Calauit Safari (Coron, Palawan, Philippines)

And the giraffe said — Aim high. Stand tall. Get spotted.

During my first visit to Coron in 2008, I was hoping I would be able to see the animals of Calauit. However, due to a packed itinerary and considering it’s my 1st Coron trip, I wasn’t able to squeeze in my “could have been’first safari experience. In 2012, however, the 1st thing I have planned for during a return trip to Coron, is booking a Calauit tour – by hook or by crook.

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A lil bit of history: Calauit Safari Park is a game reserve and wildlife sanctuary located in Calauit Island, a 3,700 hectare island in the Calamian Islands chain that lies off the coast of Palawan. It is known for its wildlife sanctuary with a substantial population of African animals, including giraffes, zebras, and antelopes, as well as local fauna that all roam freely in a game reserve created by former President Ferdinand Marcos in the 1970s.

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On August 31, 1976, under Presidential Proclamation No. 1578, the island was declared a game preserve and wildlife sanctuary. Presumably, the Philippine government was responding to the request of President Kenyatta of Kenya during a Third World conference for help in saving African wildlife threatened by war and drought. The secluded Calauit Island was considered the ideal location due to its size, terrain, and vegetation. More than 200 families were relocated to Halsey island 40 kilometers away to make room for 104 feral African animals from eight species: 12 bushbucks, 11 elands, 11 gazelles, 15 giraffes, 18 impalas, 12 waterbucks, 10 topis, and 15 zebras. Without natural predators, the population of animals grew to 201 after five years, with 143 animals born on Calauit itself. The waterbuck and impala populations in particular were thriving. The gazelles and topis, however, proved less adaptable and died out by 1999. By 2005 there were approximately 481 specimens in all, with the impalas dominating the population at about 150 heads.

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The park also is a haven for indigenous wildlife like the Calamian deer, named for the Calamian islands, the northernmost island cluster in Palawan province, a group that includes Busuanga. There were only 25 left on the island when the park started a conservation effort in 1981, capturing deer for breeding and protecting them once they were released back into the wild. Now there is a thriving herd of 1200. Some of the Filipino species are kept in pens, like the Palawan porcupines. Endangered local species are also protected in the sanctuary. As of 2005, these included 1,200 Calamian deer, 22 mousedeer, 4 Palawan bearcats, 5 crocodiles, and 2 wild pigs. The sanctuary has also been home to Palawan peacock pheasants, porcupines, sea eagles, wildcats, scaly anteaters, and pythons. (Info taken from wikipedia)

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How to get there:

From Manila, fly to Busuanga airport. Then, ride a van to Coron town. From the town, one may either join a group tour offered by travel agencies, normally around P2500 per head. If you are with a big group, you may charter a private boat to Calauit (which can also take you to other islands like Malajon Island (more commonly called Black Island) and some ship-wreck dive sites) for P7500 for 1-4 pax or P9000 for 5-8 pax. If the waters are not tamed for a boat ride, one may opt to go by land. However, one has to endure a lengthy and bumpy ride to reach the tip of Busuanga Island because nearly half of the roads is still unpaved, with some steep and rocky parts. From there, a short distance boat ride crossing a nearly waveless strait to Calauit Island is required.

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Visiting Time

The advisable visiting time is between 6.00 a.m. to 10.00 a.m. in order to catch the animals in the open since most of these animals hide in the forest when it is hot to avoid the sun.

Calauit Entrance Fee: P200 for Filipinos, P400 for foreigners

Use of Land Rover: P1000 (divided by how many you are in the group)

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I have always dreamt of going to Africa and experience an authentic safari adventure. But in the meantime, what I have marvelled at this part of Palawan is more than enough to fulfil that dream. As the land rover we were riding enthused dust across an enormous plain, giraffes appeared to our senses one by one. They were roaming freely and charmingly. Zebras bowed their necks as they nibble, pulling the grass off the more moist corners of the island. It was a happy feeling seeing a group of Calamian deer that would sheepishly run when you attempt to come near them. It was a surreal personal encounter with these animals.

Where To Stay:

Apartelle de Gabrielle  –  #231 National Highway Poblacion 5, Coron, Palawan; Contact Nos: 02-7882468 / 0921-4520473 / 0921-4521009 / 0905-3640753; Website:apartelledegabrielle.webs.com

Balay Majika Lodge – Real Street, Poblacio 3, Coron, Palawan; Contact Nos: +63 919 3169030 / +63 9178563187 / +639087316543; Website: www.facebook.com/MajikaTours

Busuanga Island paradise – Km. 12 ,Hi-way, Brgy. Guadalupe, Busuanga Island, Coron – Busuanga Road, Coron, Palawan; Contact No. (02) 911 9180; Website: www.busuangaislandparadise.com

Coron Backpacker Gusethouse- Coron-Busuanga Road, Coron; Contact No: 0916 400 4871; Website: http://www.palawan-coron-backpacker.com

Coron Ecolodge – Calle Real Poblacion 2, Coron, Palawan; Contact Number: 0919 204 8824; Website: www.coronecolodge-palawan.com

Coron Gateway Hotel – Barangay Poblacion 1 , Coron, Palawan; Contact Nos: (+632) 887-7107 / 887-2420. Website: www.corongateway.com

Centro Coron Bed & Breakfast – National Highway, Barangay 4, Coron, Palawan: Contact Nos: 09277454625 | 09491414177; Website: www.centrocoron.com

Coron Village Lodge ­– Brgy. Poblacio 1, Coron, Palawan; Contact Nos: +639081089772 / 4252231; Website: www.coronvillagelodge.com

Princess of Coron Resort – Nueva Street, No.6 Barangay Poblacion, Coron, Palawan; Contact No. 0916 540 0288; Website: http://www.princessofcoron.com

You might wanna check out http://www.letspalawan.com/ to help you out with your itinerary.

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