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I asked a good friend to take a few photos of the airports she used in her recent trip to Palawan. Here is the first batch consisting of pictures of the pre-departure area of Puerto Princesa airport. It’s been a while since my last travel to Palawan and that was through its old airport terminal.
Here’s a look at the pre-departure area of the terminal. It is obviously a significant upgrade from the old terminal.
Here’s another look at the spacious are for passengers as they await their boarding calls.
Here are some of the food concessionaires at the terminal.
Passengers have a lot of choices for food and drinks as they wait for their flights.
I hope to be back in Palawan in the near future for some R&R and perhaps take more photos of this terminal for another article.
The jump-off point for visitors to the St. Paul Subterranean River (Underground River) is the Sabang Port at the northwest part of Puerto Princesa. Following are photos taken at Sabang including some showing information on transport and procedures for visitors.
Map of the national park showing some of its features and the transport services to/from the port.
Information on the management of the national park
Greetings for visitors
Puerto Princesa limits the number of visitors to the Underground River and there are procedures for visitors and their accredited guides to follow.
I caught this scene of children playing football on the sands during low-tide.
While most boats seem to be for ferrying tourists to the Subterranean River, there are also many fishing boats at Sabang.
Fishermen fixing up their boat likely before going on a sortie. I could imagine Sabang was like other fishing villages in the Philippines until authorities started promoting attractions like the Underground River. The influx of tourists transformed what was probably a sleepy village into a tourist destination complete with commercial developments like resorts, restaurants and shops.
Outriggers dot the waters around Sabang Port, their boatmen waiting for their turn to ferry visitors to the Underground River.
The concrete pier provides a basic but better facility compared to other similar ports around the country. The dispatching of boats is organised and passengers queue in an orderly manner to board the boats assigned to them.
A boat (left) approaches as another (right) just left, bound for the Underground River.
Clean restrooms /toilets are a must for tourist destinations. Sayang Port has well-maintained toilets.
Tourism office at Sabang Port – note the basketball goal post in the photo? The area is also used for other purposes including sports activities. Also noticeable in the photo are street lamps powered by solar energy. We saw some solar-wind power lamps around Puerto Princesa and Sabang’s main road has these for night-time illumination.
A close-up of the small box showing schedule and cost of transport services to/from Sabang from/to Puerto Princesa city proper. Note that there are only 4 trips per day for public transport (bus or jeepney).
Boatmen manoeuvre their vessels in the crowded waters of Sabang Port.
Another photo of boats lined up at the port.
Portable or collapsible sheds or tents at the port often bear the name of the company sponsoring or providing these for port users. Under one, there was a group facilitating the tour of a group of senior citizens from around Puerto Princesa. We got it from our guide that they are given free rides and visits to the Underground River as part of their benefits as senior citizens.
People get off a boat via a makeshift floating jetty
Advice to tourists: tip your boatmen generously. They serve as your lifeguards and do their best to maintain the boats and the equipment. They don’t get much from ferrying visitors to and from the Underground River and they do have families to feed. Make this tip your contribution to ensuring sustainable tourism in this heritage site that is also considered one of the top natural wonders of the world.
The jump-off point to island hopping in Honda Bay is Sta. Lourdes Wharf just north of Puerto Princesa City proper. I have seen this wharf evolve into the modern (compared to other Philippine wharves or ports) facility that it is now. I guess this is possible if both national and local government really put the necessary resources to improve such infrastructure that obviously benefits everyone and not just the tourists who happen to flock to this port for island-hopping trips.
The local tourism office and amenities like toilets are housed in this building. What it used to be was a building made out of bamboo with nipa and a few iron sheets for roofing. Boats were moored just behind the building in what looked like a chaotic set-up for tourists and islanders. There was no concrete road 5 years ago and the dirt road was a muddy mess during the wet season.
Philippine Coast Guard station at the wharf
Outriggers carrying passengers; mostly tourists on the Honda Bay island hopping package
This larger boat is not necessarily for tourists but for ferrying passengers between the mainland and the smaller islands off Palawan. It is obviously of sturdier design and has a bigger passenger capacity.
Our outrigger waiting for us to board. The crew consisted of two boatmen – one handling the motor and driving the boat while another was in-charge of handling the line, anchor and maneuvering the boat from the port and towards the sea (with just a bamboo pole as a tool).
A snapshot of other boats docked along the wharf shows mostly outriggers. In the background at about right is a glimpse of a Philippine National Police fast craft. The PNP has a maritime unit complementing the Philippine Coast Guard and those stationed in Palawan have modern fast craft capable of giving chase to pouchers and pirates in their speedy boats.
A Chinese boat moored at the PNP dock. This fishing boat was intercepted by Philippine authorities illegally fishing in Philippine waters. This was the subject of well-circulated news reports showing the Chinese were catching endangered species like sea turtles and were carrying live and dead pangolins and other wildlife they were smuggling out of Palawan (with the help of shady Filipinos, of course).
I think the Sta. Lourdes Wharf is a good example of adequate port facilities serving both passengers (including tourists) and goods. It provides for the basic needs of users though there is usually some congestion at the port due to increasing tourism activities. The wharf practically becomes a parking lot to tourist vehicles during certain times of the day and this becomes serious during the peak tourism months. This, however, is a minor concern for now. Access to the wharf is also excellent with good quality concrete roads from the city centre to the wharf; a combination of national and local roads being developed to a standard that makes them “all-weather” and comfortable for use by travellers using all types of vehicles. This is something that can and should be replicated for similar ports around the country not just for tourism areas but basically to address the needs of travellers and goods.