Following an awesome first day at Coron Town the previous day, Pao and I resisted hitting the snooze button as we enthusiastically awoke at 3:30 AM for our 4:00 AM departure for a 3-4 hour boat ride to Calauit Game Preserve and Wildlife Sanctuary better known as Calauit Safari Park in Calauit Island.
The island got its name because of the geographic shape of the island. The island is shaped like a hook, hence its name “kalawit” in Filipino. It has a total land area of approximately 3,760 hectares and is situated within Calauit Island in the northwest corner of Busuanga, the main island of the Calamianes, Northern Palawan.
After 4 hours of anticipation, we made it!!!
The park prides itself for being the local version of an African Safari. It provides habitat to giraffes, zebras, Calamian Deers, porcupines, white breasted eagles, wild boars, and macaques. There have been proposals to include elephants, peacocks, etc in the safari. The island has been declared as a game preserve and wildlife sanctuary, an area where plants and animals can freely live in their natural state with minimum human interference.
This was President Marcos’ response when the International Union of Conservation of Nature made an appeal to save the endangered animals from Africa. President Marcos was granted 104 wild African animals to adopt and to nurture as he decided to bring these animals to Calauit since it was an isolated island. Should any animal outbreak occur, humans in the Philippines will be unlikely contaminated.
Eight species of different African animals from Kenya were transported to Calauit. It included giraffes, zebras, impalas, waterbucks, bushbacks, gazelles, elands and topis. They were allowed to coexist and live harmoniously with endemic Philippine animals like the Calamian- and mouse- deer, bearcat, Palawan peacock pheasant, sea turtles and Philippine crocodile. To date, the Safari park has around 600 animals of different species.
Like a little girl on a field trip, I had the time of my life making friends with the wild animals allowed to roam freely and interact with humans. I have never been on a safari so this visit to Calauit pretty much explains my unexplained ecstasy of being with the animals.
I especially loved the part where we were allowed to freely feed the “superstar” giraffes on the island. We were so fortunate to have met Athena (the more popular and most featured Calauit giraffe on TV) and Jim (Athena’s little offspring) and freely interact as we played tug of war during feeding time. We were given LOTS of small tree branches while we were loaded on top of a safari truck. We were told that this specific kind of leaves were like ice cream for the giraffes. True enough, when we extended our hands for the giraffe to feed on, they immediately devoured it with much pleasure and without hesitation. I was almost dragged as if I was a tree branch myself by every pull of the giraffe. But every push and pull as I played tug of war with the giraffe was super worth it!!!
After our private time with the giraffes, we were taken by our safari truck to see the zebras. I’m thankful for each and every travel experience because it is in these situations that I learn the most interesting things! Much as zebra prints are always great fashion statements, I learned that the oldest members of the horse family, the African zebra, is really just a black animal that grows white stripes. The alternating color pattern works well with its native environment, deflecting up to 70 percent of the heat that hits its body, as stated by the International Museum of the Horse. Super cool huh?
Next part of our tour was to meet and greet different exotic animals that were endemic to Palawan. For the first time in my life, I had a close encounter with a porcupine, tried to make an old turtle seem like a burger (disclaimer: I am not cruel to animals, the photo is just for purposes of novelty), saw how a mother macaque devoted her life to protect her offspring, admired the cat who made the seemingly the most expensive coffee beans in the world with its poop, and of course, fall in love with the giraffes and zebras all over again.
Direct air route: Manila-Busuanga
Regular sea routes: Manila (South Harbor)-Coron-Calauit; Puerto Princesa-Coron-Calauit; Taytay-Coron-Calauit; Liminangcong (Taytay)-Coron-Calauit
Access is possible by vehicle or by boat. Small rivers and creeks abound on the island, although most of these water sources dry up during hot months. Some springs provide year-long supply of water in ponds and lagoons.