Days 25 – 27: Flying into Palawan, we readied ourselves for an island more prepared for travellers. During our time so far we had rarely come across other European travellers, save those on our organised tour. Sure enough upon arriving in Puerto Princesa, we found many other travellers, as well as backpackers, which strangely was something we hadn’t experienced in almost a month of travelling around the Bicol and Quezon regions.
Exploring Puerto Princesa – ‘The City in the Forest’
After being picked up early next morning by Donna from Corazon Travel, who would be helping us over the next few days with our research in and around Puerto Princesa. That evening after checking into the cosy, native style Puerto Pension, we took a walk down to Bay Walk, recommended as a great place for dinner. A short distance behind the pension, we found ourselves staring at the glittering bay, lined by many basic al fresco restaurants serving the ‘catch of the day’. The area reminded us vaguely of the Malecón in Havana, with locals congregating and gazing out to sea. I opted for a grilled stonefish and waited with other locals on rustic bamboo seating, surrounded by swirls of barbecue smoke and the simmering lights from the restaurant’s lanterns.
The Puerto Princesa Butterfly Farm
The next day we headed out to explore more of the city, also known as ‘The City of the Living God’. Already Puerto Princesa felt like a breath of fresh air — with less traffic and a more laid-back atmosphere than other places we had visited. After taking a look around, we made it to the Butterfly Farm, where we were treated to a variety of species flying around, and also caught a glimpse of the bearded boar and the Puerto Princesa’s emblem – the tandikan – a small blue-feathered peacock.
As part of the cultural tour we were able to witness demonstrations by resident indigenous tribes. Barely clothed men showed off their version of the backpack and then blew poisoned darts through long bamboo pipes, over our heads to show us their traditional method of hunting. One tribe member even showed us how to easily start a fire with a piece of flint before nonchalantly putting it out with his bare feet. After this the group began to play their indigenous musical instruments.
The finale concluded in a rather large yellow and white python being brought out for photos. While some of the other tourists lapped it up, we found it a little pantomime and decided to make our way out to take a look at the bear cat and the crocodile.
Island Hopping in Puerto Princesa’s Honda Bay
The next day, we were picked up early to head to Honda Bay, flecked with tropical islands and colourful coral reefs. Our first stop was the somewhat dubious practice of feeding fish on Luli Island, however we soon found out this was only allowed in a roped off area and not on the actual reef. What seemed like thousands of fish began swimming around our legs and breaking the water as they came up to catch the the crumbs of bread.
A school of silver fish and fluorescent bluey green ones came into view after the sharp drop, just a few metres in. We enjoyed snorkelling with these feisty fishes. Next, we scooted off to Pambato Reef, which didn’t disappoint with its abundance of iridescent parrot fish and graceful angel fish. After a leisurely snorkel, we were whisked away to Cowrie Island for a buffet lunch.
If you’d like to find out more about what we get up to in the Philippines, check back here for updates on our ‘30 Days in the Philippines‘ tag.