Puerto Princesa Underground River in Palawan

28 Nov

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When i first started planning my trip to Palawan, i noticed that most traveling blogs recommend visiting the underground river so i included it in my itinerary. In case you didn’t know, the Puerto Princesa Underground River has been listed as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature;  It is the second longest underground river in the world (the first one being  in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula). It covers a distance of more than 24 km and flows directly into the South China Sea. It is also known as St. Pauls Underground River and its cave is famous for spectacular limestone karst landscapes.

The Underground River is listed as a Unesco heritage site, therefore the government tries to protect it by limiting the number of tourists who visit everyday. They do so by imposing a visit permit on all Tourists, it can be obtained through Local Tourism Office in Puerto Princesa.

This world known site is located 50km away from Puerto Princesa near a village called Sabang. To visit it , you have two options:

1- a DIY trip: you need to get your visit permit ahead of time by yourself and arrange your own transportation

2- Sign up with a Tour Agency: it costs 1500PHP (36CAD) and includes visit permit, transportation, entrance fee and all you can eat lunch. You can also choose a Tour package that includes zip lining (also in Sabang)

I know that the DIY trip would be the most cost effective but since i didn’t have enough time in the capital to arrange it, i opted for signing up with the Tour Agency. My CouchSurfing Host was kind enough to contact the agency for me and take care of the booking(another perk to CS yaay). The driver came at 10am the day of the tour and picked me up from where i was staying. The drive to Sabang took us one hour with a stop along the way. We had lunch while our guide took our IDs (Don’t forget to bring an ID) to confirm our visit permits.

To arrive to to actual location of the underground river, we had to take a boat for 10 to 15min to arrive at the entrance. The boats are the traditional Philippino Bangka boats and they fit about 8 each.

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Then we transferred again to smaller navigation boats that took us inside the cave for a tour of the underground river. The total length of the river about 24km but the boat tour covers only 1km. The inside of the cave was very dark so it was hard sometimes to spot the limestone formations but it was very interesting especially when we spot the baby bats hanging from the roof. We were accompanied by a guide who was describing the formations in a funny way : like this one looks like a carrot, or jesus or a damp etc… This part was a bit disappointing because i would have appreciated a more scientific explanation of the formations.

Overall The river is very interesting if you have never seen something similar before however for me i think i should have skipped it since i’ve seen similar caves in Halong bay.

Here are some photos i took during the visit, click to enlarge

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