According to the Department of Tourism (DOT), earlier this January, 2.65 million foreign tourists visited the country in 2022, higher than its 1.7 million target. In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of Filipinos keep local tourism alive by flocking to domestic destinations to try new experiences.
Most tourists often visit vital locations in the Philippines to immerse themselves in the culture and cuisine. While tourists remain attracted to regional festivals because it highlights the provinces’ colorful heritage, they also search for attractions like malls, carnivals, amusement parks, and restaurants.
Since countries have begun a bid to preserve the environment due to alarming pollution levels, local government units (LGUs) and private organizations have promoted ecotourism to eager travelers.
From its name, ecotourism promotes sustainable travel that benefits local communities by minimizing environmental impact. It focuses on educating tourists to travel green, encouraging them to play their part in protecting nature and its resources for future generations.
The Philippines, thanks to its geographical location as an archipelago, has several ecotourism sites worth visiting. Beaches, parks, and trails all have something to offer and are worth preserving. It provides tourists with an immersive experience of the destination while keeping the natural area intact. Many of these areas also serve as a sanctuary or home for endangered and endemic species of flora and fauna.
On the other hand, some ecotourism sites include those heavily impacted by pollution but have been recovered due to diligence, consistency, and empathy for nature.
Since its opening in December 2015, the Masungi Georeserve has welcomed different types of travelers, from outdoor enthusiasts to newbies. The 1,600-hectare conservation area hides between the lush rainforests and limestone formations in Baras, Rizal. Its name comes from the term masungki, meaning spiked, which refers to limestone structures in the area.
Its top tourist attraction is its various hiking trails, which include winding paths, rope courses, and other unique stops. The Masungi Georeserve is also home to numerous flora and fauna endemic to the Philippines. Tourists are more than welcome to enjoy themselves as they get closer to nature and catch a glimpse of the plants and wildlife in the area.
Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park
When people mention Puerto Princesa, Palawan, several things come to mind. Among them are the pristine beaches and crystal clear waters. Another tourist destination notable in Puerto Princesa is the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, which became of the most famous tourist destinations in the province since its recognition as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature in 2012.
Also commonly known as the Puerto Princesa Underground River, the attraction is only accessible by boat. It is an 8.2-kilometer-long subterranean river located under a mountain range in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. It’s also the longest navigable underground river in the world, and the surrounding area represents a complex ecosystem, home to several animals, like crab-eating monkeys and monitor lizards.
It takes travelers inside the cave to witness the impressive stalactite and stalagmite formations.
Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park
For tourists who want to explore and experience the natural wonder of the sea, the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is an ideal destination to visit. It is a protected area in the middle of the Sulu Sea, under the jurisdiction of Palawan, and one of the top diving destinations in the world. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993.
Due to its isolated location, tourists must journey for about 10 to 12 hours to reach the area, which is only accessible from mid-March to mid-June. Only a boat can access the Tubbataha Reef, but many travelers know it’s worth the miles.
Visitors can see the rich marine life in the waters around the Tubbataha Reefs, including 600 species of fish, 360 species of coral, 11 species of sharks, and 13 species of dolphins and whales. They can also find Hawksbill and Green sea turtles.
Apo Island and Mount Apo Natural Park
Despite having similar names, Apo Island and Mount Apo Natural Park are in different areas of the Philippines. Still, they remain notable travel destinations for tourists who want to experience ecotourism in the country.
Located in Digos City, Davao del Sur, the Mount Apo Natural Park is one of the most highly-prioritized protected areas and significant heritage sites in the Philippines—with good reason. It primarily serves as a sanctuary for 600 wildlife species, including endangered ones like the Philippine Eagle. The nature park is also home to Mount Talomo and Mount Apo, the highest peak in the Philippines.
Tourists who enjoy the outdoors have a variety of activities to try at the Mount Apo Natural Park. They can trek through the trails while enjoying the sights or the endemic species in the area.
On the other hand, Apo Island offers a serene experience of the sea. The small volcanic island in Dauin, Negros Oriental is widely known as a world-class diving destination teeming with healthy corals and marine life because of its position in the Coral Triangle, an area in the world with the most abundant marine biodiversity.
Most tourists visit Apo Island to go swimming and snorkeling to catch a glimpse of sea turtles and other underwater species.
Even though the other tourist destinations in the Philippines aren’t considered ecotourism sites, visitors must always be mindful of what they leave on their travels. For instance, the Philippines is known for its white, sandy beaches and clear waters. Just the simple act of throwing trash away properly from the beaches would help locals and their environment immensely.
Traveling and exploring new destinations is always an exciting activity for anyone. But at this time and age, even tourists should be mindful of how they leave their marks on the places they’ve visited. People have since become aware of their environmental impact, and ecotourism sites are an ideal way to remind them that nature is worth preserving.
As a famous saying goes, “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints.”