PALAWAN & CALAMIAN ISLANDS
The epitome of SEA's island-hopping destinations, and one of the absolute best diving destinations
>1½ months across Palawan and the Calamian Islands in the Philippines <
Grap an atlas and look up Southeast Asia. Look carefully in the upper-right corner of the map. Zoom in on the area between the Philippines and Borneo...
When gazing at a map of Southeast Asia there is one long, narrow island, extruding northeast from Borneo, which we always ended zeroing in on: Palawan! And after several other travels crisscrossing SE Asia we finally ended up on Palawan during a wild island-hopping journey.
Supposedly, the name came more than 1000 years ago from Chinese saling merchants calling it Palaoyu, which means 'land of beautiful safe harbor'. And it is indeed one of the most beautiful islands in all of Asia. Completely surrounded by wild seascapes and a rugged jungle-clad interior with its own mountain chain, Palawan has many beaches, coves, rivers, waterfalls, and an impressive cave system with a long, accessible subterranean river.
Palawan can be recognized by a spectacular karst landscape similar to what's known from Krabi in Thailand and Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, but with more isolated beaches, wild karst islands, and more incredible beaches than anywhere else. Remotely positioned as an outcrop from the main Philippines islands, Palawan has the most concentration of islands in the Philippines, and it also the most sparsely populated province, perhaps explaining why many call it “The Last Frontier”. Add in authenticity when traveling around the island, and the overall tranquil atmosphere, and we'll rate it as the no. 1 island-hopping destination in SE Asia.
After having crossed Palawan from Puerto Princesa to El Nido, we jumped north of the Palawan main island to the Calamian archipelago, which is technically a part of the Palawan province. This small cluster of stunning karst islands that boast isolated sea lakes and some of the best wreck diving in the world. In 1944, the WWII Battle of Coron Bay led to 24 tanker- and war-ships of the Japanese fleet being sunk around the main island Busuanga. These spooky war ships at the bottom of the low Busuanga waters invites for superior wreck penetration dives. Snorkeling is also possible. We were very impressed!
Sitting dramatically and remotely in the sea where the South Chinse Sea encounters the Zulu Sea north-east of Borneo.
Getting from A to B on Palawan takes time. Local transport is by Filippino-style Jeepeny on rugged roads through mountains and sometimes, if it rains alot, even through rivers
Sabang is a beach village and entry point to the UNESCO Heritage Site of Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park. The caves are magnifcent and the river is one the world's longest underground rivers
At El Nido, Palawan
Despite heavy downpours El Nido was a great experience; some of the wildest sea scapes beyond imagination
...on the inter-island flight from El Nido to Coron Island.
One can hop around the main island groups in Palawan with small airplanes
Calamian Islands, this bay was just 10 min with boat from our hostel
Every day we rented a Bangga boat for exploring the islands around Busuanga and Coron, Calamian Islands
Snorkeling was great with good visibility. Calamian Islands
Early morning panga ride in the Calamian Islands
Coron Island, Calamian Islands
"Barracuda Lake", an oceanlake inside Coron Island, hidden away in the rugged karst landscape.
...which is the largest of the Calamian Island is always in a jeepny where people constantly hop on and off. Many primitive roads and soon-to-flood-away bridges criss-cross Coron Island. These are good for reaching e.g. Buluang village in north-west, reaching the airport, reaching San José in north or reaching Marcilla and Lunguan villages in east.
...a small village in the north-west of Busuanga Island.
North of central Busuaga island, the little Dimakya Island is a pocked-sized tropical paradise with long, white-sand beaches and plenty of reef offshore. We spent a few days here exploring the nearby islands in the very north of the Calamian archipelago. Cottages here was quite expensive but worth the investment.
Jakob, Cristoffer, and Anders chatting with Eric from the US. We penetrated several wrecks around Busuanga Island, on this dive it was "skeleton wreck". The aquatic views from the sunken Japanese ships off Coron Island are listed in Forbes Traveler Magazine’s top-10 best scuba diving sites in the world. Calamian Islands.
Breathless karst island beach in the Calamian Islands
We stayed at a hostel build on stilts on the water, with a view to Coron Bay, the Calamian Islands
Coron, Calamian Islands
Fresh fish, octopus, and beers for lunch, in between wreck dives, Coron, Calamian Islands
We trekked through the dense jungle to several waterfalls in Northern Palawan Island
Cristoffer enjoying the freshwater aquapressure-massage in Nagkalit-Kalit waterfall after a jungle-trek, Northern part of Palawan Island
...near Depeldet Island during a beach hike