Travel Diaries: Puerto Princesa Underground River Tour

Nov 11, 2014

Puerto Princesa

The reason why we want to go to Palawan is the Puerto Princesa’s pride: the Subterranean River (Underground River), especially now that it is hailed as one of the 7 Wonders of Nature in 2012. Kareen and I are looking forward to this trip for almost a year. Well, eight months to be exact. We’ve prepared for almost everything..down to the pegs we want for Instagram-worthy shots. But what we didn’t prepare ourselves for is our expectations.

Puerto Princesa

Since we went to El Nido first, we banked too much excitement on Puerto Princesa. In fact, Doyzkie of iLuvCebu.com told me not to expect too much on the Underground River coz we might get disappointed. And boy, he was right. We stayed in Prima Residences in Barangay Sta. Monica who fixed our tour with Kalokairi Travel And Tours for our underground river and honda bay tours. For this tour, we were joined by a boisterous family and a fellow Cebuana.

Our perky tour guide animatedly informed us of the ground rules for visiting the underground river like no feeding of animals and we have to hide all shiny objects and plastic wrappers so that wild monkeys won’t be tempted to steal it.

monkey trail
Monkey trail – we were warned by the guides to hide our valuables so we will not to tempt the monkeys

Getting there

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We’ve reached the docking area of Puerto Princesa Subterranean Underground River National Park

The Puerto Princesa Subterranean Underground River is located on a separate island. Our van picked us up early in the morning. It took us an hour or two before we reached Sabang Port. If you get motion sickness when traveling on long hours, be sure to take some Bonamine. I popped one before the trip but I still feel nauseous because the road to Sabang Port is filled with zigzag turns and quasi-roller coaster rides.

When we got there, we patiently waited more than 20 minutes for the permits to go through. Our lively tour guide took care of it for all of us. After we got the permits, we were immediately ushered to the waiting boats. It takes 20-30 minutes boat ride from Sabang Port to the river. We experienced huge waves in El Nido that we were not bothered by the huge waves we experienced en route to the Underground River. But for the faint-hearted, please prepare yourself for the “baby” waves.

Reaching the bat cave

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Our guide made arrangements and asked us to wait for her signal. Before boarding the boat, we were each handed a bright orange life vest and orange helmet. We looked tacky on the photos, so we avoided too many shots with the life vests and helmets on. But our guide took a photo of us for posterity.

People in the tourism industry made efforts in speaking English for the benefit of foreign visitors. Our boatman spoke English since we were joined by foreign tourists. He went on reciting measurements on the guide book which I cannot appreciate much (pretty bad in math) about the river.

Puerto Princesa
Tourists wait in the shade before going to the bat cave

Brief background: the river stretches 8.2 kilometers and said to be the longest navigable underground river in the world. It winds its way underneath a mountain range, through the St. Paul Underground River Cave, and then goes out into the South China Sea. The journey through the cave system alone is 24 kilometers long. Did you know that there are eight bat species that made this river their home base? Read more here.

corn in a cave

All of my photos used in this blog are taken using my Xperia Arc S but the photo quality inside the cave was very poor, I only got a semi-decent shot of the corn-shaped pareidolia in the “market place” area of the cave.

My favorite part of the cave is the “cathedral”. It is spacious with a high ceiling. Spectacular display of religious symbols like a giant dripping candle, an angel, a horse, and the Holy Family (to name a few) can be found in this area.

Travel Tips

  • Wear light clothing and be prepared to bring a change of clothes in case you got wet in between boat rides. You may wear sneakers but it would be best if you wear flip-flops since you will be treading sand and water.
  • Bring 2 valid IDs and extra cash for minimal fees and snacks in case you get hungry.
  • Most tours include lunch. We had ours at a restaurant in the Sabang Port area. Tamilok is also available for tasting for the brave palate and strong stomach.
  • Place your gadgets in waterproof bags to avoid any water accidents.
  • If you are planning to visit Palawan, I would recommend visiting the Underground River in Puerto Princesa before you head to El Nido. This way, you get to appreciate the awesomeness of the river and rock formations more properly.
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