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23 May 2021

Philippines - Palawan - rafting to Giant Dao tree

22 June 2024

Hello Folks!

Magandang umaga kaibigan ko! 

Good morning in Tagalog. Do you recognize? Yes, it's the Philippines.

Thus, I revealed the destination of our today's trip.

In parallel with the rainy season, there is also the monsoon season for typhoons and cyclones in the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The Philippines is one of those countries that, along with Japan, are exposed to frequent typhoon attacks.

However, there is one place in the Philippine archipelago, which, as experts and the Filipinos themselves say, is the safest island of this archipelago. This is the Palawan Island that we will visit today.

The island is located in the Sulu Sea, which is the common sea between the Philippines and Malaysia, which it borders through the territories in the north of the island of Borneo, or as the Indonesians call it, Kalimantan.

Palawan lies outside the "ring of fire" that runs through the islands of Indonesia, the main islands of the Philippine archipelago, and Japan, and further to the North Pole. So earthquakes and volcanic eruptions do not threaten the island. It is protected from typhoons and cyclones by the main islands of the archipelago and by the fact that it is the westernmost island of the Philippines. Situated "behind the back" of the main islands, it is an oasis of peace.

Thanks to this location, Palawan is indeed one of the safest islands in this region of Southeast Asia.

You have already had the opportunity to read on my blog one attraction of the island of Palawan, which is the Puerto Princessa Subterranean River Reserve - click on this link.

It is the one that is inscribed on the UNESCO list, often being the main destination of a trip to this island.

But today we're going to go somewhere more wild. Hidden from the crowds of tourists. A place that great tourist guides do not write about. It is a bit hidden in the jungle, requires an hour raft ride up the river and a bit of preparation. Along the way, you can meet many interesting adventures… eg shoals on the river.

I invite you to a trip to the giant DAO - the largest tree on the island of Palawan, and as some say, currently also in the entire Philippine archipelago.



Let`s start our adventure

The expedition is organized by the inhabitants of local villages. Therefore, it is not easy to find such a trip in the offer of tourist offices.

We went on this trip, starting from boarding the raft at the base of the Babuyan Bridge on the Maoyon River. There is a small marina at that bridge and thanks to this the raft that will take us up the river could freely swim and take us from the shore.

Here it is, our raft, large enough. We are ready. Our host took care of food and drink, so we have food and drinks on board, including the rum of local production, which our beloved monkey was guarding for most of the trip. There is also a large supply of coconut fruit. It will also be something to drink.

So we start on the Maoyon River and we will sail upstream, pushed by two Filipino motor boats.

Thanks to this, we will cover the first section of the river, which is quite large, quite quickly and comfortably, enjoying the views overboard.


Up to the stream

And the views are truly exotic. I omit palm trees, which are everywhere in Southeast Asia, being the equivalent of pine in Poland.

On the other hand, buffaloes bathing in the river or children from a nearby village who have hunted wild pigs in the jungle and are now preparing them for dinner, at a bonfire by the river bank, make this trip unique.

The cruise is very gentle at first. However, after 2 hours, we start to notice how the river is getting shallower. Eventually the raft settled at the bottom of the river ...

We have to push the raft itself across the shoal. Otherwise, we'll be stuck here forever.

All hands on deck ... no, all feet in the water. We have to get off the raft into the river and push the raft through a 100-meter wide shallow. We are alone. The helmsmen of motor boats push them first. Then they help us with the raft. This one is large, 5 x 10 meters and weighs several tons. We go into the water. Together, we started pushing the raft across the sandbank. Meter by meter. It was neither easy nor simple. Fortunately, the water is warm and the river bed is rocky. There was something to rest your feet on. All participants of the expedition had to sweat a bit. But we made it!

After pushing the raft and swimming another 600 meters, we reach a place where the raft will not continue to flow. We change to small motor boats and head towards the largest tree on the island of Palawan.

