Palawan is an archipelago comprising 1,700 islands. With a land area of 1.5 million hectares and a coastline 2,000 km long, it is the largest province in the Philippines.
It’s home to several indigenous ethnolinguistic groups — like the Tagbanua, Palaw’an, Tao’t Batoo, and Cuyonon. Despite being separated by water, its over a million inhabitants are held together by a strong sense of community, evidently displayed in barangay (village) fiestas, family meals, and other social gatherings.
The barangay is the smallest administrative division in the Philippines. It is also the name of the native Philippine boat, otherwise called bangka, which is the kind of boat we use on our expeditions. Entire villages would get on these boats to fish or trade with other islands, hence the shared name.
From the 1970s to the 1990s there was a mass migration of other communities from the central Visayas to fish the abundant waters. The boats docked on island villages, seeking shelter from bad weather or bartering for food and supplies. This marked the start of Palawan locals hosting travelers.
What attracts travelers from all around the world to our piece of paradise is its local idiosyncrasies. The rawness of nature. The candor of the people. The absence of mass tourism.
We never tried, and will never try, to make this culture adapt to unexciting and lazy global demands and creature comforts. There are a million resorts and tour outfitters that can do that for you. If you want perfect rehearsed English from a lady with melting makeup and hair so tight that it gives you a migraine or a grown man with a school boy haircut and starched white shirt, please be their guests. If you want to travel halfway around the world then eat a meal you could have gotten at your local McDonald’s, please eat your heart out.
What we do is invite the adventurous to ditch their comforts and adapt to our way of life. What we have is a real experience of island life. No thick duvets in air-conditioned rooms. Only mosquito nets and cushions in open-air bamboo huts. No continental breakfasts, no menus. Only whatever we caught from the sea and harvested on the land. Broken English and politically incorrect humour instead of rehearsed and repeated service spiels. And we love it.
When in Palawan, do as the Palaweños do. Otherwise, why leave home at all.
Tourism for Human Development
Over a decade of adventures and misadventures has brought us to our own brand of tourism and hospitality — one that’s built not just on adventure but on human development.
With each experience, we welcome villages from across the archipelago into our community, spreading economies, sharing livelihood opportunities and building resilience and self-reliance. But our tourism creates an impact beyond economics. It also encourages pride amongst island locals — from welcoming guests from all around the world into our daily lives, using what is abundant around us and doing what we know how to do in order to make a dignified living.
???? Our Crew and Community
Our trips are only possible because you are hosted by the men and women who grew up in the islands we explore. Over the years of building these relationships we’ve welcomed plenty of them into our community.
? The Kalahi Foundation
The Tao Kalahi Foundation shares the opportunity tourism provides by building and nurturing relationships with families around our island community.
Read about Kalahi Foundation
? Slow Food and Natural Farming
Food is not just about what you eat. It’s a reflection of what the environment can produce, a show of local taste and technique, and proof of self-reliance and resilience
? Building with Bamboo
In the Philippines bamboo is seen as a poor man’s timber and not considered a serious construction material – but not in Tao. We use the strong and versatile grass to build all our basecamp structures, from our signature sleeping huts to our playful lounges.
Read about our Bamboo
⛵️ The Paraw
The Paraw is a 72-foot traditional sailboat built with almost-extinct local knowledge and both a unique relic of and homage to Filipino culture and heritage.
Read about the Paraw
Elements of a Tao Experience
???? The Lost Boys and Women – Hospitality is a big part of Philippine culture. The Lost Boys and different women’s groups are all from our 200-km stretch island neighborhood. They are the hosts of all our journeys and the soul of all our adventures.
Our boats are run by the Lost Boys — a crew of cheeky young men from around the islands. They grew up helping their dads on the boats and their moms in their houses, so a day at work often feels like a day at play.
Our basecamps are run by different women’s groups. These women are disciplinarian mothers and natural home-builders who have no problem running operations scoping hundreds of people across the archipelago.
300+ – people in our community, with roles such as boat captains and expedition leaders, farmers and cooks, and bamboo carpenters and coconut oil soap makers.
? Boats – Our boats are all old fishing bangka that we’ve refurbished. They come from families who no longer use them to fish, following the decline of the fishing industry. It takes a lot of wood to make a new boat, so refurbishing allows us to minimise our environmental impact as well as provide income for more families. Some of our boats are also crew-owned. We loan the crew the money to build them and they pay it back with parts of their salaries. Once the loan is paid, we continue to rent the boats from them, providing them additional income as well.
? Remote Island Basecamps – We travel to remote islands and secluded beaches outside the usual tourist routes, where we enjoy quiet raw nature, sleep in tukas, and are hosted by local communities. We’re welcomed into these islands by communities we’ve built relationships with over our decade and a half of exploring Palawan. Our guests are the only travelers on these camps. Our two main camps are the Tao Farm and Camp Ngey! Ngey!.
? Food – Our food is an experience of our landscape and a showcase of our skill. Using traditional cooking techniques, we serve our own unique cuisine with ingredients from the Tao Farm and local farmers and fishermen. We prepare our carefully-chosen ingredients in traditional Filipino dishes or recipes our cooks pick up from the foreign country food expeditions we send them on every year.
? Nature – We value a close connection to raw nature and try to keep this connection as close as possible. Our trips provide the opportunity for travelers to disconnect to reconnect. We think the best way to conserve and protect nature is by providing dignified livelihoods to the people who live closest to it and understand it best. When islanders can look after themselves, they look after nature, too.