The plane touched down on a narrow concrete pad in the middle of a field where there were no markers and no lights. There wasn’t even a fence surrounding the airport. Looking out the window I noticed a small building that indicated it was the airport with old faded letters on the face of it. We had arrived in Busuanga.
The island of Busuanga, part of Northern Palawan in the Philippines, is known as the last frontier. The last undeveloped part of paradise and after spending 10 days in this area, I would have to agree. While there may be many deserted tropical islands dotted about in the area, this island offers much more than a picture perfect beach and white sand beaches.
Part of our photo safari, in collaboration with Tribal Adventures, involved numerous adventures to get us into the heart of Busuanga and the surrounding areas. To experience what it is like to travel without the commercial backdrops and it delivered.
Get Off the Beaten Track in Busuanga
Besides the couple of mile tack between the airport and Coron town, in the southern most part of the island, the roads are dirt track. They are not grated and they do not have gravel. They move with the land, have huge holes, log bridges and in some cases no bridges. They move through fields, jungles, grass plains and coast lines and attempting to get around in anything but a 4X4 or water buffalo is quite laughable.
Our first outing from Palawan Sandcastles may have had a destination, but getting there was the best part of the adventure. We loaded up into Land Rover and Isuzu 4×4 trucks and headed into the frontier for a raw adventure expedition.
The bumping and swaying of the vehicles was enough cause us all to brace and push against the sides of the vehicles as we made our way across the island. Before we flew here, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew we would be on a photo safari, exploring the islands, kayaking and getting into all sorts of adventures, but I was quite surprised and just how untouched Busuanga really is.
This realization ignited something in me that I realized had been dormant, I crave adventure, I crave rawness and I crave places where I won’t see another westerner unless I seek them out. These types of situations put me in an element that reminds me why I love to explore and why I love travel. While it’s nice to see the places that have been made popular over the years are are now bursting with travelers, this is the type of travel I really enjoy.
The end destination was Calauit Island, where we had a chance to take an African Safari before making our way back through a different track then we originally traveled on. This track was considered the ‘short cut’ meaning it was a shorter distance, but we encountered just as many adventures with bridges out and loose sand.
Just when we thought the day couldn’t get any better, we stopped off in the middle of a field filled with cattle and proceeded to hike into the jungle in search of a waterfall. The hike lasted around 45 minutes through heavy woods until it gave way to a beautiful river with numerous swimming holes.
Some of the staff had been dropped here on our way through and they had hiked into the jungle to prepare a riverside local lunch. We dined on seafood fried rice, fresh salad and fresh cut fruit before taking to the water for swimming, rock climbing and playing in the waterfall.
The 45-minute trek back to the vehicles was invigorating after the chance to cool off in the river and we set off back towards Palawan Sandcastles. Our last stop would find us in the village of Cheey for a tour of the new school that is being built, with the help of the Hike + Bike= Build A School expedition hosted by Tribal Adventures.
Some of the portions of the school are already in use and we had the chance to take a look inside and visit with some of the local children as they played on the beach while the sun began to set over the ocean.
Arriving back at Sandcastles Palawan just as the sun sank below the water line on the horizon was a real treat with fantastic colors on display. We had completed our full day expedition of Busuanga and as promised, it was one hell of an adventure.
If that all proves too much for you, you could always try to take one of these guys for a spin….
More on the Philippines:
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