By Keith Anthony S. Fabro
Tucked away in northern Palawan, Busuanga is a small island town with big tourism potential awaiting discovery. Offering lots of opportunities to disconnect with life’s hubbub and reconnect with nature sans the crowd, this up-and-coming tourist destination, dubbed as “the last shade of paradise,” is an ideal alternative to the bustling Coron and El Nido. What makes it extra special is that it exudes quaint province charm, so irresistible particularly to stressed-out wanderers always hankering for a laid-back escape.
And whether you’re looking for opportunities to bask in long stretches of gorgeous beach, get up close and personal with unique wild animals, or just simply revel in silence as you marvel at the sweeping sea and mountain views, the simply stunning Busuanga doesn’t disappoint! So if you need a weekend of calm and serenity to reboot your worn-out system, spare no time and check out its 20 must-visit attractions.
1. Calauit Safari Park: The 3,700-hectare Calauit Island is the place to be if you want to get up close and personal with African animals like giraffes, zebras, impalas, waterbucks, and many more! This game reserve and wildlife sanctuary also harbors Palawan endemic animals like Calamian deer, civet cat, and wild bearded pig, among others. For a totally different safari experience, get a permit from the management, so you can spend a night on a camping tent here and stargaze with your friends!
2. Dugong Watching Area: Be in awe as you swim with dugongs grazing on the seagrass meadows off Aban-Aban Long Beach. Before the trip, you’ll undergo a briefing about the critically endangered dugong and the eco-friendly ways of approaching it. Numbering around 30 in the area, these endangered charismatic mammals surface every four to five minutes. Bring your underwater action camera so you could take selfies with them!
3. Nanshin Maru Shipwreck: Scuba dive through Nanshin Maru Shipwreck to see large scorpionfish and lionfish, small schools of batfish, as well as large schools of snappers, fusiliers, groupers, trumpet fish and angelfish. Ideal for novice divers, this eerily exquisite World War II ship lies at a depth of 18 to 34 meters right in front of popular island destination, Black Island (locally, Malajem Island).
4. Okikawa Maru Shipwreck: Another World War II shipwreck worth checking out is the oil tanker Okikawa Maru that lies at a depth of 10-26 meters. Located off the coast of Barangay Concepcion, the shipwreck, suitable for open water or wreck divers, has since served as home to a large volume of tropical reef fish. The 160 meter-long Okikawa Maru has also seen the growth of spectacular corals on its structure.
5. Black Island: Black (locally, Malajem) Island got its name from its dark-colored, towering karst cliffs that host three small caves primarily inhabited by swiftlets and bats. Inside the caves, natural freshwater pools invite you to take a quick dip. Off its white sand beach lies a vibrant coral garden and a World War II shipwreck perfect for snorkeling.
6. Pamalican Island: With its white sand beach and crystal clear turquoise waters, no wonder Pamalican Island is a haven for sun, sand and sea lovers. Here you can swim all you want, or sun bathe to get that perfect tan. If you have more time to spare, you can circle this 50-hectare island on foot and experience the liberating feeling of being on a secluded island.
7. West Nalaut Island: West Nalaut (also known as Dao) Island is a 47.9-hectare uninhabited private island located around 16 km off the western coast of Busuanga Island. This lush tropical island is visited for its 1.1 kilometer crescent-shaped white sand beach and clean waters ideal for swimming. With healthy coral reefs around, it’s also a great place to enjoy snorkeling.
8. Dibutonay Island: This piece of paradise boasts powder-soft white beach where you can freely bask in the sun. Its remote location allows you to relax as you unplug from the stresses of modern life. If you’re lucky enough, when you snorkel or dive in the pristine azure waters surrounding Dibutonay Island, you could spot sea cows grazing on the seagrass.
9. Dimipac Island: Dimipac island’s white sand beach is ideal for sunbathing. Coral reef diving off the island’s western end promises an encounter with sea turtles, leaf scorpionfish and other marine life calling this scenic site home. If you’re lucky, you could also spot a dugong feeding on the nearby sea grass. Diving here is relaxed as the water is warm and clear, and there’s very little current.
