Third day into our honeymoon and we couldn’t wait to discover many more of Palawan’s treasures. Early in the morning, we said goodbye to the city life and embarked on our journey to Puerto Princesa Underground River (or the Subterranean River National Park) – a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the new 7 wonders of nature since 2012.
Located on the west coast of the Palawan island, the prestigious heritage park is about 1.5 hours drive (79 km) from the city of Puerto Princesa.
After a series of winding twists, hairpins, and plunging drops, we eventually arrived at the opposite side of the island and were ready to explore the longest navigable underground river in the world!
At the Sabang Boat Terminal, we waited for our local guide to make arrangements for our entrance to the underground river (including getting an entry permit, paying environmental fee, calling for a boat…etc). Even though there is a limited quota permits issued each day, the pier could be quite busy given that it is the only entry point to the underground river.
The pier is essentially a small village, with a beach and numerous hawker stalls nearby where visitors could chill out and kill time.
We finally hopped onto a boat and cruised along the scenic coastline. After a 20-min boat ride, we found ourselves in front of the world-famous subterranean river.
The underground river is actually a part of the national park, which features a stunning limestone karst landscape with a complex cave system, mangrove forests, lowland evergreen tropical rainforests, and freshwater swamps. The park is also home to about 800 plant and 224 animal species. Don’t be alert if you encounter monkeys, large monitor lizards, and squirrels while you make your way through the natural beauty!
Large crowd was spotted at the waiting area, where tourists sat and waited while their guide fought for the boat queue. (Yes, you heard me right. There is another boat trip to head inside the underground river!).
When it was almost our turn, we wandered through the forest, which then led us to a small clear lagoon, marking the entrance to the underground river.
Each boat could carry 8-10 persons including a boatman, who paddled us into the cave and provided a commentary of the sights.
Before the tour, we were instructed to put on safety gears including a life jacket and helmet. Also, a passenger must take on the role as a lightman to sit at the front and guide us through the cave. The only requirement being a basic understanding of the English language (since the boatman can only converse in English).
Since no one on our canoe could speak English, Kev ‘volunteered’ to take on this important task!
‘You can expect to see hundreds of bats’, said the boatman. ‘But don’t open your mouth as you look up. The bat poop would sometimes drop like a shower rain inside the cave!’ he forewarned us.
The 8.2 km long Cabayugan River winds through major formations of stalactites and stalagmites, and ends its journey at an outlet into St. Paul’s Bay in the South China Sea. The tour inside the underground river takes about 45 mins and only covers the first 1.5 km. The deeper parts of the cave are subject to tidal influence and are only reserved for scientific studies.
Even then, it was well worth a visit. The soaring cave chambers and crystal rock formations were magnificent. The humorous boatman made the tour extremely enjoyable by pointing us to strange rock formations and the images they represent (eg., mushroom, corn, banana, Virgin Mary, the dragon…etc.). Here’s where you can let your imagination go wild!
Flash photography is permitted inside the cave, but I was afraid the sudden brightness might scare off the creatures. If you wonder what lies underground that makes this place truly a treasure, the video below will ease your curiosity.
Lunch at Sabang Village
Returning back to the Sabang Boat Terminal, you could find various vendors in the village, selling local beverages and snacks. Fried banana (‘banana cue‘), sweet potato (‘kamote cue‘), and banana springroll (‘turon‘) seem to be popular street food. Fresh fruit shake can be a healthy choice to quench your thirst!
If you prefer dining at a proper restaurant, Gusto Grill and Resto is a decent choice. Located just 5 mins away from the pier, the restaurant offers Asian style buffet for hungry diners!
Stay at Daluyon Resort
We spent a night at the Daluyon Resort, which is an ideal accommodation given its close proximity to the pristine Sabang beach, plus it is only 10 mins away from the Sabang Boat Terminal!
The beach resort is a top choice for honeymooners, equipped with 27 cabanas, all of which has a magnificent view facing the ocean and quick access to the beachfront. With a limited number of rooms, the hotel provides the utmost privacy for the guests, making it a secluded vacation oasis.
I had absolutely fell in love with the traditional Filipino style rooms, furnished with beautiful wooden floors and private veranda!
Snorkeling in the ocean or taking a dip inside the pool – it’s entirely up to you!
For adventure seekers, a wealth of activities are made available to you, including jungle trekking, zipline, paddleboarding, and mountain biking. If you simply want to relax, stroll down the Sabang Beach and you’ll find massage huts just mins away! Hearing the soothing soundscape of waves and enjoying the ocean breeze must be the most wonderful thing in the world!
We ended the day with a romantic candlelit dinner at the resort restaurant. The 3-course Filipino-style dinner was a perfect way to call it a night!