Known the world over as the Philippines' last ecological frontier, the province of Palawan harbors vast tracts of topical rainforests and a huge expanse of marine wilderness. Thick canopies of trees carpet mountain ranges running the length of the mainland. Fringing reefs and coral atolls open a new realm to discover under the clear waters surrounding this archipelago of more than 1,700 islands. Ribbons of meandering streams and rivers wind through the mountains, nurturing robust stands of mangrove in the lowlands before flowing out to the sea.
Palawan probably has more protected areas than any other province in the Philippines. The Calauit Game Preserve and Wildlife Sanctuary in the northern Calamianes islands is home to exotic and endemic species of animals that roam freely in its verdant hills and plains. On the northern coastline, the El Nido Managed Reserve Protected Area is noted for its edible bird's nests and limestone cliffs. In the middle of the Sulu Sea lies the Tubbataha Reefs, a pair of coral atolls which was declared a National Marine Park by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 306 issued in August, 1988. In 1993, it was named a World Heritage Site for its highly diverse collection of fishes and other marine life by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Along the west coast, the Puerto Princesa City Subterranean River National Park, another World Heritage Site, has one of the longest underground rivers in the world. It is also noted for its old growth forests, cathedral caves, white sand beaches, limestone cliffs and unique flora and fauna. In the south, Ursula Island is a haven for migratory and resident birds.
Proclaimed as Game and Wildlife Sanctuary in 1967, Palawan is the habitat of 232 endemic species. Some of these unique creatures are the metallic-colored peacock pheasant, the shy mousedeer, the cuddly bearcat, and the reclusive scaly anteater. In the forests and grasslands, the air resonates with the songs of more than 200 kinds of birds. Over 600 species of butterflies flutter around the mountains and fields of Palawan, attracted to some 1500 hosts plants found here. Endangered sea turtles nest on white sand beaches, and the gentle dugong feeds on the seagrass that abpund in Palawan's waters.
Commercial Logging became a thing of the past with the cancellation of timber license agreements in 1993. That same year, the provincial government created an environment watchdog, Bantay Palawan to assist national agencies in protecting Palawan's forests. Total forest cover is about 56 percent of the total land area of the province while mangrove forest accounts for 3.35 percent based on the 1998 Landsat imagery. Grasslands dwindled from 19 percent in 1992 to 12.40 percent in 1998. This is an indication of improving soil condition as deteriorating soil is normally invaded by grass species. Brushlands increased to 25 percent of the total land area.
Rocky coves and sandy beaches lie in primordial splendor along Palawan's almost 2,000- kilometer coastline. Renowned underwater explorer Jacques Costeau has described Palawan as having one of the most beautiful seascapes in the world. Sprawled beneath the seas are nearly 11,000 square kilometers of coral reefs, representing more than 35% of the country's coral reefs. Myriads of fish swim in these underwater gardens.
Outstanding geographical features dot Palawan's Landscape. On the west coast, an array of limestone cliffs extends from Tabon Caves in the south all the way to Coron Reefs in the northern Calamianes islands.
Mantalingahan,Cleopatra's Needle, and Capuas attract dozens of climbers yearly.