10. Maltatayoc Island: Well-known for its raw, natural beauty, Maltatayoc Island is also famous for featuring a stretch of creamy to white sand beach. The island is privately-owned but open to island hopping tour-goers with permission from its caretaker. Maltatayoc Island in Barangay Maglalambay is less than 40-minute boat ride away from the town pier.
11. Ocam-Ocam Beach: Going to Ocam-Ocam is an adventure in itself. To get there, you have to rent a scooter or motorbike in poblacion and traverse a paved to bumpy road for less than an hour. Adventurous spirits willing to go off the beaten track are rewarded with this less touristy beach that offers some peace and quiet. Ocam-ocam also features light golden sand and clear waters! Here, you can do overnight beach camping or spend a night in a homestay or budget inn.
12. Aban-Aban Long Beach: Gulp down fresh sea air as you leisurely walk along Aban-Aban Long Beach. One of Busuanga’s best-kept secrets, this long stretch of powdery white sand beach is tucked away in northern part of Calauit Island. A few hundred meters away from the beach lies a healthy seagrass area where the critically endangered dugongs are usually seen grazing.
13. Oton Beach: Situated on the island barangay of Maglalambay, Oton Beach is a privately-owned beach, which can be freely accessed by the public after getting permission from the caretaker. Oton Beach’s crystal clear waters, with shades varying from turquoise to emerald, are perfect for swimming. Got more time to spare? Stroll to the nearby Maglalambay fishing village and check out its chapel atop a hill.
14. Concepcion Falls: Concepcion Falls sits 17 km away from the town proper and is accessible by land trip. You’ll reach this small cascade tucked in the woods after walking for less than 10 minutes from the registration center near the main road. Its plunge pool is great for a refreshing swim, especially on a scorching hot day. Insider tip: If you want to see this hidden gem in all its awesome glory, visit it on rainy season.
15. Chinibayan Falls: Chinibayan Falls is nestled in the lush forest of Barangay New Busuanga, 16 km north of poblacion. The jump-off can be reached in less than an hour of road trip through paved to rough road. From there, trek for 30 minutes to an hour, and spot different bird species along the way. Chinibayan Falls can be enjoyed best on rainy season. If you happen to visit it in summertime when there’s no actual falls, you can still take a refreshing dip in its plunge pool.
16. Busuanga River Cruise: Treat yourself to a hearty lunch or dinner buffet while cruising along the mangrove-fringed Busuanga River for an hour. You can experience this relaxing activity for P700, which also includes the free use of kayak, rubber boat and bamboo raft. Busuanga River Cruise is a municipal government tourism project inaugurated just last March 2019.
17. Ditapic Ruyukan: Hop on an outrigger boat to pass through Ditapic Ruyukan. “Ruyukan” is a Calamianes word for “shortcut.” Located in in Barangay Boloang’s Sitio Ditapic, it’s a mangrove and nipa-fringed brackish waterway running west to east or reverse. This channel separates Calauit Island from the main island of Busuanga. Must-try activities here are kayaking and birdwatching.
18. Bogtong Mangrove Channel: Bogtong Mangrove Channel forms part of a thriving marine protected area in Barangay Bogtong. Kayaking through the channel gives you an opportunity to explore and enjoy everything it has to offer. Here’s an interesting fact: This lush mangrove forest also serves as home to different bird species, making it ideal for birdwatching.
19. Cheey Boulevard: A favorite pictorial spot for tourists and locals alike, Cheey Boulevard offers a scenic ocean view with a backdrop of rolling hills. Here you can leisurely walk with your special someone and lose track of time. The quaint boulevard is located in Barangay Cheey, which is less than an hour drive away from the town proper.
20. Salvacion View Deck: Hike up Salvacion View Deck to get stunning panoramic views of Busuanga. Before you hit the mountain peak at around 700 meters above sea level, check out the manganese mining tunnel dug in 1938 during the World War II. Along the forested trail, you’ll also hear and even spot different bird species, so don’t forget to bring binoculars with you.
Indeed, Busuanga doesn’t run out of unspoiled natural attractions, proving it’s a place to be to experience Palawan’s raw beauty.