Calauit Safari Park: Take a glimpse of Africa in Palawan, Philippines

29 November 2016 Busuanga, Palawan, Philippines

As a part of our four days and three nights Busuanga-Coron Getaway with #TeamByaherosMNL, we spend our third day traveling across the island with a chartered van courtesy of Calamian Islands Travel & Tours; through dirt paths, rickety bridges, rivers, and places where there really wasn't any roads on a mission to reach Busuanga's northwestern edge for a chance to explore Calauit Island.

We woke up at the ungodly hour as early as 4 AM, took a bath, had a breakfast, and left the hotel at 5 in the morning for a 2 to 3 hours travel by land. My eyes are still drooping. I want more sleep, recharge my body; but, but, but I can't miss this adventure. We are going to Calauit Safari Park.

TIP: The advisable visiting time is between 6:00 - 10:00 AM in order to catch the animals in the open since most of these animals hide in the forest when it is hot to avoid the sun. When booking hotels, therefore, choose one that’s most accessible to Calauit Island. Using hotel booking sites like, you can compare hotels’ location, prices, and facilities.

The history

Calauit Safari Park has been rumored to be the private hunting ground for the Marcos'. Contrary to that popular belief, according to The New York Times, the island was actually declared as a game preserve and wildlife sanctuary in 1977 in response to an appeal by the Kenyan government asking the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) for assistance in the conservation of their African wildlife threatened by war and drought.

Like Noah and the biblical ark, a boatload of animals was shipped from Africa to remote Calauit Island in the Philippines in the 1970s brought to the island by MV Salvador ship. Since then, herds of African wild life, notably giraffes, zebras, and antelopes, freely roamed the savannas and mountains of Calauit Island of Busuanga in the Calamian Island chain that lies off the coast of Palawan, the Philippines’ last frontier. Almost four decades after, Africa is still in our midst.

The island

Like the movie Jurassic Park, the Calauit Safari Park is only accessible by water; A boat ride awaits the visitors at the end of land travel, a 15 minute boat ride from a small wharf called Decalasiao or Macalasiao in the mainland Busuanga.

The park is the whole island itself and it covers an area of 3,760 hectares. Initially, eight species of animals were introduced to the Island - zebras, giraffe, gazelles, impalas, elands, waterbucks, bushbacks, and topis. They now share their new home with species endemic to the Philippines, and their numbers have grown hugely as they appear to thrive in their new island home. However, only a number of zebras, giraffes, 14 waterbucks, and elands remain, but these are all island-born, as the original batch from Africa are all gone. The gazelles, topis and impala antelopes have also died out because of infighting and poaching.

Until today the locals, mainly the park caretakers, who also made Calauit Island as their home, calls to everyone to help preserve the entire sanctuary, including coastal and marine resources, develop the island as an education and conservation center in Asia, and to ultimately develop the island into self-sustaining operations. the locals are now protecting and taking care of the island and its inhabitants. Now the island settlers and its animals coexist peacefully.

The Calauit Island is a splendid example of wildlife conservation, being a perfect sanctuary due to its relative isolation. The varied habitat of forest, grassland and mangrove swamps are also a home to some of the country’s rarest and sometimes endangered species. It is an island that is a must-see for all who love nature and wildlife.

The Game Preserve and Wildlife Sanctuary is a natural area where the entire environment and all plants and animals are allowed to live with a minimum amount of human disturbance, in order to protect the sanctuary and preserve it for future generations.

Did you know? Zebras are black animals with white stripes, and male zebras have darker stripes than females.

The safari tour

There used to be an open-sided truck that carried park visitors in and around the game preserve, but now the truck, like all other equipment, remained unrepaired and rusting. The vintage C221 Isuzu Sarao first model Circa 1950 was our only service in exploring the savanna. The old and rusting jeepney can accommodate up to 11 persons including the driver and is the only working vehicle in the island. We were divided into small groups as we shared the jeepney from one group to another, taking turns each.

Photo courtesy of Evo Contrivida

Our guide, Mr. Orlan, accompanied us and always remind us to keep our safe distance from some animals, notably the zebras and the giraffes. He warned us that these animals may throw sudden kicks from any side, and we don't want that either. Who on earth wants to be kicked and have a shoe print of a giraffe on the face as a badge-of-honor? Well, not for me.

Interestingly, our guide as well as the other park guides, are very much informed of the history of the island and the African wildlife, they also feed you trivias, and can even answer all the relevant issues surrounding its establishment, including the conflict with the "original settlers." Surprisingly, they could even identify the giraffes by their names. Our guide can say which giraffe is Isabel, Miller, John, Jacky, Mylene, Jim, Kabayan, so on and so forth by identifying their horns and the patterns on the chest. But for me, they all look the same.

We are then hauled to a fenced area where we feed the giraffes with leaves to keep them safe, and of course, us safe.

The animals, save for a few animals like the crocodiles, pythons, porcupines, etc., walks and roams freely in the park and it is a sight to behold.

Africa in our midst

Not only the African wildlife is featured in the park, but also Philippine endemic wildlife, especially Palawan indigenous animals, not caged but roaming around freely.

The Calauit Safari Park can (and should) be one of the top destinations in the country’s last frontier, alongside the Puerto Princesa Underground River, and the Tubbataha Reefs in Cagayancillo. Nowhere else in the region can African wildlife flourish and provide concrete proof that there is hope for animal conservation.

It will not just be a taste of Africa. It will be wild Africa in our midst.

Photo courtesy of Evo Contrivida

How to get there

There are scheduled flights from Manila to Busuanga (Coron) airport. From Coron, you can take a van/shuttle to Coron town, there are several options available. You may join a group tour offered by travel agencies, normally around P2500 ($50) per head. If you’re a big group, you may rent a private boat to Calauit (which can also take you to other islands) for P7500 ($150) for 1-4 pax or P9000 ($180) for 5-8 pax.

Calauit Safari Park is accessible by a 3 to 4 hour boat ride from Coron town proper or by a 2 to 3 hours travel by land plus a 15-minute boat ride to the park.

Calauit Entrance Fee: P400 ($8) for foreigners; Patrimonial Discount of 50% at PhP 200 ($4) for Filipinos.
Use of land rover: P1000 (divided by how many you are in the group)


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