If you missed the previous posts, click these links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Day 7: May 29, 2010 – Club Paradise

We were informed the night before that no one else signed up for the morning tour to Calauit. There is a chance, however, of an afternoon trip. So for this morning, we decided to go up the hiking trail and get to the highest point of Dimakya Island. Ariel and I woke up early, packed our cameras and bottled water to take the short trail up to the peak.
Dimakya is a small island and the peak is only about a kilometer of uphill trek, along a narrow trail lined by shady trees. We expected an easy climb.
Nature Photographer
I made sure my macro lens was attached to my camera. I saw a lot of macro opportunities the day before, specially along the swamp area. True enough, I was able to take a lot of nice macro shots.

Beauty Unleashed

Ariel and I took our time, making frequent stops to shoot photos. The trail was a gradual incline which makes it very easy to hike, even for a child. There were short intervals of steep ascent but nothing really difficult, even for an out of shape hiker like me. Bamboo railings line the trail for added protection.

Photo Stop

After a while we heard a loud screeching sound. We were surprised to see thousands of bats hanging on trees. They seemed to be disturbed and some started flying about. It feels spooky seeing them up close, and flying about at daytime.


Before long, we reached the peak. There was a concrete tower built for sightseeing. We climbed up the very narrow steps and got to the top.

Ariel and the Bats

It gave us a much better vantage point, allowing us a 360 degree view of Dimakya Island. Ariel and I just stayed there for a while, took some photos, and admired the view. We could see nearby islands, the stretch of white sand beach just in front of our cottage, the marine sanctuary and all of Club Paradise.

Dimakya Islang Beachfront
Conquering Fear
Dark Blue Bird
Blck Bird with Red Eyes

Here‘s a video of the 360 degree view on top of the view deck.

It was much faster going down as we didn’t take as many stops. We rewarded ourselves with a scrumptious breakfast buffet. I tried the congee with my usual protein-rich omelette (onions, tomatoes, mushrooms and cheese) and coffee, while Ariel sampled more types of breakfast food from the buffet. After breakfast, Ariel and I went to the beach just in front of our cottage for a short dip. The water was cool and clear, and very soothing. We spotted a few jellyfishes as big as my hand which scared me a bit but we eventually learned to avoid them. We built our very first sand castle which we patterned after the temple mountains of Cambodia. Well, at least that was our concept.

Sand Castle

We got confirmation that our Calauit Tour will push through at 1pm. So after lunch, we headed to the docking area to wait for our boat. We found out we were going with a Japanese family – a couple and two young boys with very plump and red cheeks (they are so cute I so wanted to pinch them!), and a pinoy couple who looks to be in their early 20s. It took us about an hour to get to Calauit Island. The tide was a bit low so we docked several meters away from the shore and we had to wade through knee-deep water to get to the sandy shore. We were greeted by a gigantic Heron feeding in the shallow beach. The bird moved away from us as we approached the island, and as much as I wanted to snap a photo, I was afraid to take out my camera while we were wading through the water. First thing we saw as we approached the island was a small outhouse which Ariel lost no time getting acquainted with, and a guardhouse where a local guide awaited us. We crossed a wooden bridge on a small creek into the mainland where a four-wheeler truck waited to drive us around the 3,700 hectare sanctuary.

Bridge to Safari
Inside the truck

It was an educational trip of sorts for us. I must admit I knew very little about Calauit other than animals roam freely around the island. Our guide started our education on the development of Caluit. It was in the late 70’s when former President Marcos decided to develop the island, and the first batch of African wildlife arrived from Kenya. Giraffes, Zebras, Antelopes and other non-carnivorous African wildlife successfully adapted to the local environment and lived in harmony with endemic wildlife like the Calamian deers, mousedeers, bearcats and others.

As soon as we boarded the truck, a rush of excitement filled me. I’ve always been fascinated with wildlife. That’s why I watch Animal Planet almost on a daily basis. Zoos and other animal parks are major attractions for me when visiting a foreign land. That is why I love Singapore so much. It’s such a small country, very near the Philippines, and it offers a lot of animal parks. I’ve dreamed of going to an African Safari and this would be a similar experience, minus the carnivores. While driving along the rough terrain, we spotted many types of birds, the likes of which I’ve never seen in the wild before. After a while, we saw a group of Giraffes from afar. My excitement grew at the prospect of seeing them up close. Our truck carried branches of their favorite food and we were told we will be feeding them later. After about an hour, we came to a clearing where Calamian deers and zebras were grazing. We got off the truck to take photos.

Striped Horses
More African Zebras
Alby, Ariel and the Zebras
At the Safari

After a while, two male zebras started fighting which caused the other zebras to run around us. Our guide quickly ushered us back to the truck fearing for our safety, specially since we had kids in our group. Exciting! After driving a few more meters, we saw some Giraffes. We got off and the guide started waving the leaves. One giraffe approached us and started munching on the leaves. The guide said his name is Beethoven. What a beautiful creature!

Ariel and Beethoven

We saw a lot of Calamian deers around. most of them were very thin, with their ribs showing through the skin. The guide told us that with El Nino, the grasses have dried which deprived the deers of food. The giraffes and zebras, on the other hand, continue to thrive since they feed on leaves from trees which better tolerated the dry season. Because of this deprivation, the deers which do not normally approach people, would warily come near us to nibble on the leaves. As long as we are looking away, they would munch on the leaves, but as soon as we face them, they would run away from us.

Ariel and the Calamian Deer

After a while, two bigger giraffes started to approach us. Our guide thought it would be safer to go back inside the truck for our safety. Just like horses, they tend to kick when people approach them from behind as they probably see them as threats. We continued to feed the giraffes in the safety of the truck until we ran out of leaves.

Long-necked friends
Alby and the Giraffes
Sharing food
Feeding the Giraffe

Then we drove around some more and saw some Impalas. We also went to see some animals in captivity which included a bearcat, some porcupines, civet (locally known as alamid – famous for the alamid coffee), python, wild boars and some turtles. We also dropped by the freshwater alligator enclosure before heading off to the island’s staff house. Near the staff houses is an enclosure for animals that need to be treated. It was all in all an exciting and memorable for all of us.

Procupine Feeding
The Bearcat
Calamin Dear
The beautiful Calauit landscape
Leaving Calauit island

On the way back to Club Paradise, our guide gave us a giraffe stuffed toy as souvenir. I felt like a kid again. Ariel and I really felt that is was money well-spent.

Here‘s a video of our wildlife encounter.

After dinner, we took some more photos by the beach as the moon is still full and bright.

Palawan Full Moon

Then we headed off to the bar where Ariel and I ordered a few drinks. I tried the frozen margarita, while Ariel had light beer of course. When we got back to our cottage, we were still awake enough to watch another episode of Criminal Minds. I love that show!

For the complete set of photos this day, click here.

To view Part 6, the final installment, click here.

Written by Alby Laran

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