Beaches for swimming. Beaches for exploring. Bancao beaches are for exploring.

The Philippines has a few thousand of both kinds.

In Puerto Princesa, the province’s capital, gorgeous beaches of the latter kind–for exploring–are found minutes from the airport.

These beaches are a nature lover’s delight. They have wide intertidal zones and I found them in Bancao-Bancao.


It’s the area that is above water at low tide and under water at high tide. Because these environments sharply contrast each other (being above water and then being below water every single day), animals and plants that inhabit it must be hardy, adaptable, and not finicky eaters. We’ve just described starfish, shellfish, brittle stars, sea urchins, sand dollars, sea cucumbers, and some species of coral. And plants? Let’s add just one: Mangrove.

Mangrove beach

Taken in Feb 2011, at high tide, these young Mangroves are growing in typical cluster formation.

From the Smithsonian Institute’s webpage:

Mangroves are survivors. With their roots submerged in water, they thrive in hot, muddy, salty conditions that would quickly kill most plants. How do they do it? Through a series of impressive adaptations—including a filtration system that keeps out much of the salt and a complex root system that holds the plants upright in the shifting sediments where land and water meet. Not only do mangroves manage to survive in challenging conditions, they also support an incredible diversity of creatures—including some species unique to mangroves. And, as scientists are discovering, they are extremely important to our own well-being and to the health of the planet. The question is: Will mangroves be able to survive the impact of human activities?


Puerto Princesa, the city proper, occupies a peninsula.

This Google map shows the city peninsula. (North is on top.) Barangay Bancao-Bancao is located in the lower righthand part of the peninsula.

"Puerto Princesa" Palawan "Bancao-Bancao" beach

Peninsula of Puerto Princesa City. Arrows identify the beaches of Bancao-Bancao.

The next map zooms in on the beaches. Believe it or not, the pale ribbon is the beach. Those white marks on the righthand side is the surf breaking at the low tide mark of the beach. Everything in between is an Intertidal Zone.

"Puerto Princesa" "Bancao" beach "Intertidal Zone" "Littoral Zone"

Close-up of Bancao Beaches. Note the width of the Intertidal Zone!


While not a world record, or even a Philippine record, the intertidal zone in Bancao-Bancao is a generous 600 meters wide.

Bancao beach "intertidal zone" "puerto princesa"

Range Rings measure the width of the Intertidal Zone at (gasp!) 600 meters.


The sea floor in this zone is sandstone. Sandstone forms where sand is laid down and buried–in dunes, sea floors, and beaches. “Sandstone is sand cemented together into rock.”

Sandstone is a tough rock. Mangroves that gain a toehold (or should I say “roothold?”) will grow grounded in a durable foundation.

Mangrove "Intertidal Zone"

Juvenile Mangrove taken root in Sandstone in an Intertidal Zone

The myriad stuff covering the “ground” are various types of vegetation–the bright patch at the lower-right seemed to be coral (which, by the way, is an animal and not a plant).

Tough as sandstone is, it erodes. It erodes into a honeycomb of crevices and holes that make the ideal habitat for all sorts of animals.


It took a few minutes for my eyes to get used to the jumble of colors and shapes. Until then I was cautiously picking my way through scenes like this:

"Brittle Star"

This tangle turns out to be a Brittle Star hiding beneath a rock decorated by seaweed.

Brittle stars are the coolest. They beat starfish, hands down, simply because they move. In real time!

"Brittle Star" echinoderm

In this short sequence, we start with this Brittle Star that was turned upside down.

"Brittle Star" Echinoderm

Next, the animal flips itself, one arm at a time.

"Brittle Star" Echinoderm


Here’s a baby starfish. Let’s fight cool with cute.

Starfish Echinoderm


And here’s a sea slug.

"Sea Slug" Echinoderm

An intimidating but probably harmless Echinoderm

What’s that? What’s an echinoderm?

They’re the brittle stars, starfish, and sea slug shown above. Fortunately, we saw none of one type of echinoderm–the sea urchin. This image of the bad boy was borrowed from Wikimedia.



Three of us walked nearly the whole distance to the surf. Ideally, we should have been wearing footwear that had a thick rubber sole. But that’s being ideal. We had slippers and before we got to the surf, one pair was ruined. We had to walk barefoot for at least part of the way. That was a little nerve-wracking.

How tall were the mangroves? Our model below is about 153 centimeters tall.


A model for the Mangroves!

We slowly made our way to the surf. At about 200 meters, I looked back:

Beach "Intertidal Zone"

Two hundred meters from the beach

Did you notice the numerous shoots of Mangroves sprouting through the tough sandstone? They’re in the foreground.

At 300:

Beach "Intertidal Zone"

Three hundred meters from the beach

Did you notice the radical change in color and texture of the sea floor?

We spied several structures that screamed “fishing” to me. They were located near the surf line, well over 500 meters distant from shore.

Fishing "Intertidal Zone"

This structure appears to be a fishing platform. It was near the open water edge of the Intertidal Zone.

Fishing Platform Intertidal Zone

Another view of the suspected fishing platform

Fishing Platform "Intertidal Zone"

This appears to be a truly rickety platform for fishing. The platform was about 600 meters from shore.

Scanning the horizon, I saw these souls foraging past the 550-meter mark:

Beach "Intertidal Zone"

These foragers are at least 600 meters from the beach. I was struck by the change in the texture and appearance of the sea floor. It resembled a garden.

Then this man caught our attention.

Beach "Intertidal Zone"

What did he catch?

It turned out he was a hunter-gatherer. His bag of goodies revealed echinoderms and shellfishes. Yummy!

Echinoderms Shellfish Cowrie

Many Sand Dollars and some Cowrie Shells

We turned and headed back. Ahead of us trudged another man:

Beach "Intertidal Zone"

Five hundred meters from the beach. The man is carrying his load of timber back to shore.

Was he going to add his wood to the pile below? Since the poles will be submerged during high tide, I don’t know what to make of the whole pile.

"Intertidal Zone" Beach Mangrove

What's this pile about? The poles are submerged at high tide. Could it be to accustom the wood to water? I don't know.


The SuperFerry resumed its service to Puerto Princesa last March. Was this it?

Is that a SuperFerry in the distance? It steamed out of Puerto Princesa pier and is heading north.

The airport is located two kilometers to the north. I caught two flights.

Airplane "Puerto Princesa" Airport

Taking off!

Airplane "Puerto Princesa" Airport

And landing!

Thankfully, the planes weren’t noisy to the point of being annoyances.


Images can be enlarged at least once. Many images can be enlarged twice. Clicking on an image enlarges it. To enlarge it a second time (if available), click on the image’s final resolution (encircled in red).

"Image Enlargement Example"

Click on the image dimension (1280x687) to see the final enlargement available. Some images do not enlarge a second time.


7 responses to “Beaches for swimming. Beaches for exploring. Bancao beaches are for exploring.

  1. Pingback: Puerto Princesa’s historical growth | Retired? No way!

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  3. Pingback: Puerto Princesa in 1921 | Retired? No way!

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