Ever since scuba diving was discovered in the 1940s, humans have been venturing into the deep to experience the mysteries of the underwater world inhabited by creatures that seem to be from another planet. Armed with diving gear that allows you to survive underwater, you realize insignificant you feel as a human being amidst the schools of fish, sharks, and other creatures of the sea. Few recreational activities provide the sense of otherworldliness that diving offers.
The Islands of Palawan
Divers flock to Palawan from all over the world just to experience the abundance of marine life, white sand beaches, and dozens of lagoons these islands have to offer. Bacuit Bay, the main bay at El Nido, with its dozens of islands and islets has the clearest blue water imaginable and is rapidly growing in popularity as a tourist destination.
Palawan islands consist of the main island of Palawan plus almost 2,000 surrounding islands and islets (about one quarter of all the islands in the Philippines), most of which are uninhabited. As such, Palawan forms a long sliver of islands that lie in between the South China Sea and the Sulu Sea. It is a natural wonder that need to be experienced to be believed.
A Brief History of Palawan
Palawan’s colorful history has resulted in a mix of cultures with around 50 languages. Malay immigrants first arrived in the 12th century followed in the 13th century by Indonesians. Palawan became a trading hub after Islam was introduced via Borneo with Arabs, Chinese, Hindus, and Japanese frequenting the ports. During the 19th century, Palawan was in the hands of the Spanish who lost it to the Americans.
Eventually, the Americans were overcome by the Japanese during World War II but soon after the war in 1945, the islands were liberated. More than half of the islands are covered in forests with extensive areas of grasslands and almost 6,835 miles of coral reef.
What to See
Healthy coral reefs around El Nido, Puerto Princesa, and Coron Island are awash with colorful reef fish like parrot fish, surgeon fish, angelfish, groupers, lunar fusilier, and yellowtail snapper. On the sand bottom, blue-spotted ribbontail rays can be seen as well as blacktip sharks that patrol the reefs. Be on the lookout for green sea turtles and other sea creatures like nudibranch, crabs, and eels that are frequent visitors. There really is a plethora of marine life on display for all to enjoy.
You will be astounded by the glory of Tubbataha Reef with its rich marine biodiversity. The strong currents bring large creatures like Whale Sharks and Manta Rays. Grey Reef and White Tip Sharks are quite common but Hammerhead Sharks and Tiger Sharks are seen more rarely. Keep your eyes peeled for game fish like Mackerel, Tuna, and Trevally as well as Eagle Rays. Whales and dolphins can be spotted from the surface.