If you’re looking for destinations in Palawan that remain largely uncharted by tourists, one of the places you should include in your list is the northern quiet town of Dumaran.
Located in the northeastern part of the province, around 231 kilometers from Puerto Princesa, this laid-back municipality can be reached via public transportation, either bus or shuttle vans. The road leading to the town is testament to its underdeveloped status—narrow, rugged and largely unpaved. The almost dilapidated wooden bridges in the area are quite a contrast to the fast-paced development in some other parts of the province.
However, don’t let the bumpy ride discourage you—as the saying goes, there is paradise waiting at the end of the prone-to-be tedious travel. In the case of Dumaran, it’s a one-of-a-kind island hopping tour, mangroves and breathtaking sites of mountaintops.
Dumaran comprises both parts of mainland Palawan and parts of an island it juridically shares with Araceli town. Land travel ends at Barangay Santa Teresita; from this point, you must ride one of the boats docked in the wharf to reach the island barangays. Pension houses are very sparse—you’re lucky if you find one on short arrangement. Our group is lucky, indeed, as we were offered a one-of-a-kind treat in Isla Pugon, one of the very few tourism-oriented destinations in the town.
Isla Pugon is can be reached in 30 minutes via small pumpboat from the wharf. It is managed by Jose “Jam” Salamoding, a nature-passionate guy who never gets tired of promoting the tourism potential of Dumaran. If you plan an island-hopping tour in Dumaran in the future, Jam is your go-to man. Read: he knows all the best diving sites.
Isla Pugon is virtually surrounded by a thick mangrove forest and the way there gets you through dense growth of these trees. Every turn seems to greet you with healthy mangroves, as if it’s an endless journey through a riparian passage. Yet, it’s only a fifteen-minute journey to the jetty of Isla Pugon from the mainland wharf. At the top of the island, the sight is breath-takingly beautiful: vast mangrove forests extending to the beach, all backdropped by majestic mountains. It’s like nature giving you a front-row seat for a glimpse of God’s wonderful creations!
Isla Pugon has five nipa huts to accommodate guests. There is no electricity in the area but they use solar power for lights and for charging electronic gadgets. Due to scarcity of water, they use waterless and odorless toilets.
If you’re visiting Isla Pugon, make sure you bring a camera with you as you’ll be offered one of the best sunrise and sunset views in the province. Picture this: you’re on top of an island, sipping coffee while a glorious sunrise breaks around you.
The staff in the island are memorable too. Always smiling and friendly, they make you forget about the limited amenities in the island with sheer hospitality. Most of the staff are natives of Dumaran who wish to raise the tourism industry of the town in their own small special way.
The beauty underneath the waters
Jam said his curiosity about Dumaran started in 2012 when he fell in love with his fiancée who is a native of the town. He spent months exploring the northern municipality and learned that there are around 25 islands in Dumaran. Coral reefs and marine life thrive in the waters surrounding these islands. However, according to Jam, the lack of livelihood options in the town drove some people to do illegal activities that destroyed the reefs. The destructive fishing methods destroyed an estimated forty percent of the reefs that time. Fortunately, the local government of Dumaran initiated a legislation to halt such activities, and it is estimated that around 70% of the coral reefs now remain in healthy condition.
Today, exploring the beaches of Dumaran is made possible through the Dumaran Tourguide and Boatmen Association headed by Jam. Around 20 other fishermen work as tour guides and boat operators, and they offer three kinds of tour to the islands of Dumaran.
A unique feature of Dumaran is its beautiful white sand beaches that are not yet populated by tourists. You can still enjoy the place as if you own it. You may go snorkeling at Renambakan Island where the coral reef is majestic, and where fish like “Nemo” (clownfish) can swim with you.
The Encantasia Island, perhaps among the smallest of the islands, is not yet in the map of islands in the Philippines, according to Jam. Here the water is so clear you can see the corals underneath.
If you want a panoramic view of the islands, you may go up Red Rock Island where a little over a hundred steps will allow you a look of the expansive sea surrounding Dumaran.
The best place to set up your lunch is at Maruyog-ruyog Island, a private place that has big cottages and water for cleaning. It’s also a good place to take a nap before you head to another adventure in the islands. They have a long concrete pathway that is surprisingly perfect for ‘selfies’ and ‘groufies’.
The next stop would be a snorkeling area dubbed by Jam as “The Queen” because the corals here are abundant. Despite the strong current in the area, Jam knows where to unload the “coral saver”, a square-shaped structure made of bamboo with buoys in every corner, for guests to hold onto while snorkeling. Wew! Corals are everywhere!
Swimming in Calampuan Island is made all the more exciting with a wide shallow area where you can play with white sand. No need for life vest here and the children will surely enjoy.
Lastly, as the sun settles down, you will head back to Isla Pugon where the staff has prepared a bonfire. Meal is ready for serving, usually composed of grilled fish, squid, and “tinolang” native chicken raised by the staff themselves.
At night, after a full day of exploring amazing island after island, you can sleep at your cottage’s veranda where the wind is cold and where chirping birds can lull you to sleep. Perfect, isn’t it?
The Dumaran experience is incomparable and it’s all worth the budget. The island tour is only Php800.00 to Php900.00 per person, including lunch. The cottage at Isla Pugon is only Php 1,000 and comes with breakfast.
Your stay at the island is remarkably hassle-free and organized, as the local people, particularly the boatmen, have made sure you visit will be worth it. The money you’ll spend in Dumaran will help the locals and the environment. In fact, many of them used to be illegal fishermen turned environmental protectors.
So, the next time you chart plans for a travel in Palawan, try going the ‘uncharted’ way. Write down Dumaran in that list, see Isla Pugon, pack your beach essentials and be ready for a one-of-a-kind trip up north. The mountains, mangroves, and the sea is waiting for you.
For information and inquiries contact Jose “Jam” Salamoding at 0910 667 7996 or visit https://www.facebook.com/JoseSalamoding