TRIPS: Calauit Safari Park: a slice of Africa in Palawan

8:16 PM

To cross a gangplank in pitch dark may not be a bright idea. But I did it anyway.
It was four in the morning and I was boarding a bangka headed to Calauit Island.

Calauit Island is situated in northern Palawan Province and is more famously known as Calauit Safari Park,  a game and wildlife sanctuary to African giraffes and zebras. It was four hours away by boat from Coron Town and if we want to be there before noon, we needed to have a rather early start.

We were moving in the dark, can't see anything but our own hands and our captain behind the wheel. The sound of the motor running, as loud as a sailor snoring after a couple of rounds, for some odd reason lulled us back to sleep. About an hour and a half later, we were awaken by the sun rising as scheduled.

We arrived on the island around eight in the morning. With us seated in the cage on wheels that was our ride, Kuya Florante - our guide on the island -  started off with a brief history of why the animals are in this particular corner of the world.  The animals came to the Phillipines from Africa after then President Ferdinand Marcos heeded the SOS from the International Union of Conservation of Nature.  Kenyan President Jomo Kenyatta was seeking refuge for their wildlife whose very existence was being threatened by civil unrest and drought.

On 31 August 1976, under Presidential Proclamation No. 1578, Calauit Island became a game preserve and wildlife sanctuary. The 3,700 hectare-island became the home of giraffes, zebras, gazelles, bushbacks, elands, impalas, waterbucks, and topis when they arrived from Africa on March 4, 1977. Unfortunately, the said gazelles and topis failed to adapt to the local environment and died out by 1999.

Seeing these African animals roaming around was to be expected but the rather different surroundings was not. Much effort was put into making it appear like an African bush and it has been said that the island was cleared of bamboo as well as the families that used to live there.

The population now is mostly of the Philippine-born and shares the island with some of the country’s endangered species like the Calamian Deer, Palawan Porcupine, and wild boar. As a protected environment with hardly a predator in sight, the numbers of these animals have steadily risen over the years.

The Safari tour lasted not more than three hours. Lunch was being served on a different island and a coral garden and a shipwreck await for us, too. But feeding a giraffe as well as risking my neck by walking on a gangplank in pitch dark would still be on top of this trip’s highlights.  

Safari in Palawan
Boarding the bangka way before sunrise.
The boatmen needed to light the steps for us. 

Crack of down from the water

Imagine sunrise from the house on the left!
Breakfast at sea
Here's our ride. Seems to be more of a cage to me. 



Some of the giraffes cooling down under the shade
Here's Kuya Florante, our guide on the island.
Everyone had his turn in feeding the giraffes. 

Was interviewed for a local travel show. Never found out if it made the final cut, though.
Hello, my pretty! 
They have monkeys on the island, too!

And snakes!

A civet cat? 


On the island are some of these trees with camouflage barks.

They really tried to make the island look like an African bush. 

Baby Turtles!

Local wild boar

This is how giraffes sit. I guess even they get tired of standing up. 

Calamian Deers keep the giraffes company. 
Part of the day trip was some cave exploring on Black Island before lunch. 
Now, who doesn't want to while away the hours in that hut?

Jomar, our friendly guide, was very good at his job.
He was well- informed about his route and he anticipated our every need.

Lunch is served!
Here's our group on Black Island - three pairs and yours truly. 

I think I failed to capture how clear the water is and how captivating these colorful corals are!

Part of the trip was some snorkeling at Sangat Coral Garden and shipwreck diving at Lusong Gunboat Wreck. 
Heading back. Coron Town on the horizon

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