Roaming the African, Er, Philippine Plains



By Alex Frew McMillan/ – The scene is familiar to anyone who has been on safari in eastern or southern Africa. Giraffes amble from tall tree to tall tree, nibbling away at tiny leaves. Zebras graze the short grass, their heads bent low. There are deer in the distance, and a hawk whirls overhead.

Only this is Southeast Asia, not Africa.

Calauit Safari Park is one of the oddest and least-known attractions of the Philippines, a haven for African wildlife that has operated for close to 40 years.

In 1976, Ferdinand Marcos, then president of the Philippines, traveled to Kenya for a summit meeting. The Kenyan government had asked the International Union for Conservation of Nature for help in conserving its wildlife and, as a result of his trip, Mr. Marcos established Calauit as a nature reserve for some of its animals. The site opened to the public in 2009.

The park, which covers 3,760 hectares, or 9,291 acres, sits on a peninsula that is linked by a narrow marshy isthmus to Busuanga Island. It is the northernmost major island in Palawan, the westernmost province of the Philippines, and one of its most pristine. (Reaching Busuanga involves a scenic one-hour flight southwest of Manila, over mountainous Mindoro Island and then azure seas and the pale cream coral of the twin atolls of Apo Reef, one of the top dive destinations in the Philippines.)


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