The Philippines largest yet most sparsely populated province of Palawan is known in the Republic as its last frontier. Renowned for its rich biodiversity and natural wonders, the archipelago of Palawan consists of 1780 islands and islets. Stretching for more than 600 kilometres, from Busuanga in the north to Balabac, almost touching Borneo in the far south.
Cast adrift between the Seas of South China and Sulu, pearlescent sands and world-class scuba diving are the marketers' staple. However, there’s more to this land than sand and sea. A jungle-clad, mountainous interior, largely unexplored by outsiders reveals several indigenous peoples. Such tribes include Kagayanen, Tagbanwa, Palawano, Taaw't Bato, Molbog, and Batak.
Boasting a more developed infrastructure, the central and northern regions see the majority of the footfall. The popular El Nido and the Subterranean River in Sabang are the two big draws here, and along with Puerto Princesa are all most visitors will see of the province. However, for the more intrepid the southern region awaits, showing the adventurous what travel is really all about.
The primary towns of Narra, Quezon and Brooke's Point are all accessible via sealed roads. Here you'll discover both jungle and marine-based action: rare birds, waterfalls, gorgeous islands and archaeologically significant caves.
Further south, the going gets tougher. This is a land populated by indigenous tribal groups and Muslim communities. Few souls make it down to the Balabac islands off Palawan's far southern tip. Those that do however are rewarded with a picture-perfect paradise with no resorts in sight.
The majority of visitors to the province will arrive in the alluringly named Puerto Princesa. The bustling capital has on more than one occasion been acknowledged as the cleanest and greenest city in the Philippines. 'Puerto' holds enough intrigue to keep you in its grasp for at least a couple of days. When the honking and hollering have taken their toll, the nearby idyllic Nagtabon Beach is a most worthy excursion.
Moving on from Puerto, El Nido is the poster boy of Palawan. Found on the far northern tip, this charming township provides the base for exploring its surrounding offshore islands. Whilst island hopping and snorkelling are the order of the day, dusk is when the magic of this picturesque bay truly reveals itself. As the light dims the otherworldly limestone rock formations protruding from the bay are guaranteed to demand your lenses attention.
In between Puerto and El Nido are any number of undeveloped pockets of pearls including Honda Bay and Tay Tay. Additionally, just getting to Port Barton and San Vicente can be an expedition in itself. Moreover, the busier UNESCO listed Subterranean River in Sabang is at the top of the list of most visitors. This busy body of water is the world’s longest underground river system accessible to man.
Completely useless facts about Palawan
- There a two UNESCO world heritage sites in Palawan; The Subterranean River in Sabang and the Tubbataha Reef Marine Park way out in the Sulu Sea
- In 2006 the world’s largest clam pearl was found in the waters of Palawan. Weighing in at 34 kilograms, the pearl was found by a local fisherman and has been valued at around US$ 130 million
- The remains of the oldest Homo Sapiens in southeast Asia have been discovered in Palawan. Unearthed bones at Tabon Cave have been dated at 47,000 years old
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