleaned, nor our bed made; even though, on our second day, Annika asked Bing to make the room and she answered in the affirmative. There were no fresh towels too. We basically used the same towels for 4 straight days and nights until they started to get damp. This was so unfortunate.
Even though it seems that there’s quite a few negatives in this review, but overall, the positive outweighs the negative. Sea n Jungle is typical of a small outfit in that personalized service is very authentic. From the staff solving “problems” for us without any prompting to being able to accommodate requests on the spot.
On our last night too, the owners, Stefan and Olivia—who just came from Puerto Princesa on some personal matter—dropped by our cottage to say hi and introduced themselves. Again, small gestures like that leave a good impression.
All in all, it’s the ambience, atmosphere, and service that makes for a memorable stay. I’m happy to say, Sea n Jungle has all that.