The Philippines' final frontier

The calamianes islands

are located in Northern Palawan, the Philippines. Referred to as the “final frontier,” they offer a magical collage of jagged, jungle- covered limestone, coral-fringed islands and karst-enclosed lakes as clear as glass.

The calamianes islands

The dramatic seascape invites exploration and for those with a sense of adventure it is now possible to embark on multi-day sea safaris to discover areas far off the beaten track.

This cluster of 163 islands also has a fascinating array of powdery white beaches, World War II wrecks, indigenous tribes and dugongs.

The sea safaris are about being in and on the water and embracing the alluring simplicity of connecting with nature. They run from November to May to avoid the tropical storms that can lash the region in summer and involve the charter of a large, private expedition banca complete with a guide, captain and crew.

They can be designed for between two and ten people and typically last for between four and eight days. Nights involve beach camping under the stars or sleeping in local homestays and lodgings

The crown jewel of the region is undoubtedly Coron Island. Its towering cliffs corral huge bowls of crystal-clear water and the sculptured shards of limestone, with lush vegetation sprouting out of every crack, give the place a bewitching, prehistoric feel.

The island is owned by the Tagbanwa tribe who exercise autonomous control over their ancestral domain and make their living predominantly from collecting highly

valued swallow nests.

While Kayangan Lake and the “Hidden Lagoon” are spectacular, Coron Island’s seldom visited southern and eastern shores are truly amazing. Highlights include a traverse hike across the southern tip to the “Cathedral,” a beautiful bay dotted with Tagbanwa fishing huts, and a visit to the local village of Cabugao to witness the flashing, luminescent fireflies.

Other notable islands include Black Island with its beautiful beach and small cave as well as Calumbuyan Island surrounded by a well-preserved coral garden inhabited by colorful reef fish and resident sea turtles.

Beneath the waves are the brooding iron hulks of submerged Japanese wrecks from World War II.

In September 1944 a US air attack dispatched a variety of gunboats, submarine chasers and cargo ships to their final resting places on the sea bed.

Although most can only be reached with scuba gear, a couple sit in very shallow water and provide excellent snorkeling opportunities.

Chugging along past the unspoilt tropical shores of Northern Busuanga Island, sea safaris also drop in on an area that is home to one of the healthiest populations of dugongs in Asia.

The dugong is the only herbivorous sea mammal in the world. Related to elephants, dugongs live to an average of 70 years and grow up to three meters in length. To track them you have to wait until they surface to breath (they can stay underwater foraging on sea grasses for up to six minutes) and then swim to that spot.

With a little luck it is possible to swim with these gentle creatures; a truly memorable experience.

If you go

Travel notes

The trips are run by Whistling Arrow, a Hong Kong-based travel consultancy specializing in distinctive, adventurous trips to off-the-beaten-path destinations in Asia

Each trip is custom designed to suit individual groups and families although one or two fixed departure trips are due to be introduced in 2013

The adventure starts and ends in Coron town which is easily accessible from Hong Kong via Manila and five ongoing domestic connections to Busuanga Airport

For more information on this trip and other unique adventures please visit www.whistlingarrow.com

Alternatively send an e-mail to

[email protected] or call 2811-8892.

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