Consider including a stay in Taytay as part of your Palawan vacation. There is lots for the tourist to do here - island-hopping, snorkeling around the many islands, swimming in the hidden lagoon (cave), kayaking on the beautiful Lake Manguao, Irrawaddy Dolphin watching in Malampaya Sound, and swimming in the refreshing Canique Waterfall. Being not far from El Nido, Taytay is a good escape from the El Nido crowd during the peak seasons.
Taytay is an old Spanish town founded in 1623. Its most famous relic, the 17th century Fort Santa Isabelle, still stands today and takes center stage in Taytay’s magnificent seascape. Taytay is about one and a half hour's drive from El Nido - you will pass through it if you are traveling by road to El Nido. There are two approaches to the town center when coming from southern Palawan. There is a road under construction to the new RORO port at Barangay Stan. Cruz. This road provides a great view over the town and the surrounding islands and is a wonderful entrance into Taytay. The normal route takes you into Taytay without a view - traveling this route may leave you with the impression that you are passing through just another ho-hum town.
The majority of Taytay's few visitors stay for only one night. This is usually just to break up their journey from El Nido to Puerto Princesa. The town is probably bypassed by most tourists because of the absence of organized tours, the lack of in-depth information about available activities and the inadequacy of information if you want to organize your own tours. All that is changing now - the Taytay Tourist Office and some of the local resorts and guest houses are working on ways to improve the basic tourist services.
Taytay’s best known resorts on the surrounding islands are Club Noah Isabelle Island Resort , which no longer operates, and Flower Island Beach Resort.
Taytay is pronounced “tyty” as in “bye bye”. The municipality goes by the same name as the town, as is common in Palawan. Locals will refer to the capital as Poblacion, or Barangay Poblacion.
The public market is in the center of town and near the pier. It is quite a small market with a rather narrow range of fruits and vegetables. The market gets its daytime electricity from the generator at the municipal hall. Internet cafes are on the second floor of the market. Most of the bus stations are around this market.
Fort Santa Isabelle has withstood the test of time, and it is in good condition. The fort is popular with the tourists and it is worth a visit. The original name of the fort was “Fuerza de Santa Isabel”, but it is now more commonly called Fort Isabel. It was built by the Augustinian Recollects and construction commenced in 1667. With forced local labor and much hardship, it was completed in1738. Standing on the fort looking out over the shallows of the bay, one feels that this was a place where Philippine history was made. The ghosts of the battles still seem to linger - the Moro warriors in their brightly colored garments and the Spanish soldiers firing at them with their huge brass cannons. Some of these cannons are still standing today. (A reenactment of one of these battles would be a spectacular tourist event.)
UNESCO describes the fort thus -“a quadrilateral fort with four bastions each of which has a bartizan. Each bastion is attributed to following Saints; San Toribio, San Miguel, San Juan and Sta. Isabel.“
More detailed information about Lake Manguao, including some of the bird pictures, can be found on my article entitled Lake Manguao.
Kayaking on this pristine, freshwater lake was a serine experience. I spent most of my time along the water’s edge peering through the lush vegetation with the hope of finding something exciting in there. I lost all sense of time and could have continued on for many hours more except I was overdue for my picnic lunch. A boat was sent out to find me, thinking that I was lost. I had my Etrax Vista GPS so getting lost would have been unlikely. It could be easy to get lost without a GPS, so make sure you get your bearings if you are not going with a guide.
Lake Manguao is the largest lake in Palawan. It has an area of 6.7 square kilometers and its shoreline is over 30kms long. The land around the lake is thickly forested and some of its islands have stands of what appears to be virgin forests. There were no dwellings or fish pen to be seen. This is a rarity in the Philippines. The squatters who moved into the area only recently, have been relocated elsewhere - this was done to protect the lake’s environment.
Lake Manguao is popular with bird watchers and those who love the experience of being amongst nature’s beauty. I think the best way to see the lake is in a kayak. Casa Rosa has two sit-inside sea kayaks available. You can also be paddled around the lake in a small boat by a boatman and tour guide - this is also available through Casa Rosa.
