Busuanga in Northern Palawan is often overlooked compared to Coron. Ironically, the hordes of tourists that flock to the latter enter and leave via the Francisco B. Reyes Aiport (IATA: USU) in Busuanga.
Their few minutes here (or hours if their return flight got delayed) will be the only time they spend in the island’s ‘other municipality.’
But such was not the case for my friend and I when we backpacked Coron. We ditched another island hopping tour just so we can see the remaining animals at Calauit island. We rode on motorbikes since we were not able to gather enough headcount to split the rental fee of an A/C van or a bangka (motorized outrigger boat).
The motorbike option I gather is not usually recommended as the roads to Calauit from Coron are largely unpaved. The bumpy ride that ensued also came with free face powder from incoming vehicles and generous helpings of Vitamin D from the scorching midday sun. Add to that the fact that straddling on a motorbike for hours is not the most comfortable position, especially for your family jewels.
So you could only imagine my relief when we finally made it to the port of Malacachao. From there, a small bangka transported us to Calauit.
Calauit is part of the Calamianes, a cluster of islets famous for pristine white sand beaches, towering limestone karst formations and excellent shipwreck dives.
It has however none of those. It has instead African wildlife freely roaming all over the 3,400 hectare property.
The animals long journey from Kenya began in the 70s when President Ferdinand Marcos declared the island as a game preserve and wildlife sanctuary by virtue of Proclamation No. 1578. He ordered a total of 104 heads of 8 exotic animals to help propagate these endangered African species.
Surprises along the way
We headed straight for Salvacion town right after Calauit. We had a quick lunch here – a much needed recharge for the long journey back to Coron.
Along the way we stopped by a few exclusive resorts that dot the scenic Western Busuanga coast– Rio Playa Beach Resort, Pierhouse Palace and Puerto del Sol.
But what really surprised me was seeing Concepcion Falls. You see, I only expected white sand beaches and hidden lakes for this weekend adventure. It never occurred to me that there would be a spring or a body of freshwater somewhere in the island.
Our final stop was the San Vicente Ferrer Chapel, a charming little church decorated with various indigenous materials – seashells, local stones and coconut. It is perched on a hill and you need to climb approximately 76 concrete steps to reach the top.
At this elevation, we were treated with the beautiful alternating hues of the Busuanga mainland, the sea and the cloudless afternoon sky. It was a picturesque finish to all our stops that day.
Mad yet rewarding adventure
We started our trip at around 4:30 AM and got back to our inn at almost 5:00 PM. I think we have traveled a total of 160 kms or almost 6 hours on dirt roads.
It was a tiring, rugged and mad endeavor. But the unfamiliar and beautiful sights in Busuanga more than made up for the dusty feet, the aching muscles and our scorched faces afterwards.
There are indeed plenty of touristy activities that can be had at Coron – the inescapable organized tours, climbing Mt. Tapyas, just to name a few. But if you want to escape from it all, Busuanga, which is often overlooked, offers an off-the-beaten yet strangely rewarding adventure.