And the giants lumbered to the trees, their long necks slowly reaching to snag the leaves of an Acacia tree. I’ve always wanted to visit Palawan’s Calauit Safari Park, but every time I went to Coron, there’s always something that hinders me from doing so.
One of those is the park’s distance from the town of Coron. Located at the northern edge of Palawan, it takes patience, and lots of it, to access this remote part of the archipelago. From Coron’s poblacion, you have to get up at the ungodly hour of three or four in the morning if you’re planning on catching the animals during their most active period, that is during their feeding time.
Good thing we weren’t coming from town. Our group has just visited Club Paradise for breakfast and a bit of snorkeling. They offer tours to the Calauit game park and it only takes an hour or so by boat to reach the place.
Or so we thought.
Riding a small outrigger boat, we again navigated the mangroves of Ditapic River of Northern Palawan.
We were told not to dangle our feet near the water; there are crocodiles, our boatman said. Fortunately, we didn’t see no crocs. We did saw a dugong though. Or more precisely, its dark silhouette below the shallow brackish waters. Sightings of these animals are getting rarer in these parts, so we consider ourselves lucky even if it was just a silhouette.
It took almost two hours and one boat transfer before we finally set foot on solid ground once again.
Finally, we were at Calauit Island. But it was almost noontime. The animals are already scattered about and unfortunate of unfortunates, the only safari vehicle of the game park was also busted.
Under the heat of the midday sun, walk we must.
I thought all was lost until I saw the signature black and white stripes of zebras on the far horizon. Everyone’s pace quickened and it wasn’t long before cellphones came out of purses and hundreds of selfies were taken.
Taking a clean shot of these zebras proved to be quite a challenge with everyone preening and pouting in front of the striped animals.
The Calauit Island Wildlife Sanctuary covers a sprawling 3,700 hectares. The park imported eight animal species (impalas, zebras, waterbucks, giraffes, bushbacks, gazelles, topis and elands) from Africa to save them from war and drought during the late seventies. Well, at least that was the PR from the Marcoses.
Two of the eight species, the topis and gazelles, were really not able to adapt to the park and died off. But the rest flourished together with some endemic species in the region like the Palawan mouse deer, Palawan peacock pheasant and bearcats among others.
The main draw of Palawan’s Calauit Safari Park is their giraffes. Currently, they have 23 of these roaming freely around the park.
And before long, we spotted one feeding on a tree far in the distance. Some of the guys were ready to run over to where the giant stood, but we were held back by one of the guides. It’s too dangerous he said, gentle as these giants are, we might still get trampled by their huge legs.
What he did was call the twelve-footers right to where we were staying by luring them with leaves from an acacia tree. It’s their favorite, he relates to us.
And sure enough, after some minutes, there was not only one giraffe in front of us, but three! And yes, they were very gentle. The girls were going gaga, feeding them leaves and posing in front of the spotted giants for their new Facebook profile pictures.
I haven’t seen these animals since I was a small kid in Manila Zoo and it was a nice experience seeing them again; this time, not behind a small enclosure with bars, but on free grounds with grasses and trees.
Calauit Safari Park
Address: Calauit Island, Busuanga, Palawan
Entrance Fee: Php200.00 Filipinos | Php400.00 Foreigners
Land Rover Use: Php1,000.00
Tour Booking: Php2,500.00+-/head depending on the travel agency where you’d be getting your tour
GPS Coordinates: 12°16'26.1"N 119°53'03.9"E