The Birdhouse in El Nido Is A Paradise on Its Own
Elevate your island experience in this boutique glamping hotel that offers not just a breathtaking view, but a close encounter with nature, too
Imagine waking up to a refreshing view of crystal clear waters and the sound of birds chirping to greet you good morning—wouldn’t that be a treat? Nestled in the trees and only a few meters away from the beach, The Birdhouse in El Nido is the perfect escape for those who want to relish a quiet and more meaningful island experience. During a week-long trip to the island, I made sure to drop by The Birdhouse to see the nests and the scenic view it promises guests.
Getting to the place requires a bit of stamina and we’re not joking. To get there, you need to take 70 steps down from the road, walk around 600 meters across the Maremegmeg Beach, walk another 150 meters going inside a forest, and climb up 200 steps to reach the top. It sounds a bit challenging, but going through these steps also means you get to marvel at the sights nature has to offer. Many might be wondering, how did owners Mark and Camille Villaflor build The Birdhouse from the ground up?
“The concept of The Birdhouse is a culmination of our lifestyle and 16 month-long honeymoon. We’ve lived overseas for some time prior to settling down in El Nido. The design came mainly from Camille. We had finished our trip and had a very little budget. Before our trip, we were investing half of our income so we ended up with some assets we could unload to build a home,” shares Mark.
The bamboo stairway leads to the different nests, the main nest, and The Nesting Table, the Birdhouse's cozy restaurant.
As fate willed, the two came to Palawan with a small budget to look for an investment as they believed El Nido will grow quickly. In 2015, the couple bought a piece of land and part of a forest on a hill overlooking Bacuit Bay. Construction followed after a few months and they were able to accomplish the first part of their home plus three luxury tents by the end of July 2016.
Given the location of the property, materials were brought to the beach by boat. “The lack of infrastructure including electricity, water, and access to a close road proved quite difficult. We manually hauled cement, concrete, sand, gravel, and all the other parts of the house up,” says Mark.
The Birdhouse features clever use of local materials. According to Mark, they used tad-tad as roofing, sawali or woven split bamboo mats for the walls, and rattan for the furniture. “Instead of sourcing furniture from Manila, Camille ended up drawing and designing all our furniture, including the sofa, the island counter in the kitchen, and nearly all the pieces in the outdoor space. We had crates made for storage. We brought the drawings to different carpenters in Palawan and worked out a great deal,” Mark shares.
An island experience like no other
El Nido offers different activities—from inland tours and island hopping to trekking and food tripping. The Birdhouse takes it a notch higher with glamping or glamorous camping, allowing you to commune with nature even after your scheduled tour. The nests feature large bell tents set on a platform with a balcony, a standard bathroom, solar powered lights, solar powered water heaters, and electrical outlets.
"The surroundings of each nest highlight gorgeous outdoor spaces. Endemic species of butterflies, birds, and other creatures unique to Palawan are abundantly present. The views and balance between development and nature are just some of the things we educate our guests about," says Mark. The nests can accommodate you and your barkada as well. There are options with three mattresses in one tent, allowing you to bring friends and family.
The Birdhouse aims to offer not just a relaxing place to stay in, it enables guests to reconnect with nature. Not only will you spot animals all over the space, you get to admire the stars at night as well. One of their quotes on display along the stairway says it best: "Why sleep at a five-star hotel when you can sleep under millions?"
Camille, who is an interior designer, considers The Birdhouse as her living portfolio. "We trust that the right people will come up and she could get a steady amount of work once they saw the value of interior design in spaces centered around tourism," explains Mark. Every nook and cranny in The Birdhouse screams inviting—with comfy chairs, cozy hampers, and even bookshelves sprucing up the walls.
The balcony of The Nesting Table features inviting seating pieces perfect for quiet afternoons with a good book or a cold drink. Guests can also admire the view of the beach below and even spot adventurers trying the zip line.
Mark and Camille are currently starting projects to improve The Birdhouse while promoting lifestyle tourism. They take pride in hosting the island's only daily sunset yoga session. "We continue to add various services to improve the guests' lifestyle on and off vacation. We recently hired an in-house yoga instructor for sessions in the mother nest, we're setting up the space to host retreats and group discussions on climate resiliency, waste and water management, and food security. We're also creating an organic garden, composting all of our kitchen waste. Farm-to-table, table-to-farm is a concept we're laying down at The Nesting Table," says Mark.
"We're pushing our advocacy for greener designs in hospitality and tourism, combining interior design services with some eco-consulting," adds Mark. The Nesting Table's balcony even has a campfire feel to it, with logs used as seating pieces.
The Nesting Table is open to non-guests for meals, coffee, and refreshments. It has a mix of rustic and industrial elements, with an overall relaxing and cozy vibe. Who wouldn't enjoy lunch, dinner, or merienda with view?
With everything within your reach—fresh air, the beach, a serene ambiance, and good food—The Birdhouse is a little piece of paradise you can always escape to.
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