Palawan in the Philippines is the region’s eco-tourism hotspot to watch

Eco-tourism in the Philippines is a significant growth market. Pic: PhotoRoman/Shutterstock

GOVERNMENT agencies in the Philippines are teaming up with NGOs to promote natural treasures in an effort to develop eco-tourism in the southeast Asian country.

Eco-tourism in the Philippines is a significant growth market. According to former tourism secretary and current President of the International School of Sustainable Tourism (ISST) Mina Gabor, in 2012, 22 percent of foreign tourists in the Philippines were “nature-based”.

Here’s an excerpt by the Philippine Information Agency:

“Gabor pointed out that the country boasts of 7,107 islands; ranks fifth in the world and second in Asia in terms of endemic animals; ranks 25th in the world and eighth in Asia among plant-rich nations; boasts of 17,500 kilometers of coastline and 30 million hectares of terrestrial and wetland ecosystems; forms part of the coral triangle together with Indonesia and Malaysia and boasts of 110 diverse dialects which are very advantageous for eco-tourism.”

The landscape of Coron in Busuanga island. Pic: Sean Hsu/Shutterstock

It stands to reason that a destination with these kinds of natural gifts should strive to maintain them. Organizations like Greenfund Philippines are developing eco-tourism projects that aim to alleviate poverty while protecting the environment.

Their projects include reforestation and community-based initiatives with an emphasis on sustainability, child welfare, and education.

On the southwest island of Palawan’s Iwahig River, Greenfund helped a local community establish a firefly show, visitor centers, and paddleboat facilities.

Palawan Province covers the entire island of Palawan, making it the largest province in the Philippines. A long and narrow island, 56 percent of its landmass is covered by forest and has maintained an official “Biosphere Reserve” status since the early 1990s.

Here are some of Palawan’s highlights.

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park

The subterranean waterway is home to stunning caverns, waterfalls and a cave dome. Pic: r.nagy/Shutterstock

Sometimes referred to as a “city in the forest”, Puerto Princesa is something of an eco-tourism hub. The Philippines’ “cleanest and greenest city” boasts many beaches and resorts, but its 8km underground river (St. Paul), one of the New7Wonders of Nature, is what makes it truly unique.

The subterranean waterway is home to stunning caverns, waterfalls and a 300 meter (1,000 ft) cave dome. The surrounding park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) also features a landscape of limestone karsts and a mountain-to-sea ecosystem containing eight different tropical forest types.

El Nido

El Nido is considered one of the best beaches in the Philippines. Pic: Max Topchii/Shutterstock

Another popular eco-spot on Palawan is El Nido. Though El Nido is referred to as a “town”, it is made up of 45 islands and islets, resorts, caves, cliffs, a bay and waterfalls. CNN Travel named El Nido beaches as some of the best in the Philippines.

Here’s more of what the article had to say:

“If Palawan is indeed ‘the last frontier’ of the Philippines, as it’s been dubbed, the coastal town of El Nido is the gateway to wild adventure. Sure, it’s got powder-fine beaches and gin-clear waters. But the views are what really sell the place. Off the coast of El Nido are majestic karst limestone formations, empty lagoons, marble cliffs, prehistoric caves and waterfalls. All are easily explored.”

Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park

Tubbahata is one of the best dive sites in the world. Pic: Joel Larsson/Shutterstock

Located in the Sulu Sea, between 150 and 200 km southeast of Puerto Princesa, this marine protected area is over 100,000 hectares, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as an entry in the Wetlands of International Importance according to the Ramsar Convention.

Tubbataha Reef is a nesting ground for hawksbill and green sea turtles, is home to at least 600 fish species, 13 whale and dolphin species, 360 species of coral, and 100 bird species. One of the best dive spots in the world, it’s completely free of settlements.

SEE ALSO: Philippines’ Boracay Island is voted the ‘world’s best island’, but is it worth the hype?