Palawan, one of the top tourist destinations in the world, is best known for its white-sand beaches, pristine waters, and a wide array of accommodation options in Puerto Princesa, Coron, and El Nido that range from budget to luxury.
Beyond those, however, are its other natural wonders and rich biodiversity which are starting to draw crowds.
Topping that list is the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR), which is not only a UNESCO World Heritage Site but also one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. Located in Sabang, the PPUR stretches up to 8.2 kilometers and is famed for its breathtaking limestone karst formations and old-growth forests.
But there is more to PPUR than its splendid scenery, as the site also boasts a wealth of biodiversity. After all, Sabang itself, with its sprawling 22,202 hectares of land, is home to several species of flora and fauna.
Sabang’s forest habitat
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) established that Sabang has Asia’s “richest tree flora” and “largest and most valuable limestone forest.”
The town’s extensive forest system includes a vast number of plant and animal species, some of which are already considered as endangered or threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Among these are the Philippine cockatoo, Palawan mountain rat, Palawan peacock pheasant and the Philippine pond turtle.
There are also eight different types of forests in Sabang, namely: forests on limestone soil, riverine forests, freshwater swamp forests, mountain forests, mangrove forests, beach forests, lowland evergreen tropical forests, and forests on ultramafic soil.
Of the 252 avian species found in Palawan, 165 inhabit the National Park, which has become a hot spot among bird watchers. The commonly spotted species in this protected area include the blue-naped parrot, Tabon scrub fowl, hill myna, Palawan hornbill, white-breasted sea eagle and eastern reef-egret.
Besides being a haven for birds, the National Park provides shelter to different mammals. There are more than 30 species here, with the long-tailed Macaque or monkey probably the most popular.
Other residents include the Palawan stink badger, bearded pig, Palawan bearcat, Palawan porcupine and several species of bats. If you’re lucky, you might also catch a glimpse of a dugong (or sea cow) grazing for sea grass.
Reptiles and amphibians
If reptiles and amphibians fascinate you, you’re in for a treat. The reticulated python, hawksbill sea turtle and green crested lizard are among the 20 reptile species the National Park has on record. (Eight of these species are endemic to Palawan.)
Keep an eye out too for the Philippine woodland frog and the Philippine flat-headed frog, two of the 10 documented species of amphibians in the area.
Wildlife appreciation and protection
The success of the National Park’s protection and conservation program is in large thanks to the concerted efforts of the locals, the City government and the private sector. Tourists can do their part by simply following park rules, especially on how to behave properly around the animals.
The allure of Sabang goes beyond the Underground River. With the town’s rich flora and fauna, it won’t be long before it gets recognized for its biodiversity too. So go see and experience all of Sabang’s wonders now.