Hazards

Crime

Port Barton is safer then many other holiday destinations, and has no specific problems. There are of course generic issues anywhere, and so travellers need to think about where they keep valuables and not tempt fate by taking silly risks.

Medical help

Although transport links have improved considerably over the past couple of years the area is still remote and so access to medical facilities is limited.

Malaria and Dengue fever

In over 20 years I have not encountered these problems although locals have referred to malaria; I suspect this was used as a generic term for a fever, which may have been flu. Initially I would take the recommended tablets, but in recent years, travelling only in the dry season and taking precautions with long sleeves and trousers at dusk, repellants and nets over the beds, I have chosen not to do so. This may be foolish so do not take it as a recommendation. Persuading young children to take the bitter tablets is difficult – you can try disguising them inside a piece of banana, or with honey – it never worked for us.

Tourist facilities

The public water supply in the town is treated and safe to drink. There are hygiene, building and fire regulations and resorts are required to comply, with annual inspections. They will not get a permit to operate if they fail to meet standards. Tourists coming from the much more crowded El Nino often arrive with stomach bugs and manage to recuperate in Port Barton.

The coastguard has a local office and boats that cater to tourists are required to have life vests, meet safety standards and have a boat captain who has been certified as competent.

Roads

There is very little traffic, and so walking around the town is safer than most places. The van drivers from Puerto Princessa know the routes down to the smallest pothole, so occasionally travel at speeds that I find alarming; but then I have had similar experiences in taxis in Italy and elsewhere.

Unless you are lucky enough to bag the front seats or have a particularly robust stomach, expect motion sickness in the vans. Personally I use the acupressure wrist strap remedy “sea bands”, which are also useful if you are taking a longer boat trip. I find the velcro bands much more durable than the elasticated type.

Climate

This close to the equator the sun is fierce. Even on cloudy days the UV can burn. Heatstroke is easily contracted. So cover your head, wear loose clothing and don’t expose skin without a high factor sunblock, drink plenty of water. It is easy to snorkel or paddle a kayak for 30 minutes on the first morning of your holiday without protecting your head and shoulders – and regret it for the next three days.

I like to wear a hat with a very wide brim, giving extra protection to the back of the neck,   or a light weight neckerchief. Some sort of ventilation is recommended in the hat, and use of a material that will not trap moisture. Tilleys are pricey but of excellent quality, and some have an airflow band near the crown which does help.

Keep hydrated – you’ll need about three or four litres of water a day in the tropics, depending on how active you are. Carry a water bottle, preferably a refillable one to avoid plastic waste.

Coconuts

There have been reports of coconuts, which typically weigh a couple of kilos, falling maybe 30 metres from the top of the tree and reaching a velocity of perhaps 80 km/hr and then hitting someone. The results could of course be fatal. There is an unsubstantiated statistic that 150 people a year are killed in this way. That number has been linked to a paper in 1984 by Dr. Peter Barrs in the Journal of Trauma, which did not provide a number, but did record four injuries in Papua New Guinea in a four-year review, two fatal, due to coconuts. Some resorts remove the fruits before they can fall, some have removed the trees from areas where tourists may spend more time, and some grow dwarf trees. Whatever the statistics it’s wise not to walk under a ladder nor to use a hammock under a tree where you can see a cluster of nuts awaiting a victim.

Wildlife hazards

See the Wildlife page