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Palawan, El Nido and the Bacuits archipelago

Palawan, El Nido and the Bacuits archipelago

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Palawan is the ideal destination for a first trip to the Philippines, this great island has the particularity to offer wildlife, a little different from the other regions, it comes from its former membership in Borneo, the umbilical cord is now cut, but the biotope stayed. Most tourists travel to El Nido, northern village, which allows access to Bacuits archipelago, consisting of a multitude of islands, karst formation, not like Ha Long bay in Vietnam or Phang Nga in Thailand, but in a “full sea” environment, therefore clearest waters. To get to Palawan from Camiguin is actually not difficult, thanks to the small airport that allows every other day, in the morning to take a plane to Cebu, then to Puerto Prncesa, the capital of Palawan.
Like other tourists, my destination is El Nido, 6 days is not enough to visit Palawan which is 400 km long, it is better to focus on a single destination. Puerto Princesa city has nothing special, but has a pleasant atmosphere. The guesthouses are spacious and cheap, the choice is vast, really a good destination to begin the journey. WARNING : this is the only place on the island where to get some money !!!!! We can get on a mini-van to reach El Nido : 5 hours for 250 km, this is the opportunity to observe the scenery of this island so-called “wild” island. What i saw, was wilde in the fact there was nobody about …. however the nature is not authentic, no jungle, only bushes and coconut trees, rather limited diversity. That made me think of a vast wasteland, disappointing ! El Nido used to be a small fishermen’s village, now converted into the tourism industry, but it remains on a human scale. In the bus, a Philippine woman recommanded to me the “Cliffside Cottages“. Just at the entrance of the village, it’s run by a family that stayed simple, smiling, and a little away from the tourist galloping mercantilism. A very good place indeed !!! South El Nido, long beaches hug the contours of the Bacuit bay, Marimegmeg is the largest.

The main activity here is the “island hoping” : the path of the Bacuits archipelago, island to island in order to assess the geological delusions of nature, fabulous greens and azure blues of the sea. Four trips (a,b,c,d) are offered by dozens of companies, but they all have tha same program !! I opted for the path A in a Bangka on the first day, it’s nice, but like all tours they depart at the same time, the scenes quickly found themselves burdened with Bangkas, which are boats as long as wide and also very very slow ! For my second trip, i changed to a speedboat tour organized by “La Salangane”, a French company, double advantage : it is the equivalent of two trips in one day and we avoid the arrival on the scene at the same time as the others. It is a desert ! Also, we were only four passengers on this tour !! Chicken and fish grilled somewhere on an island at noon, served with vegetables and fruits are delicious … one of my best meal since my arrival in the Philippines. Here, are some remarkable places encountered during the two days, but not worth drooling at the sight of the marine life, even if the blue water reveals rocks colonized by corals, most of them are very damaged and there are no more soft corals since 2008 following the abrupt warming of the waters. One now comes in El Nido only for scuba diving. For the snorkeling some places are “still” in good health, and Philippines do not lack of them.

These limestones rocks sometimes end in very sharp points and are true sculptures.

Some islands have small caves that can be visited, others are colossal structures as “The Cathedral”.

In this part of Bacuits, the cliffs are really huge, just compare with a Bangka of average size !

In the other hand the marine fauna is very limited because of an ecological disaster, only hard coral, kind of “mushroom shape” remain, we can see the massacre on the last photo.

Passing on Snake Island at the top of the view point, i came face to face with a long-tailed macaque from Philippine, first encounter with this species. The guy did not take long to jump in my direction, revealing sharp teeth, well … it appears to be alone, but i guess it is the guardian of a community located along the steep cliff.macaque-longue-queue-philippines10012014-_MG_4750 Leaving aside the beaches and the rocks of El Nido to concentrate on the land, i am curious to discover the local life and i would like to check if the nature is in such a disrepair, as seen from the mini-van. Luck is with me : i meet Dudz who works in a restaurant, a young Filipino who loves to improvise as a guide, and organizes day-trips on a motorcycle, these trips focus on local life in Northern Palawan. The appointment is made for the next morning. The first visit : a fishermen’s village on the edge of a canal, sheltered by a mangrove swamp. To get there, you cross a wooden bridge over the canal where fishermen’s Bangkas are at anchor.

The village is poor, beautiful faces and smiles of the children still have their endearing effects.

The canal through the village leads to a mangrove, which leads to a beach, this is where the fishermen go in the morning or at night, depending on the type of fishing programmed. In the village, only one man is reponsible for the design of the Bangkas, he is helped by others for finishing or renovations.

The national sport is basketball, Filipinos are proud to have international players and there are playgrounds in every village and in the streets of big cities. Note that most men in the whole country are bodybuilders, most of the time in a light way, body-building is common.


Fire is used everywhere to incinerate natural products and plastics, they are often lit unexpectedlyfeu-village-philippines-enfants-palawan
The coconut supported by bamboo is used to build almost entirely a village, a group was just braiding and laying the leaves for a new home. I got my turn to try doing it in front of the whole village, i did not know where to hide myself… my clumsiness made them laugh a lot !!!

Come on, we leave the village, go past the “supermarket” guarded by a giant rabid.chien-dormant-magasin-bois-village-palawan On the road, we see a jeepney rather loaded, although it can be a lot worse.jeeppney-surchargé-plein-palawan-philippines Not too far away, we walk towards some waterfalls, long time since i have seen any and i do miss it ! I must say anyway that Dudz is an excellent guide who speaks good English and we can discuss many subjects during walking, that is ultimately long and we did cross a river 9 times. Nothing amazing on arrival, but i like the textures created by the roots of ficus and rock. Dudz takes the opportunity to swim and i confirm what i said about Filipinos and bodybuilding !!

We travel almost 100km all along that day, in the surrounding countryside on rocky roads. I keep sliding on the saddle of the bike, Dudz drives very fast. I have not seen anything beautiful, i must admit, issue landscape and nature, only a few rice fields, bright green, detach the monotony. For some, it is the time of planting, we stop to question employees busy burying rice bundles in the slit, breaking out their back all day. They are paid 80 pesos a day, or 1 euro 40 !!! OUTRAGEOUS !!!!!!

Here we are … i wanted to end the Philippines with this banal photo of Dudz on his motorcycle, on a road culminating the sea, nothing special about the landscape. Why this photo ? Because i would never have done so much motorcycle in my life, than during this stay, the grass is a lovely green and it represents well the almost daily rain, in all the regions of the Philippines at this time of year. Because this desolated landscape without plants is natural, without fantasy and is a reality for many of these formerly lush islands. But because the good face of Dudz is so representative of Filipino people, friendly and uninhibited, a bit like Indonesians.

Though i did not know on that day, that the country had offered me undesirable guests inside my liver, it will stay deep in my heart.

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Palawan, El Nido and the Bacuits archipelago

par Stéphane Bidouze time to read: 10 min