Lake Manguao is a 10km drive from the town center. It is only accessible by motorbike, 4 wheel drive or tricycle. The lake is not suitable for swimming in. There is no road or track around the lake so there is little point in going to the lake unless you have arranged a boat.
The Malampaya Sound is a stretch of water located on the western side of the Municipality of Taytay. Its opening faces the South China Sea. Take a look at the map to get an idea of its extent. It comprises some 250 square kilometers of water and has a corresponding catchment area of about 400 square kilometers.
The Irrawaddy Dolphins are found in the brackish waters of Malampaya Sound where the Abongan River and its massive network of tributaries empty into the ocean. The Irrawaddy Dolphin is a close relative of the Orca and has the dominant feature of a high and rounded forehead, and the absence of a beak. The WWF lists these Malampaya Sound Irrawaddy Dolphins as being “in immediate danger of extinction due to low numbers, limited range, and high mortality.” At last count, which was in 2007, there were only 44 left, and they exist nowhere else in the Philippines.
The departure point for the Irrawaddy Dolphin watching tour is from the outskirts of Barangay Poblacion. It is best to do the tour at sunrise, so be there no later than 6am. In my case, I arrived very early but our tour was delayed because the boatman did not have gasoline for the boat, and had to find some. The tour was disappointing in the sense that the boatman seemed to have no concept of making the tour an enjoyable experience. He just wanted to get back as soon as possible so that he could get on with his day’s fishing. We did see a few pods of Irrawaddy Dolphins but only a small part of their back came out of the water. Even though the tour was not well run, the experience of being on a boat in the Sound was fascinating as there was plenty to see. There were cottages and fish trap on stilts in the water and much of the coastline was lined with mangroves. With some proper training for the boatmen, this tour could become a major tourist attraction, and, in turn, help protect the Irrawaddy Dolphins while providing extra income for the local fishermen.
Island-hopping and snorkeling are great activities for your stay in Taytay. There are many islands to explore. Currently there are four marine sanctuaries around Taytay Bay and 7 more at the proposal stage. Dugongs (sea cows) are often sighted around Taytay and if you have a particular interest in seeing them - you may ask around if there are any to be seen.
On my most recent island-hopping tour, I hired my own bangka as there were no organized tours. This was in November, 2009. The Casa Rosa owner told me that they were planning to put up a blackboard in their restaurant with the available island tours listed. To join a tour, one just puts their name on the blackboard. Also check that there are masks and snorkels available well in advance.
Beware of the sea urchins - some of the snorkeling places look good for swimming but you need to make sure that there are no sea urchins. Don’t just ask the boatman, get your mask on and look around. The sea urchins mainly hide in the crevasses amongst the rocks and corals, but sometimes they will be open sandy areas. They hurt but are not dangerous and the boatman will know how to treat it - he will apply vinegar most probably.
Tecas Reef Marine Park and Fish Sanctuary - This small island and its nearby waters are a marine protected area. The island has a small guardhouse. The reef is interesting as there are lots of channels to snorkel through and explore. There are pockets of colored fish and I saw a small ray and a one meter reef shark around the back of the island. Tecas Reef could be a place to have lunch.
Isla Blanca and Quimbaludan Marine Reserve - A small uninhabited island north of Taytay town. It has a small white sand beach and some large shade trees for a picnic lunch. On the day I was there, the only prints on the sand were those made by a very large sea turtle that had walked across the beach. The island has some rocky shoreline and it is interesting to circumnavigate. There are some nice corals and pockets of colorful fish, but the day I went out the ocean was a bit rough so I did not venture out as far as I would have liked. There was a long gill net set in about four feet of water, only about 20 meters offshore from Isla Blanca – this was disappointing to see as it was in a protected area.
Elephant Island and the Hidden Lagoon Elephant Island is north-west of Taytay town and was a popular day trip destination for those staying at Club Noah. I did not snorkel along the reef but I heard the snorkeling is quite good. Within the limestone cliffs, which are only a short distance from the beach, there is a large cave called the hidden lagoon. The sea water in it is about 10 meters deep. Swimming in this pool was a real treat and not to be missed on your island-hopping. Take your life jacket so that you can just float on your back and marvel at the beautiful limestone formations. There is a skylight at the top of the cave so visibility is very good. The water inside the cave is beautiful and clear. The beach front near the hidden lagoon is dotted with limestone caverns which are great places to have your picnic lunch.
