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Palawan - The Philippines' Last Frontier

Big Lagoon - El Nido PalawanPalawan, the largest province in the Philippines, is located in the MIMAROPA Region, between the South China Sea and the Sulu Sea.  The province is comprised of  1,780 islands, with three major island groups: Calamain in the north, Dumaran-Cuyo in the northeast and Balabac-Bugsok in the south.

It is a well know tourist destination and boasts of pristine beaches, clear blue waters and breathtaking land formations.  Incomparable to other islands in the world, Palawan was named "The Top Island in the World" by Conde Nast Traveler's Reader Choice Awards just last year.

Dubbed as the the Philippine's Last Frontier, Palawan remains mostly untouched by development.  Its unspoiled natural beauty and rustic appeal make it a popular choice for tourists in search of laid back and uncrowded beach destinations.

Sprawled beneath its waters are nearly 11,000 square kilometers of coral reefs, representing more than 35% of the country's coral reefs, and home to a wide array of marine life including endangered species such as dugong and sea turtles.  Renowned underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau has described the province as having one of the most beautiful seascapes in the world.

On land, Palawan's lush rainforests are home to exotic endemic species such as the Palawan peacock-pheasant, Philippine mouse-deer, Philippine pangolin, Palawan bearded pig, and Palawan birdwing.

Geographically, Palawan may seem remote from the rest of the Philippines.  In fact, some of its southern islands are closer to Malaysia than to other Philippine provinces.  However, it is easily accessible by either boat or airplane (about an hour and a half flight from Manila). Flights from Iloilo and Cebu are also available.

Some of the most popular attractions in Palawan include the following:

Calauit Game Preserve and Wildlife Sanctuary
A game reserve and wildlife sanctuary of exotic African animals and endangered endemic animals of Palawan located in Calauit Island in Busuanga.

Coron Reefs, Coron Bay, Busuanga
Nature lovers flock to this awe-inspiring attraction in Northern Palawan for its seven lakes surrounded by craggy limestone cliffs. , near the town of Coron.  It is also a popular dive site featuring 12 World War II Japanese shipwrecks.

Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park
Also known as the St. Paul Subterranean National Park and Puerto Princesa Underground River, this park features a large limestone karst landscape with an underground river. One of the river's distinguishing features is that it emerges directly into the sea, and its lower portion is subject to tidal influences. The area also represents a significant habitat for biodiversity conservation. The site contains a full 'mountain-to-sea' ecosystem and has some of the most important forests in Asia.  It was inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site on December 4, 1999.

On November 11, 2011, Puerto Princesa Underground River was provisionally chosen as one of the New7Wonders of Nature. This selection was officially confirmed on January 28, 2012.

Tubbataha Reef Marine Park
The Tubbataha Reef Marine Park is a marine and bird sanctuary covering 332 km2, including the North and South Reefs. It is a unique example of an atoll reef with a very high density of marine species; the North Islet serving as a nesting site for birds and marine turtles. The site is an excellent example of a pristine coral reef with a spectacular 100 m perpendicular wall, extensive lagoons and two coral islands.  It was declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in December 1993.

Ursula Island
This game refuge and bird sanctuary is situated near the Municipality of Brooke's Point in southern Palawan. The islet is a migratory and wintering ground for shorebirds and seabirds.

Tabon Caves
Apart from its natural beauty, Palawan is also known for its archeological treasures such as the  Tabon Caves.  Known as the Cradle of Philippine Civilization, the caves are the oldest known habitation site in Southeast Asia. Comprised of 29 caves, of which 17 have been excavated, Tabon Caves have yielded the oldest-known Filipino skull, a 2000 year old jar, fossilized human bones, ancient tools and a number of other artifacts.

Photo credit: "El Nido Palawan Big Lagoon" by nennnn

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