Alarm clocks are highly recommended if you’re going on a Calauit Safari tour as this needs a pre-dawn departure from Coron. On day three of our Coron trip, we were already at the boat by 5 a.m. We boarded at the Port of Coron instead of the town wharf since we needed a bigger boat for the three-hour voyage to Calauit.
Calauit is an island off the northwestern tip of Busuanga Island. In the 1970s eight species of wild African animals totaling 104 individuals were brought here to establish a game reserve (allegedly, Bongbong Marcos’s). The population increased through the decades. Today, however, the population has been reduced to roughly the original headcount, due to inbreeding, lack of funds, and alleged hunting by the original inhabitants of the island seeking to re-establish their communities.
We arrived at Calauit a little more than three hours after leaving Coron. Those prone to motion sickness should take their meds as the last hour to Calauit involves battling huge waves of the West Philippine Sea.
We had to wait for an hour before starting the island tour though. We needed to wait for one guest (one!) who didn’t catch the 5 a.m. call time. It turns out that guest was an “international travel writer”, so the tour agency didn’t want to risk his ire and get negative reviews! Anyway, he was whisked over land to a waiting boat across the narrow strait between Busuanga and Calauit islands.
Big groups visiting Calauit use a modified truck to get around. Getting off the truck is only allowed at designated spots. Similar to fish sensing chow time when a boat arrives, on Calauit giraffes equate arriving tour trucks with lunch.
Giraffes on Calauit are somewhat accustomed to guests feeding them with leaves provided by the park staff.
Zebras also roam the grasslands of the island. The park guide also pointed out young zebras among the herd.
These shy elands execute a quick getaway whenever they see humans.
Aside from African mammals, native species such as the Calamian deer and Palawan mousedeer mingle freely with the exotic animals. Some species such as this Palawan porcupine are kept in a separate housing.
Lusong Gunboat and Coral Garden
The return trip from Calauit was more choppy than our morning passage. Because of the strong waves, we skipped a stop at Black Island and proceeded directly to Lusong Gunboat wreck. The Lusong wreck is a gunboat lying slightly tilted to its side near Lusong island. The wreck is so near the surface, you could stand on its metal frame. Towards the wreck, we snorkeled through a coral garden teeming with marine life. The corals at Lusong gunboat and coral garden are superbly well-kept, an underwater camera is a must!
It was already dark when we arrived back in Coron town. I would say the three-hour journey to Calauit and back is worth it, just to see exotic mammals roaming in their adapted homeland. Add the stop at Lusong wreck and coral garden, and you have a complete menagerie of foreign and native land and marine species. We were a bit sad though, as the future of the park remains bleak. It remains to be seen if ten or twenty years from now, the next generation would still see free-roaming zebras and giraffes in Calauit. We just bought shirts at the park’s information center, hoping that the proceeds would help support the remaining animals.
- Morning flight: Manila to Busuanga (1h)
- Arrival in Busuanga, van transfer to Coron (30m)
- Late afternoon: Coron town tour (3h)
- Lualhati Park
- Mount Tapyas hike
- Cashew shop
- Maquinit Hot Springs
- Kayangan Cove and Lake
- Twin Peaks reef (snorkeling/fish feeding)
- Banol beach (lunch)
- Skeleton Wreck
- Twin Lagoon
Day 3: Calauit Safari Tour
- Calauit Island Sanctuary
- Lusong Coral Garden and Wreck
- Walk around town in the morning
- Afternoon flight: Busuanga to Manila