Natural Wonders of the Philippines
Puerta Princesa Underground River
Proclaimed as one of the new 7 wonders of nature, the long and meandering Puerta Princesa Underground River, which empties directly into the South China Sea, is located beneath the hills of the island province of Palawan.Â The 39-mile long river cave features spectacular formations of stalactites and stalagmites and a number of chambers, including the 1,181-feet long Italian's Chamber, reputed to be one of the largest cave rooms in the world.Â The cave, along with the surrounding forests, is home to a wide diversity of flora and fauna, including nine species of bats, 800 plant species, 165 bird species (such as, blue-naped parrot and Palawan hornbill), 30 mammal species (including long-tailed macaque, Palawan stink badger and Palawan porcupine) and 19 reptile species.
Straddling the provinces of Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental, Mount Kanlaon is one of the six most active volcanoes in the Philippines.Â Though no major eruptions had occurred for over five decades, the volcano has become quite a menace in recent years as it has become prone to unpredictable lava flows rolling down its slopes at speeds over 100 miles-per-hour.Â Deeply carved with rugged ravines, its slopes are concealed with the last precious virgin forest in the region.Â The forest contains many rare plants such as pitcher plants and staghorn fern.Â It is also home to some rare birds including the yellow-backed sunbirds and Visayan tarictic hornbills, and indigenous mammal species such as Negros spotted deer and Visayan warty pigs.Â
(Maria Cristina Falls) Image source
Lake Lanao is the second largest lake in the Philippines covering an area of 131 square miles.Â Sitting around 2,300 feet above sea level, the lake is believed by experts to be the collapsed crater of an ancient volcano.Â Its water cascades over the majestic Maria Cristina Falls, which was named for a Spanish queen and is controlled by a hydroelectric system that harness the Agus River, the lake's only outlet.Â The lake contains 18 endemic cyprinid fish species, which are in danger of extinction due to environmental destruction as a result of the construction of hydroelectric plants on the lake and accidental introduction of white goby, a carnivorous fish, into the lake.Â It is also home to 41 freshwater crab species that are unique to the region.
On the Philippine island of Bohol, there is a cluster of over 1,200 low, domed-shaped hills spreading over an area of more than 20 square miles known as Chocolate Hills.Â They are covered with rough green grasses that turn brownish during the dry season, between February and May, hence the name. Though the mounds are packed together on a limestone plateau, their origin is a complete mystery as they have none of the features associated with limestone landscape elsewhere in the world, such as those found in Slovenia and Croatia.Â A local legend tells of two angry giants who were throwing rocks at each other but were ultimately reconciled; the rocks that they left became the Chocolate Hills.
(Whitetip reef shark at Tubbataha) Image source
(Greater-crested terns) Image source
The Tubbataha Reefs are the largest atolls in the Philippines.Â They are formed by two atolls roughly 5 miles apart in the Sulu Sea, each possessing typical atoll features, with shallow sandy lagoon and sides that plunge sharply to around 330 feet below sea level.Â The reefs abound in diverse marine life including
butterflyfish, squirrelfish, blacktip and whitetip reef sharks, manta rays, sea turtles, and giant clams.Â On the coral sand beaches, there are seabird colonies with brown noddies, red-footed boobies, and greater-crested terns. The reefs were seriously damaged by dangerous fishing practices such as the use of dynamite and cyanide, which have drastically declined since its declaration as a national marine park in 1988 and a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1993.