PALAWAN TRAVEL INFORMATION
to Stay in Palawan | Unique to Palawan is its
A Haven Far From The Madding Crowd
Magical Trip to the Underworld | Out
Island Flavors | Planning
TO PALAWAN IS ITS MEGADIVERSITY
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.
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.
HAVEN FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
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
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 fishing town.
TRIP TO THE UNDERWORLD
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Department of Tourism