TO PALAWAN IS ITS MEGADIVERSITY
For a long time, Palawans bountiful resources, abundant wildlife
and extraordinary natural beauty are known only to the many ethnic
communities that thrive in these islands and a few other daring
settlers who wanted to live in unpolluted surroundings.
The island-province first attracted foreign attention in the 1970s
when it became a United Nations Vietnamese Refugee Center. At this
time, a disturbance in Kenya also saw the transport of endangered
animals from its savannas to the plains of Calauit Island.
However, it was only a sea accident in 1979 that eventually led
to the opening of Palawan into tourism big time.
As the story goes, a tuna line disabled a dive boats propeller
in the middle of the night forcing it to drop anchor in an inlet.
The following morning, the divers woke up to an amazing scenery
of skyscraping dark cliffs, thick green forest, white-sand beach,
sparkling water and, rising above it, a series of magnificently
sculpted jade islands. And thus was how El Nido was discovered.
Ecology awareness is at a high level throughout the province. Puerto
Princesa prides itself as the cleanest city in the Philippines.
To protect its megadiversity, only eco-friendly programs are adhered
to by tourist establishments. And there are strict ordinances against
dynamite fishing, with only net and line fishing allowed. Palawan
may have opened itself to tourism but it has also taken serious
efforts to preserve this last frontier.
Go to Top
A HAVEN FAR FROM THE MADDING
The most beautiful place in Palawan is the isolated island of El
Nido with its incredibly astonishing seascapes. El Nido is a secluded
group of islands east of Puerto Princesa, Palawans capital
city, and is virtually cut off from the mainland by three bodies
of water - Luzon Sea to the north, the China Sea to the east and
the Sulu Sea to the west.
Towering midnight cliffs that jut thousands of feet above mirror
flat emerald waters are El Nidos most distinguishing feature.
This interplay of somber darkness and ethereal light provide the
dramatic backdrop for several luxury resorts and dozens of moderately
priced diver lodges on the islands.
The black marble and limestone cliffs contain large caves with
whimsical names like Cathedral Cave and Disco Cave because of their
formation. Though they look like barren sheets of inhospitable rock,
the cliffs actually spawn the swift, or balinsasayaw, which produces
the delectable birds nest for soups. And in some of the rock
faces, yucca and talisay trees as well as wild flowering begonias
do thrive in the crevices.
The town of El Nido in itself exudes a quaint charm with well-tended
homes and clean streets. Many of the islands have hidden lagoons
sheltered by limestone crags. Schools of fish swarm in the coral
reefs, many of which are visible to the naked eye. When in season,
divers often encounter the rare sea cow, or dugong.
Only small chartered planes from Manila fly tourists to the upscale
resorts. Everybody else takes the sea ferry to this picturesque
Go to Top
MAGICAL TRIP TO THE UNDERWORLD
Palawan presents a visual feast not only above the ground but also
below it. St. Paul National Park is Palawans most popular
attraction and covers 5,349 hectares of lush forest, dark mountains,
caves and white beaches. In the deep recesses of the marble and
limestone peaks of Mt. St. Paul flow the Underground River, said
to be the longest in the world. It is easily navigable for at least
four kilometers. The caves are filled with filigree-like sculptures
formed by stalagmites and stalactites. Near its mouth is a beautiful
lagoon with crystal-clear water that teems with fish. Also within
the park is the Monkey Trail, a series of wooden paths that winds
into the forest where monkeys, squirrels, lizards and some 60 species
of birds are found. The Park is inscribed in the World Heritage
Tabon Caves are the oldest known habitation site in Southeast Asia.
It is a complex of 200 caves scattered on a 138-hectare museum site
reserve, of which 33 have thus far been excavated. Seven of these
caves are open to the public as a prehistoric museum where excavations
have been left as they are. The caves provide Paleolithic evidence
that this is where life in Palawan actually began and have yielded
a womans skull, fossilized bones and earthenware dating to
as far back as 890-710 B.C. The main entrance to the caves offers
a panoramic view of a white-sand fringed bay. The caves lie in the
mountains of Pipuon Point in the town of Quezon.
Tubbataha Reefs National Marine Park is the countrys largest
marine habitat. It hosts giant manta rays, sea turtles and hundreds
of reef fish species. Located at the heart of the Sulu Sea, the
marine park is 33,200 hectares of coral atoll, barely emergent islets
and open water, and constitutes a unique complete open ocean ecosystem.
It is inscribed in the World Heritage List as "rare and superlative
phenomena as well as formations, features and areas of exceptional
beauty." It is located some 98 nautical miles from Puerto Princesa
and is a premier diving destination.
Go to Top
OUT OF AFRICA
The drought and civil strife that struck Kenya in 1977 brought
some 108 African wild animals to Calauit Island.
The Calauit Island Wildlife Sanctuary covers an area of 3,700 hectares
and is home to both endemic and African animals. The imported giraffes,
zebras, impalas, waterbucks, and gazelles, among others, have successfully
bred and graze the preserve undisturbed. They share the land with
endangered endemic animals like the Calamian deer, Palawan mouse
deer, bear cat, leopard cat, tarsier, Palawan peacock pheasant,
scaly anteater, porcupine and monitor lizard. The mangroves are
home to the man-eating Philippine crocodile while offshore sea grass
beds are the habitat of the rare dugong. Many endemic and migrant
birds flock to the area. Safaris can be arranged with the park rangers.
Modest accommodations are available for overnight stay.
Go to Top
Although it is part of Luzon, Palawan borrows many dishes from
the Visayas and Mindanao. A distinct characteristic of the island
cuisine, however, is the use of green mangoes as souring agent in
International cookery is also widely available to serve the continuous
influx of tourists. There are many restaurants on the main and side
streets of Puerto Princesa offering varied international and native
cuisines. Check out the restaurant row along Rizal Avenue. The capital
city is also known for its Vietnamese eateries, Palawan being once
a refugee center. Anywhere, rice and fresh seafood are staple fares.
Outside of Puerto Princesa, moderate priced resorts have their
own dining outlets but may require advance orders for meals. When
going on expeditions, it is advised to get your food provisions
and bottled water from Puerto Princesa as supplies are oftentimes
limited in outlying towns and practically nil in some islands. First
class hotels and resorts have fine dining and theme restaurants,
which offer catering services.
Go to Top
PLANNING YOUR TRIP
The fastest way to reach Palawan is by plane. There are two daily
flights each fielded by Philippine Airlines and Air Philippines
from the Manila Domestic Airport to the Puerto Princesa Domestic
Airport in Central Palawan.
Those bound for the Calamian Group of Islands in North Palawan
may board the small planes fielded at least once daily by Asian
Spirit, Air Ads and Pacific Air from Manila to the YKR Airport in
Busuanga. There are jeepney shuttles bound for Decalatiao Wharf
where speedboats ferry visitors to their island destinations. Soriano
Aviation flies to the El Nido Airport.
source: Department of Tourism
Go to Top