Palawan, Philippines

Southwest from Mindoro, a clutch of islands, the largest of which is Palawan Island, stretch in a long ribbon all the way to the northeast tip of Borneo. 

With some of the best coastal and island beaches and beautifully clear waters to be found anywhere in Southeast Asia, Palawan is a premier location in the Philippines for a beach, snorkelling or diving holiday. 

The first island in the chain is Busuanga, the largest island of the Calamian Group, with little in the way of tourist interest except for divers and snorkelers, who come to explore the surrounding islets and sunken Second World War Japanese warship wrecks, whose various depths of rest offer opportunities for both beginners and experts. The Lusong gunboat is the shallowest at nine metres and can be viewed even by snorkelling.

Coron, Busuanga, Palawan, Philippines

Neighbouring Calauit Island offers a bizarre opportunity to observe African wildlife roaming freely around, including Giraffes, Zebras and Impalas. The Calauit Game Preserve and Wildlife National Park was set up by then President Ferdinand Marcos in 1977, ostensibly to help in preserving African wildlife, though some sources more cynically claim it was created to provide animals for his son to shoot at.

African Animals in the Philippines, Giraffe, Calauit, Philippines

Whichever is true, nowadays the animals are successfully continuing to breed and roam freely in their new island home, with their numbers on the increase. The Park also has a small number of caged specimens. 

The next major Islands are Culion, Linapacan, and their numerous satellite islets, which between them have a countless wealth of beaches and snorkelling possibilities for island hopping away from the reaches of regular tourism. 

Arriving at Palawan proper, this beautiful island is 650 kilometres in length, with the most developed of its tourist-friendly facilities mostly found in the central and northern areas.

El Nido, Palawan, Philippines

Close to the northwestern tip of Palawan, the beachfront town of El Nido is of itself a fairly featureless affair, but is picturesquely situated between impressive limestone cliffs and is a gateway to the heavenly joys of the Bacuit Archipelago and boat transfers to some of the upmarket coastal resorts, their splendorous beaches, and over 30 top class dive sites.

Las Cabanas beach,  El Nido, Palawan, Philippines

The Bacuit archipelago is a delightful and exuberantly beautiful natural playground, reminiscent of Southern Thailand, with numerous sculptural islands and lagoons adorned with stunning white beaches and encircled by bright crystal waters.    

Miniloc, Matinloc, Tapitutan and Cadlao are the major destinations in the area, but all over Bacuit Bay are numerous delightful escapes to be explored, resplendent with wonderful beaches, caves and coral gardens, a true heaven for highly scenic relaxing, sunbathing, swimming, kayaking, diving and snorkelling.

Bacuit Bay, Palawan, Philippines

On the opposing eastern coast of north Palawan, Taytay and its Spanish colonial fort is the focus point of outward trips to numerous other beautiful island getaways and superb resorts such as Apulit, Dilis and Flower islands. Inland, Lake Manguao provides for some hiking, mountain biking and a chance to see some of the wildlife. 

On the central eastern coast of Palawan, the island’s capital, Puerto Princesa, looks out to Honda Bay, and trips to Pandan, Cowrie and Snake Islands are a rewarding day’s adventure, and are prized for snorkelling. The luxury resort on Arreceffi Island makes a longer stay in Honda Bay possible.

Snake Island, Honda Bay, Palawan, Philippines

Puerto Princesa is also the point of embarkation for live aboard dive boats to the remote Tubbataha Reefs, a UNESCO World heritage site comprised of two coral atolls which are a stunningly beautiful world class dive location, occupying the same area of ocean west of Borneo as Pulau Langkayan, another globally famous dive site. 

The Tubbatatha Reefs are home to an astonishing array of marine life, including the much sought after large ocean creatures such as Whales, Mantas, and eleven species of shark including Tiger, Hammerhead and Whale Sharks as well as Dolphins, Turtles, Giant Jacks, Barracuda and Lionfish among hundreds fish species and a wide diversity of coral types. 

The reefs offer truly spectacular diving and are a prized destination for sports divers wishing to experience the awesome 100 metre coral walls and the site ranks among the world’s most important natural marine wonders. 

Opposite Puerto Princesa, on the west coast of Palawan, Sabang is situated on a fine beach, one of several draped along this coastline. The area is known for its caves, including Elephant and Lion caves, but the principal attraction is the UNESCO status subterranean river, through which a boat ride can be arranged. 

Cave enthusiasts will enjoy the Tabon Caves near Quezon in southern Palawan, a collection of over two hundred caverns, in which human remains dating back to 45,000 BC have been discovered, while adventurous travellers may wish to venture yet further south to climb Mount Matalingahan, at 2,086 metres (6,843 feet), the highest point of Palawan, and encounter the Tao’t Bato peoples and their cave dwellings.

 

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