After a few minutes we reach the shore. Just a walk through the jungle and there it is. The largest tree on the island and maybe the whole Philippines. This is a really big tree.

Giant Dao

The Filipino tree name DAO in Tagalog refers to the species name Dracontomelon dao. The English name is New Guinea walnut.

These trees grow in the lowlands, mainly in swamps. They can be found in virtually all countries of South Asia where the annual rainfall is large and the dry season is short. These are usually evergreen monsoon forests growing at altitudes up to 500 meters above sea level.

Geographically, these trees grow naturally in a fairly wide strip from India, through southern China, further to Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia, Sumatra, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.

These trees, amidst all the thickets of the bush in the jungle, grow straight up and up to a height of 24 meters they have no branches.

The Dao Tree reaches maturity when it is approximately 50 meters high. Interestingly, the Dao tree trunk is just as impressive. It can be up to 50 m in diameter at the base.

Branches are formed only at the top of the tree, where they can reach the sunlight in the bush. They form a kind of umbrella that allows free photosynthesis. A tree so tall and powerful requires a strong and deep-seated root system.

The leaves are quite large, evergreen. They are about 4 cm wide and up to 18 cm long. They are a bit like ficus leaves.

The bark of the Dao tree is gray with rusty red or gold accretions.

The tree blooms and bears fruit all year round as soon as it is warm and humid.

The flowers are white and green, very fragrant, although the smell is specific. The fruits are round, up to 5 cm in diameter. They are very juicy but sour. At the same time, fruits that ripen on the tree and reach their full maturity there emit a strong, musty smell, which at the same time attracts bats.

Our tree, The Maoyon Giant DAO Tree, is just over 65 meters high.

The branches are 105 m wide and the trunk of the tree is over 20 m in diameter. Roots digging into the ground for several meters, covering a 47 m wide strip around the trunk.

Dao tree is applicable to several areas.

In the field of medicine, tree bark is occasionally used to treat dysentery, while leaves and flowers are used as infusions in traditional folk medicine to improve general well-being.

Culinary is not very popular. Basically leaves and flowers are used as vegetables, mostly cooked in Papua New Guinea. They are also used as a flavor additive to dishes.

The Dao tree is considered a relative of mango and cashew.

The utility value of the tree is mainly sawn timber, which is used for light construction of buildings, boats and rafts. It is also known as a raw material for the production of wooden veneer for furniture. Additionally, dry wood is used as fuel for a fire or stove. In many countries, roads are planted with these trees to shade them.



You admit it's an interesting experience.

Especially that the trip down the river brought some surprises. The experience of crossing the shallows and exploring the surroundings of this amazing tree will remain for years.

Time for lunch on the raft.

Traditional Filipino cuisine. Delicious.

The river flows in bends so we had to cover a few and the last one is Jungle River Resort. It is a tourist center lost in the deep jungle, where very interesting competitions take place. We broke the record for drinking alcoholic cocktails on time.

Competition is voluntary, but every team that visits this resort is willing and of course takes part in the competition. These are twenty-five-gram "shots". There are 10 of them in 10 flavors. It is drunk on time.


It took us 27 seconds to get 10 shots. The best result on the chart was 16 seconds. Someone representing the Czech Republic managed to drink 10 glasses in such a short time. In second place was someone from Canada. Our 27 s gave Poland the third place. Not so bad.

After such an exciting coffee break, we go on a further journey.

There is silence around, the water flows drowsily towards the Sulu Sea. We pass bathing buffalos and countless palm trees. The day is slowly coming to an end.

From a sightseeing point of view, the expedition is recommendable. A raft ride up the Maoyon River, seeing the largest tree on the island, observing local life along the river, visiting the bar where you enter the competition for 10 shots of vodka in time, is worth the whole day and will surely be remembered for many years to come.



Welcome to Palawan, Philippines:)


Inaanyayahan kita sa isla ng kagalakan.



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