This day I get to be in a world-recognized wonder, the Puerto Princesa Underground River. Here are the details of Day 5.
6:00 – Wake Up
I woke up with an aching back because the bed was too hard. I took a shower, had breakfast, and waited for the van that would take us to the Underground River.
7:50 – Van Pickup
The van arrived 10 minutes before the schedule. In front of the van was a big sign: 3B Travels and Tours. We made a reservation for the tour with the tricycle driver we met the very first day we arrived in Puerto Princesa. The tour costs 1,500 pesos per person but the tricycle driver gave us a 200-peso discount each. Weeee!
We stopped by other hotels to pick up the rest of our tour-mates. After about 15minutes of hotel-hopping, we were finally on the road to Sabang. It would take 2-hours to get there. Our tour guide blabbed on about info on the Underground River. He joked a lot while doing so, so I didn’t find it boring at all.
10:00 – ETA Sabang Port
Our guide told us to wait while he processed our permits. Yes, you need a permit to go in. It wasn’t even peak season but the line was very long. Boyfie and I sat along the port overlooking the sea, taking in the fresh salty air.
It rained earlier that morning and the sky was still overcast. We bought disposable raincoats just in case.
Finally after about 30 minutes of waiting, our guide led us onto a small boat which would take us to another part of the island. I sat near the boat captain. Once the boat engine revved up, I immediately regretted why I chose that spot because it was too close to the engine. It was really noisy, my ears were hurting. I DID NOT enjoy that ride at all. Gladly, it was a fairly quick trip. In no time, I was jumping off the boat with a ringing in my ears.
11:00 – ETA Underground River
A few steps from the beach, I found a weather-beaten sign that said:
“Welcome to Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park
A natural world heritage site”
Wow. I finally made it! 🙂 Next to the sign was another huge sign that said:
“NEW 7 WONDERS OF NATURE”
Wooohoooo! Just FYI, the Underground River was also part of the OLD 7 Wonders of the World. 🙂
Okay. So this is it. I entered the premises and I saw a huge monitor lizard (or “bayawak” as they are locally called) wandering near the trees. Looking around the area, there were more of them too!
Then we passed through the Monkey Trail. It was a narrow pathway through the woods. If you look closely, you’ll be able to see little monkeys swinging around the trees. If you’re lucky, a monkey would get too close and snatch away your camera! 😉 Or maybe I should have started that sentence with “if the monkey is lucky…” 😛
From the Monkey Trail, it took only 2 mins and I was able to get my first view of the Underground River. Yey!
I had to admit, I was disappointed with what I saw. Pictures from the internet showed turquoise waters but my pictures were mocha brown. 😦 According to our guide, this was because of the frequent downpour causing rainwater and mud from the mountains to be mixed in with the river. I knew I should have come here during summer.
Anyhow, as protocol, we put on hard-hats and life jackets then boarded a smaller boat that would take us inside. Of course, we sat on the front row so we’ll be able to see everything without obstructions.
The UR is the longest navigable cave in the world, stretching up to more than 8km long. But our tour was only up to 1.5km. As we entered the darkness of the cave, our boatman pointed to us the different rock formations inside. I was able to see a giant carrot, a giant onion, a giant mushroom, a giant candle, the Last Supper, and other interesting shapes.
At a certain point in the trip, I did feel a little scared. The cave was really dark. If you looked away from the light, there is absolutely nothing to see but complete darkness. And the boat was so small, it was only inches away from the murky water. But boyfie was right beside me, so no worries. ♥
The cave is home to tarantulas, pythons, bats, and thousands of little birds known to the area as “balinsasayaw“. The nest of these birds are the ingredients of the very expensive Bird’s Nest Soup. But because the cave is a protected area, harvesting is prohibited.
The tour ended after 45 minutes. We got off the small boat, then boarded the other boat which would take us back to the Sabang port. The boat engine was still noisy but I barely noticed it this time because the grumbling of my stomach was even louder.
12:30 – Lunch
As part of the tour package, an eat-all-you-can lunch buffet was prepared for us. Great! Time to eat! ♥
After eating, we still had plenty of time to waste. Along the beach, we found a lady selling “tamilok“. We didn’t know what it was so boyfie and I took a closer look. The lady told us that it’s a worm found in mangroves, and that it’s a famous delicacy in Palawan, and that it tastes like oyster. I considered it for a while but just couldn’t imagine myself swallowing a worm.
14:00 – Ugong Rock Adventures
We still had ample time (and energy) so we took a detour into another eco-tourism attraction in Palawan. It wasn’t part of the tour package, but our guide was kind enough to take us there. It was another cave but smaller and without water. It was called “Ugong” because it made a high-pitched gong-like sound once you tapped on certain places of the stalactites.
There were some parts of the cave which were a bit harder to climb. Like the mini-rappelling picture above. But you see, climbing the cave is not the real challenge but what awaits at the very top: The fastest zipline in the Philippines (at the time of writing this blog). It’s 330ft in length and only 21 secs to zooooooom away!
I saw this guy’s trembling hands as he tightly gripped the ropes. He screamed as the crew let him go and I watched him as he disappeared into a tiny dot in the distance.
I’m not a fan of heights, nor speed. A combination of both could do serious damage to my brain. LOL.
Because I didn’t take the shortcut via the zip line, I had to climb back down through the cave. Boyfie came with me to make sure I was safe. But the entire time, he made me feel guilty about him not being able to try the zip line. Hmmmmmph.
17:00 – Back at hotel
The van dropped us at the hotel. We washed up, had dinner, then packed our bags.
We had a scheduled flight back to Cebu the next day. Even if I didn’t want to, I must say goodbye to white-sand beaches and wonder caves and be back to tapping keyboards and staring at monitors. 😦