SANDFLIES, known locally as NIK-NIKS are common on many of the beaches of Palawan, especially Sabang, Port Barton and El Nido. Sandflies are very tiny (1-2mm) but don't sting you--- they bite, but you will not notice the bite until it is too late. Ten minutes later you will start scratching but this should be avoided as you may end up with a big wound on your leg.
Unfortunately there is not much you can do once you are bitten, just resist the temptation to scratch, (the itchy sensation may last for 2 or 3 days).
To avoid being bitten the natives rub themselves with coconut oil, and if you should be lucky enough to purchase some, try mixing the oil with 'OFF' or similar.
The dorcis titanicus palawanicus can only be found in Palawan and is one of the largest stag beetles to be found throughout the world, growing as long as 11 cms. The beast is usually a quiet fellow and normally uses his jaws to fight other males and impress females, but do not place your fingers near them! Unfortunately the beetle has some commercial value as some Asian cultures believe that the beetle has aphrodisiac properties and is high in protein. As a result it is illegal to export them from Palawan. Most beetles are used for sport (beetle wrestling) or strange pets.
The Malay Giant Scorpion can only be found in the Philippines but only in Palawan and in some islands in the south of Mindanao. The monster can grow up to 7 inches but the regular adult is normally 6 inches long, and are aggressive as well as territorial. Fortunately the sting is not lethal but slightly stronger than some bee stings. However i would avoid handling one. This scorpion mainly eats insects such as crickets, cockroaches, locusts, flies and worms.
The third photo is interesting as it shows the female scorpion (i assume) carrying her young family on her back!!!
The stonefish (which belongs to the scorpion group of fish, such as the lionfish) lurks around Palawan's beaches in as little as a meter of water and you will know when you stand on one. It is one of the most poisonous fish in the ocean and can kill you if you have a weak heart. It has a big head, a warty body, sometimes covered in algae and to complicate matters it changes color according to the seabed. Most of its body will be buried in sand as it waits for its prey to arrive, so it will be almost impossible to see it. It has 72 spines, each with venom in the end, and the spines can penetrate light sneakers and should you stand on one you will certainly know about it. When it stings you the affected area will turn blue and red, accompanied by excrutiating pain and swelling, and unfortunately there is nothing you can do to relieve the pain. You may experience shivering, high fever, vomiting and paralysis of your hands and feet, so seek medical treatment immediately.
You can move the broken spine and pour hot water on the area as the venom is killed in this way. Deaths normally occur within 8 hours but if you survive, which is most likely the paralysis and pains can continue for several weeks. And morphine does not help!!!
There are many snakes on Palawan and i usually see at least 6 a year on my land. I am afraid i try to kill them all as many are poisonous and there does not seem to be too much information about them . I have seen cobras and a small snake that has black and white hoops, 2 feet long and the last 3 cms of its tail is bright red. This is what is locally known as an okku-okku or VIPER to us. If you are bitten by one you only have up to 5 hours to live. The big problem is that there is no antivenom on the island as far as i know.
I have lived on Palawan for nearly 20 years and during that time i have known of four fatalities due to crocodiles. Some of the largest crocodiles in the world have been found in the Philippines so if you want to cool off by taking a dip in a river, just ask the locals if there are crocs in the area. I am writing this tip as a fisherman was killed by a croc this week. The incident occurred near the pier at Bataraza, the fisherman was diving for sea cucumbers and was attacked by the giant crocodile. Some navy personnel saw the crocodile with the unfortunate fisherman in his jaws, and they managed to shoot the croc but it was too late for the fisherman.
In 2011 a fisherman was killed in the same area when a croc bit off one leg and almost severed the other.
In the late 90's another man in the same area was killed by a crocodile estimated to be at least 16 feet long.
Most of the fatalities have occurred in mangrove areas in the south of the island, except for one incident where a young girl was killed by a crocodile near Bacungan, around 25 kms north of Puerto Princesa.
