First question, I know you are thinking – Where is Palawan? I pretty much had that reaction when my friend Sheryl told me she took her family there for vacation. I had stopped by her home to catch up and found her cooking Chicken Adobo a traditional Filipino dish which reminded her of her holidays.
Where is Palawan?
Palawan is a province in The Philippines nicknamed its last frontier. It is a UNESCO biosphere reserve consisting of 1,780 islands. Located on the Western side of The Philippines, the islands are sandwiched between the South China Sea and the Sulu Sea. So expect lots of water.
Sheryl took her family to the north of Palawan. She stayed on Busuanga Island (a direct 45 minute flight from Manila via Cebu Pacific or Philippines Airlines) at the Busuanga Bay Lodge.
Why Go To Palawan?
My second question was “Why Palawan?” I’ve been to Boracay years ago and I’ve heard of Cebu as a major tourist destination. I had never heard of Palawan, never mind considered it as a place for a family holiday.
Clearly, I am behind in my reading. In 2014, Conde Nast Traveller voted it the best island in the world in its Readers Choice Awards. In 2013, Travel + Leisure, Palawan made its debut on the World’s Best Islands list. These islands came out of nowhere to snatch the coveted top slots. I bet Maui (Hawaii) and Santorini (Greece) were mightily upset.
The reasons I found out to visit Palawan are very cool! Here are 10 extraordinary reasons to venture out to visit this area of The Philippines.
1. You can go island-hopping on the local bangka boats. Unleash your inner Robinson Crusoe on these sparsely populated islands. With 1,780 islands to choose from, you really can tell your co-workers that you are not reachable by mobile!
2. There is great snorkelling easily accessible everywhere. The Philippines is located in the Coral Triangle with great diversity of marine species. There are hundreds of types of coral and thousands of different varieties of reef fish. It is a roughly triangular area located between The Philippines, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
3. If you are feeling more adventurous, the island of Coron is great for scuba diving. Lots of Japanese navy vessels lie sunk of the coast of these islands. It’s been listed in Forbes Traveler Magazine as one of the world’s Top 10 diving locations.
4. The natural beauty is astounding – clear water, white sand beaches, limestone cliffs – you get the picture!
5. The El Nido Resorts are an internationally known group of eco-resorts in Palawan. The El Nido Marine Preserve is the largest in The Philippines. There are rain forests, beaches, limestone cliffs, marine life as well as wildlife.
6. The Puerto Princesa underground river is the world’s longest navigable underground river. The 8.2 mile river winds its way through caves before emptying into the South China Sea. It is a UNESCO world heritage site.
7. Calauit is an island located northwest of Busuanga. Off the coast of Calauit you may find sea cows, dugong, an endangered species because it has been hunted for hundreds of years for meat and oil. Related to the manatees, they live off sea grasses in the shallow water. It is the only completely herbivorous marine mammal.
8. Calauit island is home to the Calauit Game Preserve and Wildlife National Park. This park hosts a collection of wildlife rescued from Kenya by the Marcos’ regime in the 1970’s when Kenya was going through a drought. As well as the local animals, the preserve also has groups of African wildlife – giraffes, gazelles, zebras, impalas etc.
A less charitable motive is that one of the Marcos kids wanted to go hunting without journeying too far from home. There was also rumours that Marcos got ivory from Kenya to make statues in exchange for housing the wildlife.
9. Visit pristine white sand beaches that inspired Alex Garland to write the famous book that was turned into a Leonardo DiCaprio movie, The Beach. Well, according to local folklore anyway. In the book and the movie, Garland claimed the beach was Koh Phi Phi in Thailand.
10. There’s lot of entertainment to ward off boredom on both land and water. Have fun in the water with such activities as paddle-boarding, kayaking or fishing. Spend your days on land with pursuits such as beach-combing, rock-climbing, hiking and, my personal favourite, general lazing on a beach with a good book.
See For Yourselves – A Family Trip to Palawan
To see how gorgeous this province is, check out this short video of Sheryl’s trip to Busuanga and its island neighbours.
The video is an excerpt of a podcast I have recently done asking her about the trip. I created the video because know you like your photos. This place is exceptionally photogenic.
To learn more details about Sheryl’s trip, including her opinion on Busuanga Bay Lodge and her daughter’s encounter with fire coral, you can listen to the full podcast on iTunes under Just Go Places Podcast.