Apulit Island – Club Noah Marine Protected Zone - Apulit Island is a marine sanctuary where the luxury resort, Club Noah Isabelle, is located. The resort ceased operations in 2008. There are a few very good snorkeling and diving locations around the island which are guarded by the resort staff to stop poaching and reef damage. Club Noah Isabelle has administrative authority over the marine park so you may need their permission to come near the island. Your tour operator would need to make arrangements with the resort management prior to your tour if you would like to snorkel or dive around there.
Dinamayan Island - It is south east of Taytay and a pleasant island-hopping destination. I would exclude this place if you need to leave out one destination. It is a bit further south this increases the traveling time.
One of the truly touching experiences of my time in Taytay, and in Palawan so far, was a tour of Barangay Polaraquen, meeting some of its people, and getting a peep into what a small and poor community can achieve when they are inspired and have the right leadership. This community will be the subject of a future article where I hope to get donations of text books, stationary and sporting equipment for their primary and high school.
The Barangay was formally called Canique and most people still refer to it as that. It is situated about 20km north of Taytay. You would pass through Canique if you were traveling from Sandoval airport to Taytay town. Apart from its waterfall, the rest of Canique is not on the tourist map. If you are a teacher with English as your first language, you would be a welcome guest in the community if you are prepared to do some teaching. Simple accommodation would be supplied for you. Stay a week or more – it would probably be an extraordinary holiday experience.
If you are going to visit their waterfall, maybe include a tour of their nearby island community. You will need a guide and permission from the barangay captain Polaraquen to do these. This can be arranged through the tourist office or Casa Rosa.
Canique Waterfall - This waterfall is located in about 6 km from Canique town center. It is back about three km from the town and then about 3 km inland along a rough track. On this last 3 km to the falls there are two bridges to cross. They are in very poor condition and you might not want to take a car across. Although I did, I will not do it again. Probably the best way is to hire a motor bike or get a tricycle to take you there. Alternative, leave you vehicle by the first bridge and walk the last stretch.
The waterfall is great to swim in, and, because the pool is narrower near the falls, the water flow there is faster and it is quite difficult to swim fast enough to actually get to falls – a good training place for long distance swimmers. Don't forget, you will need a guide and permission from the barangay captain of Polaraquen to go there.
Note that the town electricity supply operates only during the evening from 5:30pm until 5:30am. This is nuisance for the tourist because it is still be dark when the power goes off in the morning - so no lights or fan when you wake up. Just a few more hours of power per day would make all the difference. Compare the electricity supply of neighboring municipalities of San Vicente and El Nido - each have close to half of Taytay's populations but get at least 18 hours of electricity per day.
Casa Rosa Inn and Pizza Bar – Situated in the center of town on the hill overlooking the Fort Sta. Isabelle. This is where I usually stay and always eat. The location is picture perfect and the food and accommodation is the best you will find in town. The restaurant has stunning views over the fort with Taytay bay as the backdrop. The pizzas are good, and they are the house specialty. Vegetables are sorely missing from the menu and you will need to make some prior arrangements with them if you are not a fish, meat or pizza eater.
The cottages are spacious and set in a beautiful garden with sweeping ocean views. They do not have air conditioners, but there is barely a need for them given the location of the cottages on a hill overlooking the ocean. Besides, there is only 12 hours of electricity per day.
