Provider: Wilderness Travel
Length: 13 days
While on his quest to circumnavigate the world, Ferdinand Magellan and some of his men were killed in a battle on a Pacific island. His remaining comrades fled on ship and nearly starved until they landed on Palawan, a remote tropical island rich with banana and coconut trees, yams, and other crops tended by friendly islanders. The voyage's chronicler, Antonio Pigafetta, called Palawan "the Land of Promise," and indeed, after replenishing themselves on the island, the explorers were able to successfully complete their circling of the globe.
Today, the island and the other 1,760 islets that make up the Philippines' Palawan archipelago are seen as a promised land for naturalists. All are part of the Coral Triangle, the most biologically diverse marine habitat on earth. Next spring, adventure outfitter Wilderness Travel will run two-week kayaking and snorkeling tours of islands, putting travelers in close contact with many of region's most exciting marine animals. Marine biologist Lee Goldman leads the trips, providing tour goers with scientific insight into the ecosystems they visit.
In the Bay of Donsol, you'll spend two days tracking and swimming with whale sharks, the world's largest fish. "The coastal fishing village of Donsol is known to have the largest numbers of recorded sightings of whale sharks in the world. Our departures are timed to coincide with the highest concentrations that occur in spring," says Molly Casey of Wilderness Travel. Later you'll kayak among the towering karst-limestone islands of the El Nido Marine Reserve, snorkel inside caves, explore coral reefs home to more than 800 species of fish, and paddle along white sand beaches lined coconut palms. The wildlife experience culminates with a snorkeling trip around Dimakya Island, where you have the chance to swim with dugongs (sea cows), a marine mammal similar to a manatee that spends its days grazing on sea grass.
2009 departures include March 14, April 4, and May 4. The package price includes accommodations, airport transfers, all land and sea transportation, entrance fees, kayaking equipment, all meals plus beer and wine at campsites, and guides. Accommodations range from eco-resorts, including the award-winning Lagen Island Resort, to deluxe beach camping. You must bring your own snorkeling equipment. Airfare is also extra. Round-trip March airfare from Los Angeles to Manila, Philippines, starts at $933, including taxes, on Asiana Airlines. Internal flights within the Philippines can be purchased through Wilderness Travel for $495.