Be very careful if you are swimming on the west coast of the island as there are some dangerous undertows that will drag you out to sea very quickly. If you feel that the current is strong head for shallower water straight away before it is too late. If the current does drag you out to sea don't try to swim against it as this will tire you out and you won't be able to fight it anyway. Try to swim to the left or right of the current and you should be able to escape from it and swim ashore safely. Sabang Beach will have red flags flying if the conditions are unsafe. Nagtabon is extremely dangerous as well as City Beach a little south of there. Generally there will be no problem on the east coast of the island.
WATCH OUT FOR SCORPIONS---YOU MAY NOT BE SO LUCKY
A young friend of ours suffered a scorpion sting at our friend's beach resort while walking over for dinner just at nightfall. The scorpion stung her on the foot and she was in agony as the tears flowed down her cheek. The pain quickly spread to her upper ankle and was becoming inflamed within a few minutes. Thankfully the lady who owned the resort immediately found a plant and broke a few stalks off, then rubbed it on the sting and the pain started to disappear almost immediately. A second stalk was required to get rid of the pain altogether and the next day she was completely better with just a small puncture mark remaining on her foot. Thank goodness that the resort owner knew her plants as the nearest hospital was a 30 minute boat ride annd 2 hr drive from where we were staying.
Although i am not 100 % convinced of the name of the plant it has been suggested that it may be Damong-bingkalat or a plant named tawil tawil.
At certain times of the year the sea around Palawan will have many jellyfish (January-March) which can give you a sting, rather like a prick from a pin. However the quantities of jellyfish are diminishing due to fishing, and there are quite a few jellyfish buying stations around the island that reportedly collect 20-30,000 umbrellas a day (heads without the tentacles). The dried jellyfish are repacked in Manila where they are exported to Japan and Korea.
The box jellyfish is an entirely different matter as they can be extremely painful and quite dangerous. They are almost transparent and have long tentacles and are found around the island. Should you be stung by one it is extremely painful and you must pour vinegar on the stings to neutralise the affect. I would assume that we are not about to carry a bottle of vinegar with us, so you can also urinate on the affected area or sometimes petrol.
I was actually stung by a box jellyfish 20 years ago, up in Coron and the small raised marks where it stung me did not disappear for over a month.
There are some huge centipedes as long as 20 cms that can bite and cause excruciating pain, swelling and in one case of a young girl, death. I believe that the one in the photo is a Scolopendra Subspinipes that consist of 21 body segments, usually brown and a pair of modified legs on his head, known as forcipules, which are its main weapon as they have sharp claws that connect to its venom glands. The giant usually eats insects but can also eat mice, reptiles and amphibians if it is capable of overpowering them.
We have been to one particular beach on the west coast many times in the last 20 years and i never usually wear anything on my feet, but last time my friend was wearing his goggles and just two meters from where we were standing in the sea he spotted the tail of a stingray, perhaps 40 cms long. The stingray agitate the sand and mange to conceal themselves with just the two eyes and tail showing, so they are almost impossible to spot without goggles. Now i wear sandals or trainers while swimming, but even these mat not be able to prevent the stingray from giving you a nasty wound with their barbed tail.
Normally the fish are not aggressive so they do not attack humans but when accidentally stepped on they may sting you. Often the barb will break off in your flesh and surgery will be required to remove it. Fortunately stingrays are usually not fatal.
Steve Irwin was very unlucky when the stingray caused massive trauma, a few years back.
Usually the stingray will flee if he is disturbed so when wading through water it is best to shuffle your feet, or throw stones ahead of you.
Being a UNESCO world heritage listed site, you can't swim in the waters near the St. Paul Subterranean River, Palawan.
Just admire those limestone karst landscape, walk amongst the lizards and the monkeys. Sorry, are we blocking the view?
Watch out for monkeys that roam around the trail going to the St. Paul Subterranean River. Don't feed them as they are encouraged to grab those plastic bags thinking you have food in there. Be careful! One tourist got her hand bitten by a monkey.