Extra beds are P200 per person. The owner/manager is Chelo Omano Golo. Contact numbers are 09183881063; 09208950092; 09166533311
|2 fan rooms - very basic with share BR||2 people||P350|
|1 fan cottage – king size bed & private BR||2 people||P900|
|3 spacious fan cottages – 1 king bed & private BR||2 people||P1,200|
|1 family fan cottage – with BR||6 people max||P1,500|
Pem’s Pension House and Restaurant – Located in Rizal Street in the center of town. I stayed there for one night in the small cottage for P500. The cottage was OK for the money and there is lots of variety to choose from. The setting of the higher priced cottages is a far cry from that of the beautiful gardens of Casa Rosa. There is no view, except some of the cottages face Fort Isabelle from ground level. Contact numbers 09053728599 or (048)7230463
|1 fan room– single bed||1 person||P250|
|1 fan room – double bed & private BR||2 people||P350|
|2 fan rooms – three beds||3 people||P400|
|3 fan room cottages – 1 queen size bed & private BR||2 people||P500|
|2 fan room cottages – 2 single beds & private BR||2 people||P500|
|7 large AC cottages - with CTV & private BR||2 people+||P1,000|
|1 family AC cottage – 2 queen beds, CTV & BR||4 people+||P1,500|
Tay Lelong’s Pension and Tay Lelong’s Restaurant – The restaurant is situated on Rizal Street, not far from the Municipal hall. The restaurant serves basic “bus stop food” because there is a bus stop out the front. The bus departs from there to go to El Nido at 3PM.
The Pension is about 200 meters behind the restaurant on Santo Domingo Street. To go to the accommodation, you can go there directly or first to the restaurant for them to lead you there. I have not stayed in their accommodation yet but I did have a good look around and it seems like good value for money. Extra bed is P200. Call or text - 0905 386 5249
|1 room - 1 double deck bed||2||P300|
|3 rooms - double bed and private BR||2||P500|
|3 rooms - double bed share BR and share CTV||2+||P600|
|I family room - 4 single beds with share BR||4 people||P800|
Club Noah Beach Resort – This resort offered up-market facilities and amenities and catered mostly to South Korean and Japanese tourists. It is located on Apulit Island, about an hours boat ride from the town proper. It ceased operations in 2008 and I have seen “for sale” ads for it on the web. It may open again with a new owner but there are only faint rumblings of that happening soon.
Flowers Island Beach Resort – By all accounts, a beautiful Island resort. It is about 2 to 3 hours boat ride from Taytay. There are 13 cottages of which 6 are air-conditioned. Tel +639189248895, +639178810728 or +6328936455. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Dilis Beach Island Resort – Situated on Icadambanuan Island about one hour’s boat ride south of Palawan town. I have not been there but I did pass it by boat and it looked nice from what I could see. Two cottages are located directly on the white sand beach. In the mansion on the hilltop, there is a large terrace with panoramic views, a restaurant and 2 guest rooms. Prices range from P1,000 to P2,000 per person, depending on type of room or cottage chosen. This include 3 meals per day. For booking and pick-up in Taytay call or text 0910-2316-392, 0918-4456532. Their email email@example.com.
Passenger flights into Taytay’s Cesar Lim Rodriguez Airport in Barangay Sandoval ended when Club Noah ceased its operations in 2008. The nearest airport is now El Nido, several hours away.
Most tourists go to Taytay by road. From El Nido in the north, it is about one and a half hours by bus or van. From Puerto Princesa in the south, it is about 4 hours by bus or van. Private hire vans are available in Taytay to take you to the next part of your journey, or visa versa.
If you're traveling by bus from Puerto Princesa to El Nido, and your schedule is too tight for an overnight in Taytay, consider a lunchtime stopover for a few hours. Catching the 5am or 7am bus from Puerto should leave you 3 to 5 hours to spend in Taytay, enough time to have a nice lunch at Casa Rosa while enjoying the spectacular view over Taytay bay. Also squeeze in a quick tour of Fort Isabel before the Taytay to El Nido bus departs at 3pm. Book your bus seat when you arrive in Taytay at Tay Lelong’s Restaurant, from where the bus also departs.
Whether you are staying around El Nido Town or on one of the island resorts, you can do a day trip to Taytay. Hire a private van with driver to take you there or just catch the first bus out of El Nido and the last bus back.
Alternatively, rent a motorbike or a drive-yourself car in El Nido. I recommend Pitstop Bike and Car Rental. To see a scanned copy of their rates, by click here. Their business card with contact details can be seen by clicking here. Note that it is about 70km to Taytay and the road is mostly gravel, which can be extremely dusty in the dry season.
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