SANTA ANA, Cagayan: Ranked 10th among the 100 most beautiful islands and beaches in the world by the United States-based Cable News Network (CNN), Palaui Island is becoming the summer vacation’s choice among tourists for its white sand, volcanic rocks and blue green water.
Inhabited by more than 200 families, mostly of the Aeta or Agta tribe, Palaui Island has overtaken some of the most popular destinations such as Greece, Trinidad and Tobago, Madagascar, Brazil, Barbados and Mexico, placing even higher than El Nido in Palawan (14th) and Puka Beach in Boracay (84th) in the CNN ranking.
A local tourist and blogger Melo Villareal of Outoftownblog.com said Palaui offers great sights, breathtaking vistas, a light house, secluded beaches and a lot more adventure activities like sailing and boating, camping, snorkeling and diving, beach bumming and rafting.
Villareal’s Out of Town Blog is a travel, food and lifestyle blog magazine which showcases travel tales, travel guides and inputs from various contributors from all over the world.
“Camping in Palaui Island will give visitors a very thrilling experience. Those who like to camp have to bring their own tents, earth pad, portable stove, blankets, and trail food,” Villareal advised tourists who are planning to visit the place this summer.
Lying along the South China Sea-Pacific Ocean coast, Palaui is a 7,415-hectare island that has been declared as a Marine Reserve under the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992 and categorized as a Protected Landscape and Seascape.
The island boasts of its rich biodiversity, including primary and secondary forests, mangroves, coral reefs, caves, grasslands, inter-tidal zones and seagrass meadows, among others. It is part of the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport managed by the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA), a government-owned and controlled corporation.
CEZA Public Relations chief Joyce Marie Jayme-Calimag said the economic zone is benchmarking 55 ecotourism enterprises in 22 sites of the provinces of Cagayan, Cebu, Davao Oriental, Masbate, Siquijor and Zambales.
“This can be attributed to CEZA’s best practices with its community-based sustainable tourism program launching the Palaui Island Protected Landscape and Seascape as its pioneer site in 2006,” Calimag said
Calimag said in August 2013, the US reality TV series “Survivor” conducted its four-month 27th season filming in Palaui Island and other beaches in Cagayan, while Columbia Pictures, 21st Century Fox and Golan Films are also considering Palaui as film production sites.
CEZA Administrator Jose Mari Ponce also said the ecotourism campaign has allowed them to hit three birds with one stone, which is to capacitate the grassroots society and eventually make them economically self-reliant, to participate in the protection and preservation of the environment, and to promote Palaui Island as a tourism and educational site.
“We are proud to be the ecotourism model of the country and gladly impart our expertise to promote an environmentally sound and inclusive approach to tourism,” he said.
Being a protected area and a marine sanctuary, Ponce said Palaui Island has also maintained a rich biodiversity of both flora and fauna.
“The island’s trails cover thick forests, a number of natural waterfalls, caves, mangroves, seagrass, a magnificent landscape and seascape view, and a century-old Cape Engaño Lighthouse, among others. The coral reefs and marine lives also thrive in this sanctuary,” Ponce added.
To get to Palaui Island, Villareal said tourists can travel either by land or by air. PAL Express and Cebu Pacific are the flights that take visitors from Manila to Tuguegarao City —the capital of Cagayan province.
From Manila, it will take about one hour to reach Tuguegarao by air and about 14 to 16 hours to reach Santa Ana by Cagayan via Victory Liner or Florida Bus.
Upon arrival at the Tuguegarao City airport, one needs to take another bus or van ride to reach Santa Ana, which takes about three to four hours.