Isle of Enchantment. The Galapagos of Southeast Asia. The densest forest and cleanest river in the Philippines. Toughest summit in the country. There are many descriptors for Sibuyan Island and its iconic Mount Guiting-Guiting Natural Park; however as someone who lived and worked there for 9 months as a biologist I prefer to simply call it one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
Sibuyan is a small island located in the Romblon Province, near the heart of the Philippine archipelago. Measuring only 46,000 hectares, or about half the size of New York City, Sibuyan Island despite its small size is a giant in terms of biodiversity and endemism.
A 1995 study by The National Museum found Sibuyan to have the densest forest recorded to date in the Philippines, both in terms of species and productivity. Sibuyan has one of the few remaining intact lowland forest in the Philippines, which harbors over 700 vascular plants, including least 54 plant species endemic to Sibuyan and 180 species native to the Philippines. As for fauna, there have been over 140 bird species, 30 mammals, 40 reptiles, and 13 amphibians documented in Sibuyan – with likely more species yet to be discovered. These numbers include 5 species endemic to Sibuyan – meaning they are native to and originate from Sibuyan Island and nowhere else in the world. There are likely 7 more subspecies endemic to Sibuyan, as well as 10 globally rare and threatened species. These numbers don’t include the rare and threatened marine species such as the dugong, leatherback, green, and hawksbill turtles that inhabit the ocean surrounding Sibuyan.
But unfortunately Mount Guiting-Guiting Natural Park and its incredible biodiversity are threatened. Illegal miners clear and dig up remote areas in the forest looking for deposits of gold and nickel. Others illegally cut and harvest wood from inside the protected area, including rare dipterocarp and ironwood trees. The understaffed and overworked park service does the best it can, but the ilegalistas are often better equipped and greater in number than the park staff.
Read more about the ecological threats to Sibuyan Island in my article published in the Earth Island Journal:
To see a slideshow of just a small sample of the amazing fauna found on Sibuyan Island, click the link below:
Or, read a little more about traveling to Sibuyan Island and its challenges and wonders:
Are you considering visiting Sibuyan Island? Want to help preserve this incredible place? Please get in touch with me to see how you could help make a difference.