A Trip to the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park
For people going to the Palawan, one of the must-see places is the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park. A trip to Palawan just won’t be complete without it because it is simply one of the place’s highlights.
The tour van picked us up from the hotel at 8.30 for the 1.5 hours drive to Sabang to the famed Underground River. We shared the van with 3 Brits, one couple (Filipina and American), our tour guide Kim and our driver who was named Wyn-wyn.
Proclaimed one of the Natural Wonders of the World, the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park features stunning limestone karst landscape with an underground river more than 8 kilometers long. It is also on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
It is one of the most impressive cave systems in the world with its distinctive wildlife and old-growth forests. According to our boatman, everyday more than 1,000 people come to witness the underground river. To get to the National Park, you have to take a trip to Sabang which is about 1.5 hours; ride a motor boat which is around 15 minutes; before you can line up to see the Underground River.
When we got to the wharf, there were already hundreds of people waiting for their turn. It was raining because of a typhoon in the Northern part of the country and people were mingling about wearing identical colored raincoats sold by vendors roaming around.
I was still a bit disappointed by the brief time we spent in El Nido unable to explore nearby islands that I did not really look forward to the tour. I was pleasantly surprised to know that there was still an extensive national park in the country which is cared for amidst all the modernization going around.
Our boatman was a pleasant guy who was entertaining, although I found some of his jokes a little corny and rehearsed. According to our boatman, the river system flows directly to the sea. The brackish lower half of the river is subjected to tidal influence making it global natural phenomenon.
Although the cave system is more than 8 kilometers long, only 1.5 kilometers long can be traversed by boat. The rest of the cave system is no longer open to the public and anybody wishing to enter further will need to walk, crawl or swim, apart from getting a special permit.
After the tour, we went to a restaurant near the wharf to enjoy buffet lunch. The food was not very pleasant and the menu was limited but it was okay enough to fill an empty stomach.
I did a little research about the National Park when we got back to the hotel and found out that one of the biggest concerns today is conserving the national park, especially the Underground River. The fact that too many people go there may affect the ecosystem there. This is one of the reasons why in a year, there are certain days when the Underground River is closed. According to our boatman, this is to allow the river to rest.