Palawan: the most beautiful island in the world

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I’ve been to so many places. Stories about my international exploits occupy a significant amount of coverage in my column. Traveling soothes my soul and makes me appreciate life. It causes me to discover the beauty in any city, town or island that I’ve been.

Such was my goal when I read that Palawan was voted the best island in the world by readers of a leading travel magazine.Palawan claimed the top spot with over 76,000 votes in Conde Nast Traveler’s Reader’s Choice Awards for 2015. Votes attributed primarily to the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, which is one of the top natural wonders of the world. At nearly five miles in length, it is the longest underground river in Asia and the second longest in the world.

Visitors on guided boat tours travel through a subterranean cave system featuring large chambers, stalactites and stalagmites.

I have never been to Palawan but I’ve always wanted to go. I began reading about this hidden paradise. The island boasts crystal clear waters, incredible beaches, wonderful people and amazing food.

It is surprising that Palawan is just getting all this attention now, despite the province’s extraordinary beaches and hiking and diving spots.

It was once named one of the best islands in the world by National Geographic Traveler. This is not the first time Palawan was in the limelight. The province received the coveted No.1 spot in 2013. A recognition that isn’t far-fetched.

There, beautiful blue water mixes with emerald green, jungle-filled mountains that appear to rise up from the ocean, and small fishing villages dot the island. Visitors are greeted with mountains rising out of impossibly turquoise waters, where shipwrecks and reefs make for prime scuba diving and snorkeling. “Palawan is every beach lover’s dream destination,” said one voter, who regarded it as a “wonderful and magical place.”

It is home to one of the most amazing locations for snorkeling and diving. A popular spot for undersea adventures called the Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park is the province’s second UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Described as “the last frontier,” Palawan has artifacts that date back 50,000 years. The island is accessible by either boat or airplane — it’s about an hour and a half by air from Manila— although you can also get there from Iloilo and Cebu. Many say the ideal time to head to Palawan is between October and May.

Prepare yourself because a load of outdoor activities awaits you. Go island-hopping around the Bacuit archipelago for the cliffs, sinkholes and lagoons. Scuba diving — we suggest Coron Bay as the bottom of it is the best spot to scuba dive — or venture to Puerto Princesa for its culinary delights and stay in one of Coron’s luxury hotels.

Do not be surprised to see some incredible (and rare) wildlife around the islands. Purple crabs, Philippine mouse-deer, Philippine pangolin and beautiful butterflies are just a few of the amazing creatures you’ll find in this place. Just be sure to avoid the creepy-looking Palawan bearcat at night.

Nature has its way of making us swoon. And if you’re like me who would travel to the ends of the world to experience nature at its finest, I definitely suggest putting Palawan on your bucket list. It has always been on mine, along with Bohol and Boracay, both of which I visited when I went back to the Philippines.

After having explored Rome, Spain and Italy this year, I decided that my next trip would be more of a “back to basics” type of exploration. As a yearly tradition when I go to the Philippines, I wanted to check out what our country is known for: our world-class islands and amazing beaches.

I feel so proud of the recognition that Palawan received and not because it is undeserving — quite the opposite, actually. It is such a great feeling knowing that our islands are among those that the world think about when they need to be out there and experience what crystal clear waters can do to your soul. Palawan indeed has so much to offer. I would say congratulations are in order but I have a better idea — one that involves spelling “congratulations” with a diving gear on.

Stay tuned for my very own “National Geographic” adventure on paper.

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