This country of more than 7,000 islands is so rich in nature and natural wonders that it can be staggering.
Named after prince Philip II after it was colonised in the 16th century, this is one of the most populous countries in Asia where English is an official language. Even though a nation, rich in natural resources and educated people, the Philippines still has a major dependence on agriculture and services while the manufacturing sector lags behind.
The country is flush with natural wonders, many of which are UNESCO heritage sites. Let’s have a look at the most important ones.
Puerto Princesa Underground River – This subterranean river takes you to a world entirely different that’s compelling and at the same time intriguing in its mystery. The first thing you see when you enter the national park is the dramatic limestone landscape and the biodiversity. The river passes through a cave system which has a hypnotic effect that lasts through the entire length of a little over 8 kilometres before it emerges into the sea.
The journey takes only about an hour but makes you lose track of time and it is strongly recommended that you not venture in by yourself but go with a tour guide or take one of the group tours. The rock formations, the moist forest and the wildlife that surround you on the way keep adding to the mesmerising experience.
The national park is on a small island an hour’s flight from Manila and well worth the day or overnight trip. The time you will spend in the cave system will be about an hour and to really appreciate the beauty of the entire park you will put in a full day.
The deeper you feel the nature the farther you get from the superficial.
Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park – An overnight, tranquil boat ride of around 10 hours from Puerto Princesa takes you to this 97 hectare marine protected area. The natural park, aside from being on the UNESCO heritage list, is recognised as one of the most spectacular diving sites in the world.
Scuba divers discovered this only in the 1970s.
Snorkelling in the serene waters you get to see the pristine coral reef with a magnificent almost vertical wall about a 100 metres, two coral islands and a vast variety of marine animals. Here, in these lagoons, you will see more than a 100 different species of fish with 11 kinds of sharks, dozens of different coral and even whales and dolphins belonging to different families. The area around the lagoons invites many colourful birds, some of which use it as a nestling ground. As a bonus you will see green turtles snuggling up to their little ones.
The best time of the year to go scuba diving is between March and June when the sky is blue, the water is calm and the temperatures are comfortable.
Donsol – Did you know more people die taking selfies compared to those killed by sharks, each year? Those not familiar with diving imagine sharks to be monstrous killers while the fact is an average of less than 10 people are killed worldwide by sharks every year who are by nature extremely shy creatures. Compare this with dozens of fatalities every day while talking on the cell phone and driving.
Donsol is famous for its clear waters and the gentle giants, whale sharks. These creatures can measure from 5.5 to 10 metres. The largest one that has been recorded was close to 19 metres. Donsol is the whale shark capital of the world and you will be able to swim with these fellow beings and actually touch them. These beautiful, affable sea animals can weigh up to 40 tonnes and are perfectly safe to swim with. A survey is carried out each year by the World Wildlife Fund and according to the last one in 2021, there were 58 whale sharks in Donsol.
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