I’ve never been much of an environmentalist, but two events triggered the need to be more earth-friendly: first, the disastrous flood that hit Metro Manila which left countless people (friends included) homeless; and second, my visit to the island of Busuanga in Northern Palawan that followed a month after.

Escaping to Palawan could not have come at a better time. Busuanga and the Calamian Group of Islands are home to pristine blue waters, gorgeous coral reefs, thermal lakes, and impressive limestone cliffs that will leave you inspired to do your part for Mother Earth. My friends and I stayed at the town of Coron, a laidback fishing village where tourists stay the night while they spend the rest of the day at the gorgeous island across—Coron Island, the ancestral home of the Tagbanua people.

Local tour guides are pretty flexible when it comes to the places you want to see. We opted to start the day by snorkeling at the Siete Pecados Marine Park, home to fishes of every size, shape and color (“Andito po si Nemo!,” shared our tour guide Rico). Much of Busuanga’s beauty is clearly underwater—hailed by divers as one of the best dive spots in Asia, the place is home to 24 sunken Japanese warships and 12 of these are found in more shallow waters. Aside from the actual shipwreck, you will see corals, clams, sea fans, lion and scorpion fishes, sea squirts and other interesting species. If you’re not a certified diver, there are three wrecks you can explore by snorkeling alone—the Skeleton Wreck, the Sangat Gun Boat and the Lusong Gun Boat where my friends Au and Rica and I spent an afternoon of pure unadulterated fun exploring the thriving marine life among the corals that grew on the boat.

Give your skin a breather from salty seawater by taking a cool dip on the freshwater Kayangan Lake, which makes for one heck of a reward as you have to climb a limestone cliff to get there. The climb’s a breeze if you’re quite the gym rat, but for out of shape folks like me, reaching the top and climbing down to see the calm, blue waters of Kayangan Lake was an experience akin to seeing an oasis in the middle of the desert. Tired of the water? You can ride a balsa, read a book and get that tan while cruising through the lake. Kayangan is impossibly clean, seeing as it is conscientiously preserved by the locals—tourists are not even allowed to bring food here; food is eaten on the other side of the island, which affords a view that’s just as spectacular.

Our four-day stay was definitely not enough to explore all of Busuanga—there’s still the Calauit Game Preserve and Wildlife Sanctuary, the nearby island of Culion, and the rest of Busuanga’s underwater wonders. Memories of Kayangan Lake and Siete Pecados, swimming at the alternately cold and warm waters of the Twin Lagoon, seeing mangroves while having that languid dip at the Maquinit Hot Springs—these will do for now. Visiting Busuanga left me inspired. If you’re looking to experience the extraordinary, make it a part of your family’s 2010 travel itinerary. A word of caution though: Once there, you may never want to leave.

Fly into Busuanga from Manila via PAL Express, Cebu Pacific, SEAIR or Zest Airways. Flight takes one hour. For more information, visit http://www.palawanboard.com.

This story was published in HIPP Magazine’s February 2010 issue.