The Philippines largest and the least populated province of Palawan is known as its last frontier. Renowned for its rich biodiversity and natural wonders, the archipelago consists of 1780 islands and islets. Palawan spans more than 600 kilometres, from Busuanga in the north to Balabac, almost touching Borneo in the far south.
Cast adrift between the Sulu and South China sea, pearlescent sands and world-class scuba diving are the marketers' staple here. However, there’s more to Palawan 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 the Batak.
Boasting a more developed infrastructure, the central and northern regions see the majority of the footfall. The islands around El Nido and the Subterranean River in Sabang are the two big draws here. In addition to Puerto Princesa, these three are all most visitors will see of the province. However, for the more intrepid the southern region awaits, showing the adventurous what true 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, paradise islands and archaeologically significant caves.
Further south, the going gets a bit tougher. A region populated by indigenous tribal groups and Muslim communities. Few souls make it down as far as the Balabac islands off Palawan's far southern tip. For those that do, however, a picture-perfect paradise awaits with no resort insight.
The majority of visitors to the province will arrive in the alluringly named Puerto Princesa. This bustling capital has on more than one occasion been tagged 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 and idyllic Nagtabon Beach is a worthwhile 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 the surrounding offshore islands. Island hopping and snorkelling are the order of the day here, but dusk is when the magic of this picturesque bay truly reveals itself. As the light dims the ethereal limestone rock formations protruding from the bay are memory card dynamite.
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 most visitors list. This body of water is the world’s longest accessible underground river system.
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 47,000 years old.
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