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ABOUT PALAWAN PROVINCE
Palawan Province, Philippines



 
Unique to Palawan is its Megadiversity | A Haven Far From The Madding Crowd
Magical Trip to the Underworld | Out of Africa Island Flavors | Planning Your Trip
 

UNIQUE TO PALAWAN IS ITS MEGADIVERSITY

For a long time, Palawan’s 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 1970’s 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 boat’s 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.

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A HAVEN FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD

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, Palawan’s 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 Nido’s 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 bird’s 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 fishing town.

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MAGICAL TRIP TO THE UNDERWORLD

Palawan presents a visual feast not only above the ground but also below it. St. Paul National Park is Palawan’s 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 List.

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 woman’s 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 country’s 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.

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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.

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ISLAND FLAVORS

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 many dishes.

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.

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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

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