The Philippines are an archipelago of more than 7000 islands in south east Asia with a hot and steamy tropical climate in the south. The heaviest rains and typhoons are from July – September. These islands are in the western Pacific Ocean and south from Taiwan (over the Luzon Straight). Vietnam is to the west over the South China Sea and the island of Borneo sits across the Sulu Sea to the southwest. The Celebes Sea lies to the south of the Philippines and separates it from the other islands of Indonesia. It is part of the ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’ making the region prone to earthquakes and typhoons but this also gives the country many natural resources and one of the richest biodiversity areas in the world. There are three main geographical regions to the Philippines known as Luzon, Visayas and Mindanano and the capital is Manila.
The history of people living in the Philippines has been sculpted by many ethnic groups including Negritos in prehistoric times followed by Austronesian people and influences through them from Islamic, Malay and Hindu culture. With the arrival of trading ships a heavy influence of Chinese culture arrived. In 1521 the explorer Ferdinand Magellan started an era that was to become the dominance of Spain over the Philippines.
Mount Apo at 2954m is the highest mountain and is on the island of Mindano. The Philippines are an amazing destination for a Natural History holiday. It’s massive biodiversity makes it home to around 1100 land vertebrate species, these include hundreds of endemic birds and mammals not found anywhere else in the world. There are not many large predators though which means that small mammals and birds are very successful in general. The rainforests here contain a staggering 13,500 plant species of which 3200 are unique! There are lots of rare orchids and important hardwood trees.
Diving and snorkelling in the Philippines is amazing with the Apo Reef being the largest contiguous coral reef system in the country and the second largest in the world. These waters contain over 500 coral species and well over 2000 fish species. Pearls, crabs and seaweeds are cultivated here.