Palawan · Philippines · Travel Tales

Puerto Princesa Underground River

I’m still in Puerto Princesa right now. In the past four days we’ve toured the city, gone island hopping in Honda Bay, and visited one of the new seven wonders of nature — the Puerto Princesa Underground River.

On the way to the Underground River.
On the way to the Underground River.

I remember the time when I (and hundreds and thousands of other Filipinos) voted to help it become one of the New Seven Wonders, and so I was ecstatic to see it for myself.

Current regulations had us book online, which took care of our entrance fee, a buffet lunch, and the transportation from the Puerto Princesa city proper and back. It didn’t include the P40 environmental fee.

I didn’t expect that the roads would have a lot of twists and turns, and for a couple of times or more we all felt our stomach lurching as our van sped downward on a steep slope. Lesson learned: a “short” two hours in a van doesn’t always mean you wouldn’t need Bonamine any longer. It’s a good thing my breakfast stayed for the whole while.

We dropped by the Buenavista view deck on the way — it had fantastic views of the Ulugan Bay and the Tres Marias islands, which faced the West Philippine Sea.

View from Brgy. Buenavista View Deck
View from Brgy. Buenavista View Deck
My group!
My group!

After what seemed like a long while, we finally got to Sabang Beach, which was the drop-off point to the Underground River. Here’s where we had a sumptuous lunch — I loved their fish balls (literally fish meat fried as balls), ensalada, and lumpia.  We took pictures as we had time to kill.

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From Sabang, it’s a fifteen-minute boat ride to the beach where the outflow of the Underground River goes. The views are pretty amazing — I was strongly reminded of Caramoan, with the limestone cliffs built by thousands of years of erosion and land mass movement. The same forces that made these land forms actually created the subterranean river as well.

While waiting for our turn going to the Underground River, we walked around to check out the beach (no swimming here) and to see the monkeys and monitor lizards:

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It was around three PM when we were finally called for our turn. There are ten people per boat going to PPUR.

Entering the PPUR.
Entering the PPUR.
Just one of the many, many features of the Underground River.
Just one of the many, many features of the Underground River. I think this is supposed to look like a bird — I don’t know why but it made more sense when we were down there. 🙂

For about 45 minutes, our guide showed us features of the cave, such as the bats (no need to point them out, really) and the snakes, the different shapes of the stalactites and stalagmites (they are named after their shapes), and the areas such as the Cathedral and the “fruits and vegetables section”. It’s very impressive and even a bit mind-boggling to realize how the caves have been sculpted by nature for thousands of years.

My favorite area would have to be the “Cathedral” which was just grand — it’s a massive area with features to which the researchers have given names such as the “Pieta” and the “Last Supper” and even a huge column they called a melting “candle”. Sadly, my camera conked out on me almost as soon as our tour began — I had to resort to crappy iPhone photos from thereon.

Welcoming the sunlight and ending our PPUR tour.
Welcoming the sunlight and ending our PPUR tour.

It was the first of many amazing things I’ve seen in Palawan so far. In a couple of hours, we’re going to El Nido — it’s bound to be even more exciting!

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