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Palawan  (367 Photos)

Palawan is known as the ‘last frontier of the Philippines’. Stretching for 450 kilometers (280 miles) at the western boundary of the Philippines, Palawan was named the “Best Island Destination in East and Southeast Asia” by National Geographic Traveler magazine in 2007. I can say that I’ve had some amazing experiences there myself. My friends Kris and Kristen were assigned to work in the El Nido community while we were in the Philippines as Peace Corps volunteers, so I made it to visit them twice. Island hopping and exploring the beaches of the Bacuit archipelago are the best activities to do around El Nido, so Kris and Kristen arranged for us to get out on the water to visit some of the best islands, including the ‘Secret Beach’, which some people say was the inspiration for Alex Garland’s novel ‘The Beach’--story of a backpacker island utopia gone wrong. I’m not sure if that is actually true, but it’s definitely a very cool beach, accessible only by swimming through a narrow underwater cave. Aside from island hopping adventures in Palawan, Kris, Kristen and I launched an ill-fated sea kayak overnight camping traverse of the Bacuit archipelago that ended with us being rescued by a passing fishing boat. Could have ended so much worse! I was back in El Nido in October 2009 to teach an underwater photography class and stayed at the Miniloc Island resort, one of the nicest resorts in Palawan. So as you can probably tell, El Nido is definitely one of my favorite destinations in the Philippines. Aside from El Nido, I’ve also been very lucky to visit the Tubbataha UNESCO World Heritage Reef in 2006 after an invitation from Angelique Songco, the manager of the Tubbataha Reef marine park. By far Tubbataha is one of the best dive spots I’ve ever seen in my life. The capital city, Puerto Princesa is the connection point for many travelers and most tend to pass directly through, but the city is a nice place to visit in its own right. Sabang and the Underground River are ok, but probably not worth the hype you’ll find for these two spots as soon as you arrive in Puerto. I still remember the underground river guide giving a monotonous, incessant monologue where he tried to tell us how ever stalagmite, stalactite, or blob of quartz somehow resembled various characters from the Bible, or the Sharon ‘Stone’. Hardy-har-har…