It has always been my dream to visit the province of Palawan. Not only because of its beautiful beaches but also the astounding gifts of nature that can be explored in this largest Philippine island which is also referred to as ‘The Last Frontier’. Unexploited mountains, diverse vegetation and scenic terrains bestow exceptional unique experiences. Top on the list is the infamous St. Paul Subterranean River Natural Park or popularly known as the Puerto Princesa Underground River. This phenomenal attraction is inscribed in the prestigious New7Wonders of Nature and UNESCO World Heritage.
The Journey to Puerto Princesa Underground River
For the nth time, I am just a lucky jack-tar and able to fulfill another dream for gratis. The location of the Subterranean River is around 80 kilometres north of Puerto Princesa City and must be in the wheels for 1 hour and 45 minutes to Sabang Wharf which is the entry point to the Underground River then a boat ride for 20 minutes. I did not notice the time en route as I was in another realm while watching the picturesque landscapes.
We had a stopover in Taratitat Store and Souvenir shop where I found a great view of the West Philippine Sea.
Then a side trip to the Karst Mountain and Elephant Cave which became famous as it was one of the stops in the TV series ‘The Amazing Race Philippines’ on 2012.
Upon reaching Sabang Wharf, we hopped in the ‘bangka’ or wooden boat to the river. The ride was smooth and calm as the weather was with us on that day. We were lucky because they do cancel trips and tours to the Underground River Natural Park if the weather is inclement for safety purposes.
Our arrival to the site is an achievement for me as I have already visited 2 of the New 7 Wonders of Nature, first was Halong Bay in Vietnam. But I am proud and ecstatic this time because this beauty is in my country. I am honestly impressed with the preservation of the area even it is regarded as a top tourist destination in the Philippines. The watershed area of the river within the park is covered by forest which is home to many endemic species of animals and plants. You can even have a close encounter with some of them.
The St. Paul Subterranean River flows over to West Philippine Sea and is over 24 km long and 8.2 km underground section though only 4.3 km of it is navigable by boat. The permitted area for regular tourist is only 1.5 kilometers. To navigate longer, researchers and experts must obtain a special permit. It would not be a boring trip as your boat paddler and guide will proudly talk about the history of the Underground River and how important it is to the people of the province. Using a powerful torch light, the guide will point out the different formations of stunning stalactites and stalagmites with resemblance to Virgin Mary statue, giant candle, dinosaur claw, big mushroom, the Holy Family on Nativity and many other interesting shapes in various sizes. We sailed quietly along the river but we humans were not alone. There are snakes and thousands of bats living inside the caves and helmets are provided for protection from falling rocks, dripping water and bat droppings.
The tour inside the Puerto Princesa Underground River took about 45 minutes. It came too fast but it was really worth it. The features that we have seen are breathtaking and I am sure that there are more gorgeous secrets inside that are yet to be explored. I hope that a longer route can be opened to regular tourists.
It was indeed a fun and learning escapade which made us appreciate more the magnificence of Mother Earth and Nature. Again it was an achievement to experience firsthand the natural treasure of the Underground River. Now that I have already completed 2 of the 7 New Wonders of Nature, I am looking forward to explore the other 5; the Amazon Forest and River in South America, Jeju Island in South Korea, Komodo Island in Indonesia, Table Mountain in South Africa and Iguazu Falls in Argentina/Brazil.
Booking your Hotel in Puerto Princesa
Getting a hotel nowadays is as easy as ABC and there is no trick to do that. If you want to get the most competitive and cheapest hotel rates in Puerto Princesa and anywhere in the Philippines, I always recommend to do your booking online like Agoda to book for cheap hotels in Puerto Princesa.
Getting in to Puerto Princesa Underground River
– Fly to Puerto Princesa, Palawan
(Domestic flights from Manila, Cebu, Clark and Iloilo; International flights from Taipei-Taoyuan and Changsha)
– Drive to Sabang Wharf
From Puerto Princesa, take a minibus going to the “New Market” jeepney Terminal in San Jose. It takes about 10 minutes and fare of approximately Php12. Four trips from the San Jose Terminal to Sabang run daily between 7AM and 2PM. The bus/jeepneys both cost Php150 and the trip takes about 3 hours.
Lexxus Shuttle is available in Puerto Princesa Airport that can take you directly to Sabang for Php300 per head. Rental rate is Php2,500 for one way and Php3,500 for return trip.
On a tour
Local tour agents in Puerto Princesa sell a day trip package for Php1200-1500 where you are transported to Sabang via a minivan and includes a tour to Puerto Princesa Underground River and lunch buffet at Sheridan Resort.
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