"Don't stick your hand out in the water." cautions your boatman as you go inside the bat-lined cave. Just admire the stalactites/ stalagmites that form the apostles, the holy family and fruits. Stalac what? Check out those science books.
- National/State Park
Some mangoes on Palawan are infested with the mango pulp weevil and the mangoes are not allowed off of the island Also palm seedlings can be infested with a bug and those too are not allowed off of the island. If you are caught doing so you may expect a heavy fine as the rules are strictly enforced.
Mango trees are not all infested with the weevil but only certain areas, and the local officials will come round to any farmer who has mango trees and spray them Also mangoes from certain areas are taken to be x-rayed and infested ones are destroyed. I think it costs 1 peso to x-ray 4 mangoes and after doing so they are stamped so people know that they are safe to buy. Likewise the local authorities will come round and drill a hole in the coconut trees and inject a liquid which will kill the bug infesting the coconut trees.
Last night the British Ambassador was in town with his team and all the local Brits were invited for dinner after his speech. After rambling on about Philippine investment in UK and UK investment in Philippines, aid to the Philippines he gave a few words of warning
KIDNAP FOR RANSOM
He reminded us that there are quite a few instances of locals capturing a tourist or businessman and selling them for 30-40 thousand pesos to armed groups who then ask large amounts from the families or governments of the victims. He also reminded us that the UK Government never hands over money to these groups so hopefully they would never kidnap a Brit as they know it is not worth doing.
Of course most of us living here knows that this does happen and i , as well as others have instructed our wife or family never to hand over any ransom demand.
In my opinion you should take a look at the map of Palawan and draw a line just south of Brookes Point to just south of Rizal and think twice of traveling to south of the line. In fact i did a tour to the extreme south by motorbike two years ago and found the people very friendly and never felt in danger, but there have been several problems in the south in recent years. Chances are if you do decide to go venture south nothing will happen to you, but just be aware of the possibility.
If hiring a motorbike or using public transport be aware of the road conditions. Basically there is one road from Rio Tuba in the south of the island and another road from El Nido in the north of the island, both starting from Puerto Princesa and around 530 kms in total length. The road mainly runs up the east coast until you reach Taytay in the north and other roads branch off to the west coast. There will be a road constructed in the coming years from km 23 on the southern highway that will take you through Napsan and down the west coast via Quezon, Rizal, Sikud and ending up near Rio Tuba as the authorities want to open up this beautiful area to tourists. Already there are one or two stretches here and there that have already been concreted. So here are some detailed information regarding road conditions.
Puerto Princesa to Aborlan----good road, recently completed 68 kms
Aborlan to Narra----good road, recently completed 30 kms
Narra to Brookes Point---- most of it is in good condition but there are places where the road is unsurfaced and road building is taking place. Be careful of pot holes 67 kms
Brookes Point to Rio Tuba----excellent road, completed in 2011 60 kms
KM 23 junction to Napsan----the road is under construction and 50% concreted , but the rest is slow going because of pot holes and loose stones. 30 kms
Approx 10 kms north of Rio Tuba there is a junction to Rizal. Unsurfaced except for a couple of stretches, many hills, many potholes, loose stones and muddy during rainy season---slow 67 kms
Rizal to Quezon---Slow going, unsurfaced, slow going, many hills---60 kms
Quezon to Napsan----unsurfaced except for a few stretches, extremely bad in places, particularly between Berong and Aparuwan where there are large stones on the road and very hilly. --100 kms
Puerto Princesa to Roxas---very good condition, ----approx 140kms
Roxas to Taytay--- good condirion----approx 60 kms
Taytay to El Nido---mostly good condition but still 30% to be surfaced----approx 60 kms
Junction to Port Barton (Km 115?)---extremely difficult in the rainy season, unsurfaced 25 kms
Salvacion to Sabang (km 39?)---surfaced and fairly good conditions but have to be careful in a couple of stretches---45 kms
KM 23 Junction to Nagtabon----road being constructed 50% completed, rest unsurfaced but good except the last hill leading to Nagtabon----12 kms