Thanks to the movie ‘Flipper’, dolphins have become one of the most loved creatures, especially by children. Because of their playful and friendly nature, most people would not pass up an opportunity to see these finned mammals in person. You don’t have to go far to do so; dolphins do thrive in Philippine shores. One of the places you can go to is the Malampaya Sound Land and Seascape Protected Area in the town of Taytay, located in the northwestern portion of Palawan.
The word ‘sound’ actually means a sea or ocean inlet larger than a bay. It is also used to mean a narrow passage of water between two bodies of land, much like a ‘strait’. So don’t let the term confuse you.
The Malampaya Sound is home to two endangered species of dolphins: the Irrawady dolphin that can be seen in the Inner Sound, and the bottle-nosed dolphin in the Outer Sound. Travelers can hire a boat that can take them to dolphin watching areas. Best time of the day for this activity is in the early morning and evening. Some of the dolphins tend to be elusive, so always be ready with your camera!
Did you know that the word ‘Malampaya’ in the Tagbanua dialect translates to “rich in fish”? For a time, the Malampaya Sound was regarded as the “Fish Bowl of the Philippines” because of the abundance of marine resources. However, because of the increasing population in the area and stiff competition for fish catch, resources have dwindled. It is said that the area houses some 150 species of fish, making it a rich fishing ground. Jellyfish catching there has also become a viable livelihood. The jellyfish head, called umbrella, is cured, packed and exported as food product to Korea and Japan.
As with other tourist destinations in Palawan, the Malampaya Sound is very rich in flora and fauna, both on land and water. Aside from dolphin watching, travelers can hike up and camp at Mt. Capoas and be amazed by the lush tropical forest. The route from Barangay Banbanen is said to be the most recommended. Arrangements can be made with the barangay captain.
You can also rent a boat to take you island hopping to white sand beaches or to designated diving and snorkeling sites, one of which is Flower Island where you are likely to see giant clams. For experienced cavers, meanwhile, the Outer Sound offers its caves at Barangays Tumbod, Liminancong and Minapla.
Birdwatchers also have their place in Malampaya Sound. Through arrangements with the Protected Area Office, they can take a paddleboat to the mangrove area along Abongan River and see various kinds of birds such as the kingfisher.
When in the sound, guests can also take a side trip to nearby Lake Danao, dubbed the largest freshwater lake in Palawan. To go to the watershed and explore its surrounding communities, you have to rent a motorbike. You can also arrange with local leaders for a boat that will take you to the lake. Don’t forget to bring fishing equipment; you might be able to catch a fish or two!
If you want to explore this side of Palawan, remember that tourism activities in the Malampaya Sound Land and Seascape Protected Area are regulated by law. Thus, tourists are advised to observe the following: 1) always dispose of trash properly; 2) deal only with guides, boat operators and dive masters recommended by the barangay captains; 3) roam only in established trails and campsites, and 4) respect local culture, traditions and the environment.