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Published: March 19th 2007
Honda Bay, Palawan
Of all the places I’ve seen, Palawan won my heart. The pristine beaches, impressive landscapes and diverse marine life never cease to amaze me. I was astonished how clean and unspoiled are the surroundings. The atmosphere is very laid back and somewhat serene. It is the ultimate eco-tourist’s paradise.
Palawan is home to a number of indigenous groups with a strong sense of community. The locals are quite happy living a simple life. They are good-natured, very friendly, hospitable and dedicated in protecting and conserving the environment.
If only mainstream filipinos follow the lead of the people of Palawan when it comes to conserving and protecting mother-nature, then eco-tourism has a great potental to flourish in the Philippines.
We landed in Puerto Princesa (capital city of Palawan)
after an hour flight from Manila.
We checked-in at the Hotel Fleuris and arranged for a half-day Honda Bay Tour.
For 1000 pesos (AU$26 per person), we went island hopping, sight-seeing and snorkelling in the most fascinating islands of Honda Bay.
Our first island hop was on Snake Island. The island is a long stretch of white sandy beach shaped like a snake. The
Snake Island (Honday Bay)
Lifeguard Station & picnic area
beach is lined with nipa huts use as shelter and picnic ground. After having the packed lunch brought by our tour guide, we plunged into the wonderful underwater world in search for Nemo.
Snorkelling on Snake Island was by far the most surreal underwater experience I ever had. I’ve seen so many species of fish that I never knew existed. The fascinating rich and diverse marine life was unbelievable. Amid of my seascape exploration, I found myself following this fish in purplish colour, which seemed to have enchanted me. After hours of being mesmerised by myriad of marine life, I have completely forgotten my search for NEMO
- the clownfish that invaded the TV screen of every household with kids. To the contrary on how they were portrayed in the film, clownfish do not venture around. Their symbiotic relationship with their host, the anemones, keep them as far as 12inch away from their habitat on their entire lifetime. So for us to find Nemo, we have to locate the anemones. With the help of our tour guide Tata
who is very knowledgeable on the marine life and hot spots of the island, we finally found Nemo who was
Starfish Island (Honda Bay)
equally happy and curious to see us. Nemo went in and out of its home, watching our prying eyes. Tata gave me a piece of bread for the clownfish. I dived-in reaching out to Nemo with a piece of bread. I am happy to say that Nemo ate the bread with great enthusiasm.
Starfish Island was the second island we explored. It’s the breeding ground for millions of starfish. The island was just newly opened to the public. I found this island to have the most beautiful coral reef I’ve ever seen in my life. The corals are flourishing and so alive !
In comparison, Snake Island has the most unbelievably fascinating species of fish while Starfish Island tops the most beautiful corals.
Finding "Jesus" and "Sharon Stone" in the Underground River
Our holiday package to Palawan booked through Philippine Airline came in with the Underground River Tour. A van from “Ellen’s Travel & Tours” picked us up right after an early breakfast at the hotel. It took just over 2 hours to get to Sabang Wharf where we caught the 20min outrigger boat-ride to St. Paul Subterranean National Park
- a UNESCO World Heritage listed site.
The road trip to the town of Sabang was at times bumpy but fun. The road is on the process of getting paved. I also found the trip quite pleasant as our eyes feasted on the amazing scenery along the way. We made a stop-over for a quick break at Ulugan Bay and took some shots of the wonderful scenery. We also had a toilet break at a rest-area and bought few souvenirs handcrafted by rehabilitated convicts. I bought some wildlife figurines made out of recycled plastics and clay.
We arrived in St. Paul Subterranean Nat’l Park around lunch time. We secured one of the picnic tables and devoured our packed lunch, which was mainly seafood, drinks & fruit. While having lunch, we were visited by a number of monitor lizards
waiting for leftovers. I was going to give a banana to one of the monkeys but I was prohibited.
About 200m from the picnic ground is the entrance to the underground river. We put on our helmet, wore our life-jacket with reflectors and everything, hopped on the outrigger boat then off we went inside the cave.
It’s pitch black inside the cave. We navigated our way with a spotlight and our tour guide’s fascinating knowledge of the underground river. The cave is home to millions of bats
…not the big scary looking ones, but the little cute ones. The cave is also full of fascinating rock formations. Almost every stalagmite and stalactite seemed to be a likeness of someone or something. This is where our perceptions and creative imagination got tested. There were times where I have to question if a certain rock feature does really look like a mushroom or a cucumber ;>. Our tour guide’s religious nature dominated the guessing game and got us enthralled with his pre-conceived imaginings. Philippines is the only predominantly Catholic Christian country in Asia. So with the Christian background that has been ingrained in our upbringing, we saw religious figures such St. Francis of Assissi with a dog, Mary
with beard and everything. Another peculiar rock feature that shaped like a naked woman was named “Sharon Stone”
Filipinos are by nature jokers and pranksters. The funniest joke our tour guide told us was, "See that rock in front of us ?." We all replied "Yes", expecting another
familiar name that resembles the rock. He then said, "That’s the rock we’re going to crash into if you don’t beam the spotlight on it so I can dodge it !" , quickly paddling away from rock.
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