When we started researching the Philippines, the first thing that caught my eye was the Puerto Princesa Underground River on Palawan Island. Because of this, I started looking more into Palawan and what was on offer there and then discovered that it is the less travelled and less touristy island. This, of course, is very much my cup of tea and Christine was keen too so we decided to make it the only island we would visit as we had such limited time.
After a night in Sabang, the big day to go to the Underground River came and we set off on the 5km hike to get there. You can catch a boat but we fancied the hike through the rainforest and I was more than keen to see some birds with the new binoculars I had bought in Seoul.
The hike was a bit of an adventure…about a quarter of the way in the heavens opened, once again, and we were drenched within a few minutes. There was no point in even waiting it out in one of the many cave shelters en route because we could see it wasn’t going to give anytime soon. The trail was extremely steep and never seemed to be on a level, it always went either up or down.
Needless to say, all the birds and monkeys that were supposed to be around were hiding away from the rain, and us. Nevertheless, it was great but we got there very bedraggled and dirty after the 3 hours! (Towards the end of the hike my life flashed before my eyes when I slipped on a very steep set of wooden stairs and bounced down 2 or 3 before I could stop myself by grabbing the handrail. As luck would have it, it happened just as we saw 2 of the 6 people we passed along the trail…Murphy’s Law.)
Finally we arrived at the entrance of the cave and it was beautiful!! Just like the pictures I had seen. We donned our lifejackets and protective helmets and got onto a boat relatively quickly for the 45-minute trip in the cave. The river itself is about 8km long but the standard trip inside goes only 2kms up. I felt it was too short and wish we had arranged beforehand to do the longer trip which is possible if you arrange it in advance. However, finally being there was wonderful and it was nice and cool inside compared to the sticky humidity we’d come from. There were hundreds of swallows flying around us and the many bats were chilled and trying to sleep, hanging out at the top of the cave. The water was freezing and a little eerie, the walls were wet and slimy and there were some awe-inspiring stalactites and stalagmites which unfortunately I couldn’t catch on camera because it was so dark. You will have to go and see for yourselves.
It was all over too soon and time to head back to Sabang. We were certainly not going to endure the hike home so we caught a boat that was going back to Sabang for a fraction of the price people had tried to sell it to us for. If you just arrive you will always get offered a lift for minimal cost as there are boats going that way anyway and they want some extra pesos.