Puerto Princesa Subterranean River
The underground river is located within the Puerto Princesa Subterranean National Park. Going there from the city center, one will need to take a 2 hour ride through the mountainous region north through zigzagged roads of concrete and parts with rough road to get to the Sabang port.
At Sabang port, one will need to get permits with the Tourist Information Center to allow entry to the underground river. Also, one will need to book in advance so that the tourism office will provide him the schedule to go.
From the Sabang port, one will ride a 15 minute boat ride to the shores near the underground river. A visitor will be met by a big sign board that bore the underground river’s name.
After docking at the beach, one will need to follow a 5 minute jungle trail to reach docking area of the underground river. At certain times, monitor lizards may be found crawling through the sandy shores of the beach and the moist soil of the jungle. Also monkeys sometimes snatch plastic bags or food from tourists.
Reaching the dock area, one will need to register and queue up to wait for turn. During low tide, the sea water and the water from the cave gets divided by a sand bar but on high tide these waters merge.
Before boarding a paddle boat, one is provided with a life vest and a helmet for safety purposes. Each boat has a capacity of 8 people plus the boat guide. And each boat is also provided with a search light which is usually given to the passengers sitting at the front of the boat.
Once on the boat, the boat guide will start on giving information about the underground river. All the boat men guiding the tours are registered at the tourism office and speak English for foreign tourists. Also only 10 boats alternate in ferrying people in and out of the cave which takes about 1 hour. Entering the cave, the first thing that tourists will meet is the strong scent that comes from the guano that comes from the urine bats that live inside. Also there swallows frequently fly around the cave using echolocation to guide their flight.
The deepest section of the cave is by its opening at about 40 feet. Also the cave is pitch black and only lit by the search light provided each boat. The darkness of the cave makes it hard for photos to be taken properly. Boats used for these tours have bamboo poles on each side to keep the boat balanced at all times. And so as the boat man paddles through the river, he directs the person who handles the searchlight to point to certain rock formations where he tries to describe what each looks like. Through the path, different figures are formed by the minerals that come from above the cave where rainwater seep through crevices.
The first major section that is passed is the ‘Cathedral’. On this section, the water passes through a large opening where a phallic stone structure rise in the middle and looks like a giant melting candle. In this section, it has the highest ceiling that rise up about 65 meters high making it look like a grand cathedral. Also in this section, different religious figures are formed by the rocks that pile up on one side of the section. Droplets of liquid drop from the ceiling which may either be a stream of mineral water or sometimes droppings from flying swallows or bats.
Next section is what boatmen describe as the vegetable section. Here different vegetables are formed by the silt and minerals. There are carrots, cabbages, and other vegetable formations. And then, the water flows through a straight section that looked like a tunnel section of a highway. This section is called by the boatmen as EDSA, in reference to the major highway in Manila that is full of flyovers and some tunnels.
At the inner section of the EDSA is the turning point of boats. Here the boat guides point to different rock formations that are visible on the way back.
After the boat ride, one may have their picnic at the picnic grounds near the beach or may head back to Sabang port where different restaurants may be found. One other option is for tourists to take the 1 hour trek through the mountain to Sabang. This trekking area is called the Monkey Trail and will also cross the Mangrove Paddle Boat Tour area.
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