With an urban vibe surrounded by abundant and thriving natural resources,Puerto Princesa in Palawan might just have the best of both worlds. The city capital offers a good number of commercial establishments like shopping malls, banks, restaurants and hotels. Although it is not as congested as Manila, the streets are sometimes packed with public vehicles such as tricycles and jeepneys.
An increase of travellers---locals and foreigners alike---in this city regarded as the country’s Eco-Tourism Center is testament enough to the beauty of this natural wonderland. There are even a few who manage to stay both for business and pleasure. This vibrant city is the jump off point to world renowned tourist destinations: the Tubbataha Reefs National Park which has a rich and diverse marine life and the New 7th Wonder of the World Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park.
MODE OF TRANSPORTATION
Direct flights are available from the country’s main cities: Manila, Cebu, Davao and Iloilo. From the port of Puerto Princesa, there are also domestic passenger ferries from Manila, Iloilo, Cebu and Coron. By sea, the travel time can take as long as 10 hours to almost a whole day.
The main mode of transportation in Puerto Princesa is the public tricycle. These motorbikes with an attached one-wheeled sidecar or passenger section are almost everywhere so it is relatively easy to explore the city with these friendly local drivers-slash-tour-guides. They have a good grasp of English so feel free to ask about places that might interest you. There are provincial buses and jeepeneys plying a limited route. If you prefer a more convenient way of travelling, a tourist van is more suitable especially if you plan a whole day trip.
FAMOUS ATTRACTIONS Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center
A gigantic seawater crocodile skin laid out on the wall and its skeleton well-preserved in a glass case welcome every guest at the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center. Located in the southern part of Puerto Princesa, the center used to be recognized as the Crocodile Farm and Nature Park which is tasked to ensure the preservation of Philippine Crocodile which is endemic to the country. There is a 30-minute guided tour presenting the stages of physical development of a crocodile. So expect huge pools with almost hundreds of crawling reptiles. The center also looks after other endemic species in Palawan such as ostriches and bearcat.
Adventurous guests have a chance to hold, cradle and pet a small baby croc. Just double check that its mouth is tied and follow the caretaker’s instructions on safe and proper handling of the crocodile.
Tubbataha Reefs National Park
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tubbataha Reefs boasts of33,000-hectare coral atoll with diverse and flourishing marine life. Situated in the southeast of Puerto Princesa in the Sulu Sea, this underwater sanctuary is inhabited by more than a thousand specie like reef fishes, manta rays, green sea turtles, clownfish, and sharks. Most of which are already listed as endangered.
Traveling for around 10 hours via boat from the city, divers are treated to a colorful and amazing aquatic show. This popular dive site is best visited on the month of April when the sea is much calmer. But the park usually accommodates tourists for liveaboard diving trip from March to June.Liveaboard, in a scuba diving parlance, is a service for those who wish to stay on board for more than just a day.
Palawan Subterranean River
Touted as the New 7th Wonder of the World, the Palawan Subterranean River is a definite must-visit attraction in Puerto Princesa. This 8.2-km long Underground River snakes through a stunning cave featuring numerous stalactite and stalagmite formations. A clean inviting lagoon separates the registration site and the cave’s entry point.
A swimming vest and helmet with head flashlight are provided as standard safety gears before the start of the boat ride. Your boatman serves as your tour guide offering informative and amusing details about the prestigious river.
Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm
After passing through the main gate of the Ihawig Penal Farm, a long stretch of corn and rice fields and a few houses will be seen before reaching the souvenir shop where the prisoner’s workmanship is showcased. There are hand-painted shirts, paintings, sculptures and keychains—all made by the prisoners.
A bit of a background about Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm: A penal colony formed in 1904 was overwhelmed with attempted escapes. After granting a merit system for the inmates and providing vocational activities, American military officer Col. John R. White of the Philippine Constabulary turned the colony into an effective settlement. Since then the prisoners are free to choose from the colony’s vocational offerings like farming, fishing and carpentry.
A blooming garden and a bakery filled with sweet-smelling and freshly baked goodies are the tempting lures of Baker’s Hill. This famous place in Sta Monica Heights was initially a small bakery which later on transformed into an enticing park with its life-size statues and lush garden.
Special Recommendations and Activities Try Palawan’s exotic delicacy called tamilok or woodworm. This long slimy worm has a similar texture and taste to squid. Yup, I should know. I tasted one! Usually locals soak it in vinegar. Although more abundant in the mangroves which these woodworms feed on, it will not be difficult to find it even in the city proper where it is served in some restaurants like Balinsasayaw and Kinabuch’s.
Swim in the white sandy Sabang Beach which is right before you reach the Underground River. There are numerous resorts you can choose from.
Trek and Zipline at the Ugong Rock. At least an hour ride from the city located at Barangay Tagabinet, this limestone rock formation is towering at 75 feet high which you can climb through a cave covered with impressive stalactites. If you prefer not to trek on the way down, there is an option to descend by using a zipline. For your safety, they provide gloves and helmet for this activity.