Trekking in Palawan
Palawan is an island province with rich biodiversity – may it be on land or under the surface of the sea and is also known as one of the last hiking frontiers in the Philippines.
A long island paradise that would definitely take anyone’s breath away. But aside form sightseeing, swimming, diving, and road trips, tourists may also opt to explore thrilling adventures in the province such as trekking.
Palawan has rich forests that cover the mineral-rich, captivating mountains of the province which are visited by trekking enthusiasts and adventurers throughout the globe. Curious? Well here are some of the mountains in Palawan that you might want to trek to!
Cleopatra’s Needle is one of the most enchanting mountains of Palawan. It earned its name due to the obelisk-rock structure that may be found at the mountain’s peak. This mountain is visible when you are on your way to the Puerto Princesa Underground River; and from the road, you will immediately notice its exquisite beauty.
According to many, the mountain’s environment is covered with forests and is abundant with wildlife. Once you reach the summit, you will be able to get a view of the Honda Bay, the Sulu Sea in the East as well as the South China Sea on the West, and the panoramic view of the city proper on the Southeast – hopefully, you get lucky with clear skies though.
The trek in Cleopatra’s Needle is described to be a challenging hike especially for serious climbers and tends to reach around three to four days to reach the peak. Along the way, trekkers will expect to go through countless river crossings, boulders, and of course, an enchanting biodiversity which attracts many scientists
Mt. Bahile is a mountain that is explored not too often which makes it a place to be wary of especially when it comes to rattan thorns. Along the way, you will encounter ultramafic rocks and forests which is quite the similarity among all mountains in Palawan.
Mt. Bahile has an extremely rich wildlife; from specific viewpoints, trekkers may spot eagles, woodpeckers hummingbirds, and many other avian species. Its location is too strategic that you wouldn’t have to worry about which spot you should stand because of every part of the mountain is fascinating. From the mountain, one can see the province of Palawan and the surrounding water surfaces around it such as Honda Bay and Ulugan Bay.
Mt. Beaufort is another land beauty, it is completely covered by forest from the trailhead up to the summit. It is abundant with both flora and fauna species wherever you look at. Along the trails, there are chances of seeing freshwater crabs, birds, snakes, and many other animals both endemic to Palawan, and those common animals you find in the jungle. It is highly suggested that during the trek, you should slow down a bit for you to be able to see the fauna that lurks in trees and on the ground – that’s something I’m sure you wouldn’t want to miss!
The trail starts off gentle but it gets steeper as you go along especially once you get past the junction where the trail diverges – one trail goes down to a Batak (an indigenous tribe in Palawan) village while the other leads to the mountain’s summit. As you get near to its peak, you will encounter unusual species of plants and tree frogs.
Mt. Bloomfield is Puerto Princesa’s one of the most beautiful mountains in the vicinity and is very conveniently accessible to the tourists of the world-renowned Underground River. Its trail starts from Sabang Beach and will definitely give you breathtaking sights along the way.
The trek starts at the Sabang beach then passes through agricultural lands, and then the trail quickly turns rocky until you reach the pure ultramafic slopes that lead up to the mountain. These rocks, compared to those others found in Palawan as well, are nice to walk through and are not very slippery.
Along the way, you will still see the view of the sea despite getting into the forest – as if it follows you everywhere you go to. The higher reaches of the mountain is covered with stunted trees which allow hikers to have a sneak peek of what it feels to hike in Palawan.
At the Eagle’s Ridge, one may see the Mt. St. Paul, which houses the famous Underground River, standing tall to the north and behind it is the Cleopatra’s Needle, the highest mountain in Northern Palawan. Even the Mt. Capoas in Malampaya sound is also visible from it. Mt. Bloomfield gives a good reason for guests in Sabang to stay the night, especially the Mountaineers and those who are up for an adventure. It has a magnificent scenery and great trails which makes a rewarding day in Palawan.
Mt. Darala is the highest mountain in the very beautiful Calamianes Group of Islands in the Northern Palawan specifically in the municipality of Busuanga. Being the highest mountain in the area, Mt. Darala is becoming an attention getter especially to those who are after the challenge and the adventure that it brings.
Mt. Matalingahan is a protected area in the province of Palawan that is rich with resources especially those that are necessary for mineral consumption. The mystical mountain encompasses the southern municipalities of Rizal, Brooke’s Point, Quezon, and Bataraza.
It serves as home to many indigenous groups who live in Palawan and has an abundant amount of resources in its one of a kind biodiversity. Most of the flora and fauna in this mountain are endemic to Palawan so, you’d definitely be lucky to see some of it.
It would take about four to five days to explore and trek the whole place which earned it its distinction as the mountain with the longest minimum time to reach its summit. It has a high difficulty and those who are not physically and mentally prepared are discouraged from trekking the mountain.
During the trek, you will experience bouldering your way to the top, walking on the canopy of the dwarf forest of the mountain and then crawling up the knife-edged rocks. In this part, you will need gloves to protect your hands. Onwards, you will encounter jagged rocks that are interlaced with century-old trees. Once you reach the summit, you will get a view of the Southern Palawan and the seas surrounding it namely: Brooke’s Point and the Sulu Sea to the east, Rizal and the South China Sea to the west, Quezon up north and Bataraza and the Southernmost coast of Palawan to the South. All definitely worth the four to five-day hike!
