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!