In recent years, Palawan, Philippines has made it onto the radar of intrepid travelers looking for something a little different. In fact, it has been voted ‘best island’ three years in a row by readers of Travel + Leisure Magazine. So although it is less developed than Phuket, Thailand or Bali, Indonesia, it is slowly gaining ground on these popular places. Luckily its development is still in the early stages. Visitors to the western most Philippine Island are practically treated to an untouched paradise on earth.
It is the geography of the island that makes it spectacular. A 400 mile long strip of land in the South China sea consisting of small limestone islands, white-sand beaches, hidden lagoons and an interior dominated by rain forest make Palawan an amazing place to visit. Couple its natural attributes with a low population, smattering of tourists and emerging tourism infrastructure you get the best of both worlds.
Days can be spent on a hired boat being ferried around the tiny islands of El Nido finding hidden beaches and discovering small lagoons. Once you have found a spot like no other, it is time to relax on the beach and swim in the cool, clear water. Matinloc’s Secret Beach and 7 Commandos Beach are just a couple of recommended places, with Miniloc’s Big and Small Lagoons being great places to kayak. For action orientated travelers kayaking is not the only activity to be found in El Nido, there is good scuba diving and snorkeling too.
I you want the ultimate scuba diving experience then Palawan has one of the best dive sites in the world. Tubbataha is a coral reef that has made it onto the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. It is a conservation area and the fees collected from organized diving tours help pay for its environmental upkeep. Tourist rave about diving at Tubbataha due to the underwater setting and diverse and plentiful sea animals that are encountered on each and every dive.
Another notable dive site in Palawan is the wreck of Japanese supply ships that were sank in 1944 during the Second World War and now lie under the waters of Coron Bay. The six shipwrecks offer an opportunity for beginners to experts to encounter another underwater world measuring a mere 10 feet to a staggering 140 feet deep. The ships are a draw in themselves but like Tubbataha the sea life that swims close to them are also fascinating.
Inland Palawan has just as much to offer explorers with the Cabayugan River being one of them. The river is the longest navigable underground river in the world. It starts in the Saint Paul mountain range and ends in a 5 mile long cave. Tours offer visitors the chance to take a boat about a mile into the cave to see naturally created limestone formations, stalactites and stalagmites along with the bats and swiftlets that consider it home. Our description might not do it justice but rest assured it is incredible as its distinction of being one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature proves.
The Cabayugan isn’t the only river attraction in town, or on the island, the Iwahig River has night time tours that anyone visiting Palawan would regret missing. Tour operators whisk visitors away to river side mangroves that are home to thousands of fireflies. As the noiseless canoes float by the trees the fireflies come out to play and display their ethereal charm.
Sun lovers, scuba divers and adventurers find a lot to keep them occupied on Palawan but bird watchers are also quite happy here , some might say ecstatic. The reason is due to Palawan being a migratory stop on the East-Asian Australasian Flyway of the avian population. This means that during their yearly migration from the Northern Arctic Circle to New Zealand, over 170 species of birds take a breather here.
It seems like not only migratory birds but weary travelers have good reason to take a breather or two in Palawan. We say, go before the area gets more popular than it already is. We certainly plan to…