Ursula Island – Puerto Princesa, Philippines - Atlas Obscura

Ursula Island

This tiny island protects a number of rare bird species by only allowing visitors to set foot on the beach. 


A bird sanctuary with pristine white sand and not a beach resort in sight, Ursula Island is a small island located offshore from the municipality of Bataraza, in the Philippines that invites you to its shores, but forbids you from going any further.

Although the Philippines is known for more famous white sand beaches such as Boracay, El Nido, and Pagudpud, there are some white sand beaches like Ursula Island which had been left free from resorts in order to protect the rare birds (mainly varieties of pigeons) which live within the tiny thatch of marshy woods in the center of the island. In fact, visitors are only allowed to visit the area after securing permits from the Provincial Environment & Natural Resources Office (PENRO) of Palawan, and even then it is forbidden to leave the beach and enter the fiercely-protected wooded area. Although this may be for the best as there are reportedly a number of snakes within. 

This is not to say that there is nothing to do on the island. Various activities such as shell collecting, sand castle building, playing volleyball, as well as birdwatching can be done there. Also, the island is small enough for nature walks around the entire coastline.

Sadly, despite efforts to forbid resort-driven overdevelopment that has plagued other white sand beaches in the Philippines, some trash from the mainland has begun washing up on some parts of the island, posing a health risk to birds and visitors alike. Hopefully, any visitors to the island will cart out any debris they find, thus keeping the birds’ home safe.

Know Before You Go

Ride a ship to Puerto Princesa. Upon arriving at Puerto Princesa, secure necessary permissions from the Provincial Environment Office. After securing permit, search for the bus terminal that goes to the town of Bataraza ("Rio Tuba"). Upon arrival at Rio Tuba proper, ask for a tricycle man to take you to the Coral Bay port. From there, hire a boat that will take you to Ursula Island.

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