The preservation of the our natural wonders, truly rich but endangered, has been the goal of the Palanan Wilderness Area in Isabela, and it offers people a rare glimpse of the many unique sights and wildlife that can be found in the province.
The Palanan Wilderness Area is a large tract of undisturbed forest which forms a large part of the combined nature preserve of the Northern Sierra Madre National Park and Peñablanca Protected Landscape and Seascape. It contains the most extensive area of preserved rainforest in the Philippines at 359,486 hectares. The larger of two remaining areas of intact primeval forest in Luzon (the other being a much smaller wooded area in the Cordilleras); the area is considered one of the most diverse forests in the world.
Known as the Palanan Complex, Palanan Rainforest, or Palanan Wilderness Area, it was designated a wilderness area in 1979. In 1997, it was designated a national park also known as the Northern Sierra Madre National Park. In 2003 this conservation area was combined with the neighboring Peñablanca Protected Landscape and Seascape.
The park consists of land and marine areas. Its landscape is hilly to mountainous, with the Sierra Madre Mountain Range running through it. There are several peaks in the north to south mountain range area rising higher than 1,000 meters. These include Mt. Divilican, Mt. Cresta, and Mt. Palanan. The Palanan River is the major river which runs through this area.
The Palanan Wilderness Area mainly attracts trekkers and mountaineers.
Its coastal waters are good for snorkeling and scuba diving. Attractions that may be explored within the national park are the Fuyot Springs National Park, which includes the Isabela Sanctuary, where the Santa Victoria Caves, a zoo, and a botanical park.
Flora and fauna
The park has 12 major types of forests and marine habitats. It is home to a large number of endangered and protected animal and plant species which are indigenous to the Philippines. As much as 45 % of all plant species native to the Philippines and more than 50 % of threatened local wildlife may be found in these forests.
The lowland areas are covered by lush undisturbed dipterocarp rainforest while higher altitude areas are covered by montane forest. Along its coastline are estuaries, mangrove and beach forests, beds of sea-grass, and coral reefs which serve as important ecosystems as well.
Wildlife that can be found in the area
• Eagles: Philippine eagle and Rufous-bellied eagle
• Mammals: cloud rat
• Whales and dolphins in coastal waters
• Reptiles: Philippine sail-fin water lizard, the estuarine crocodile, and Gray’s monitor lizard
• 12 new species of reptiles and 15 new species of amphibians that are unique to the country
Where it is located?
Consisting of forests in the northern half of the 1.7-million-hectare Sierra Madre mountain range, the park lies in the east of the province of Isabela. To its north is the Diktayan River while Disabunga River forms its southern border. To the west is the Cagayan Valley. To the east, it reaches the coast of the Philippine Sea.
How to get there?
The remote wilderness is accessible only by light aircraft or by sea. A light aircraft to the area is available from Cauayan Airport or from Tuguegarao Airport through CHEMTRAD. It is accessible by pumpboat from Sta. Ana in Cagayan and Baler in Aurora Province. One can also hike to the park from from San Mariano, Cauayan or Ilagan, Isabela.
Where to Stay?
These are the nearest hotels for your day and night stay:
• Ivory Hotel and Suites - Buntun Highway , Tuguegarao, Cagayan Valley / Isabela
• Villa Blanca Hotel - 13 Pattaui St.Ugac Norte, Tuguegarao, Cagayan Valley / Isabela
• Mango Suites - 1 Rizal St. corner Balzain Road, Tuguegarao, Cagayan Valley / Isabela