Mt. Salakot is another great mountain to conduct a day hike. It is found at the Napsan Junction along the Puerto Princesa Highway going South of the province. To get there, you will have to ride public transport such as a van or a multi-cab but if you have rented a private vehicle in the city proper, much better. Though within the jurisdiction of the city of Puerto Princesa, the trip to Napsan will make you feel like it’s already far away from the city.
During the hike, it is noticeable that the trail is established very well which is wide enough for a trekker and is consistently clean and open, allowing trekkers to pass through without hitting the vegetation in the area. Its environment feels like the lower reaches of Beaufort and Tumbpeak.
Mt. Salakot is more of soil than rock – its ultramafic roks may only be found at the upper reaches of the mountain but not as much as those found in other mountains. Along the way, you may be able to see green viper, purplish crabs, centipedes, millipedes, and other forest fauna.
At the summit, trekkers will see the west coast of Puerto Princesa and the municipality of Aborlan, the surrounding peaks such as Mt. Beaufort and Mt. Thumbpeak, and the Puerto Princesa Bay which is found on the other side.
On the way down the mountain, you will pass through the Salakot Falls which used to be promoted by the government as an ecotourism destination in the city. However, it is just another waterfall but unlike many, it is small in size but beautiful and has a small pool of tranquil waters. Trekkers may also get to see Palawan hornbills, woodpeckers and parrots.
Mt. Thumbpeak is another notable mountain in Palawan which is found in Puerto Princesa and is visible from the city proper. Its peak is shaped like a fist with a thumb jutting upwards which serves as the very summit of the mountain.
Mt. Thumbpeak is located within the Iwahig Penal Colony which is one of the largest peal farms in the world and is one of the most colorful places in Palawan. To climb the mountain, you will have to acquire a permit from the authorities in the penal farm. Trekking the mountain will require two to three days with its initial leg requiring seven to nine river crossings – which can be treacherous and impossible during bad weather.
Past the river, you will see a cave which serves as the campsite for trekkers which is followed by a dense forest that takes about 3 hours to pass through. Beyond the forest, are small trees and interesting flora emerges; most notably, the tropical pitcher plant which is only found in the summit of Mt. Thumbpeak at elevations higher than 1, 100 meters above sea level.
Once you reach the summit, you will realize how rewarding the view is; definitely worth all the trekking efforts! From the summit, you may see the South China Sea and the Sulu Sea which is divided by the narrow island of Palawan. In the north, you may get a view of the Cleopatra’s Needle, Mt. St. Paul Mt. Airi, Mt. Beaufort and many other peaks including those that are nameless and those that are not yet explored. To the south, trekkers can see the high mountains of the central spine of Palawan which culminates with Mt. Victoria, Sultan Peak, Mt. Gantung, and finally Mt. Matalingahan. To the east, you may see Puerto Princesa being surrounded by two bays – one of which is the Honda Bay and its magnificent islands. These breathtaking views are definitely worth the trek!
Mt. Victoria is another giant found in Palawan, specifically found in the municipality of Narra. It is an unexplored wild destination with an unbelievable array of flora and fauna that are just starting to be discovered. Recently, an uncommon rat-eating pitcher plant was discovered in the vicinity which created a global sensation for scientists specifically botanists as well as the media. The plant was named Nepenthes attenboroughii recently and is just one of the species that are beginning to be discovered in this mountain paradise. This mountain is also culturally significant to Palawan since it serves as home for some members of the Tagbanua tribe who are natives of the province.
Mt. Victoria’s terrain is diverse exiting and is definitely a treat for intrepid trekkers. Numerous bodies of water such as streams, waterfalls, and lagoons are found in Mt. Victoria. These bodies of water greatly help in maintaining the nourishment needed by the mountain in order for it to be able to sustain all the organisms that are dependent on it.
About 80% of the journey in this beautiful mountain will involve crossing major and minor rivers. The challenging trek to the summit of Mt. Victoria will require a minimum of four days with land trails being mostly steep and would often involve bouldering. However, like many mountain ranges, the trek to the summit of Mt. Victoria is promising and is extremely worth all the heavy river crossings.
The summit will reward you with magnificent views of the South China Sea and the Sulu Sea, the neighboring peaks, and mountains. The climb to the summit of this mountain will give you the feel of being able to time travel back to the ancient times. Definitely one adventure of a lifetime!
The Jungle Trail and Monkey Trail
The jungle trail, unlike most of those that are in this article, is not a mountain, rather, it is a trail from the Puerto Princesa Underground River that leads back to Sabang. On foot, one must return to Sabang on foot by walking over a 5 kilometer-long Junge Trail which starts from the ranger station near the Underground River. It initially climbs steeply over overgrown karst limestones before dividing into two paths; the continuation of the Jungle Trail and the Monkey Trail.
To be able to walk through the Jungle Trail you will have to get a parking permit from the information office in Sabang. Also, keep in mind that the trails are only accessible up to 3pm-park rules.
Along the Jungle Trail, guests will be able to interact and watch wildlife first hand where they interact and go on with their daily lives in their own environment; specifically the wild.
Ugong Rock is a karst formation with commanding views of the surrounding countryside found around 20 kilometers from Sabang near barangay Tagabinet and a trailhead of 7 kilometers to hike. There are ropes and wooden bridges that will allow you to explore the tricky path through strangely shaped tunnels and chambers. You will have to spend a total of Php 200: Php 100 for the guide and Php 100 for the permits issued at the trailhead.
For those who plan to camp, you may camp out overnight in an area village but you will have to bring your own tent. There is also a nearby zip-line where you will have to pay Php 500.