As a Filipino, it is a great honor to have a spot in the new 7 wonders of nature. That being said, it is definitely a must see, especially to Filipinos. And in the past couple of days, I was fortunate enough to visit the island where the famous subterranean river is located.
Our flight has been booked about a year ago during AirAsia’s seat sale. Hence, we were able to save a significant amount for our fare. To prevent hassle, we took advantage of web check in to have our boarding pass ahead of time. So in the airport, we immediately went into the pre-departure area.Only thing was that our flight got delayed for about an hour. Nevertheless, we landed at Puerto Princesa in just an hour.
Outside the airport, there are travel and tours agencies that are willing to assist you on anything and tell you their tour packages if you’re up for it. For us, we availed an accommodation + tour package since we came with nothing planned. Well, we want where we wanna go and know what we wanted to do, but there’s no concrete list of activities and how to’s to achieve those. Fortunately, we were able to secure one. Not only it saved us from possible clueless roaming around the city but saved us time in doing stuffs like paperwork and securing permits, etc. Since we arrived late, around 4:30 in the afternoon, we just immediately went to the hotel and rest a little.
Since our stay will be short, we wanted to make the most out of it. Later that evening, we went firefly watching. Not only we saw fireflies along the mangrove but the boatman also taught us some of the constellations visible in the night sky. Orion, the big dipper and small dipper to name a few. We are both fond of astronomy stuffs so that portion of the tour was really highly appreciated. Also, the river we’re passing through has bioluminescent planktons. It was just so cool. You can see the water light up when you move along. The boatman even gave us sticks to use to apply ‘pressure’ in the water to have it lit up. And that’s what I’ve been doing until we get off. Sadly, we do not have a high resolution camera to capture everything we saw. It was also nice that the boatman knows a lot about the stars, the water, the mangrove and, of course, the fireflies.
The following day’s the big day – underground river tour. We, together with other tourists, were very excited about what’s bound to happen. Our group is composed of 10 people coming from different countries. There are Filipinos, a Korean girl, a German couple, a Dutch and an English guy. But before that, we went on a side trip to Ugong rock where we did a little caving and spelunking.
Ugong Rock got is name from he fact that the rocks inside the cave produce sounds when knocked on. The cave has a height of 75 meters (if I remember it correctly) and the way up is not really easy. You have to ‘hug’ stones, go through big rocks, and, of course, spelunking. Compared to other caves, I believe this one’s shorter. Nevertheless, it’s worth it. At the top, you have an option to go back to the cave to zipline your way down. Zipline’s short, so, we just went back in the cave. There’s a stairway so it’s easier to go back down.
After Ugong Rock, we immediately went our way to Sabang where we first had our lunch – buffet included in the tour package. Not that much choices but enough to to feed an empty stomach. As soon as we’re done, we road the motorized boat to the underground river’s location. Before reaching the mouth of the cave, there’s a short trail where you can find century old trees, monkeys and monitor lizards. As part of safety precaution, water bottles, plastic bags or chips are not allowed at this point to not get the attention of monkeys.
At the main entrance, hard hats and audio devices will be distributed to the tourists. Information about the subterranean river is recorded and played through the audio device. It also has the features to be played in different languages for foreign tourists benefit.
A paddle boat ride will tour you inside the subterranean river. The audio device will do most of the explanations and the boatman will point to the structures inside the cave. He will only take you to the first few kilometers because the remainder’s off limits and it’ll take roughly 4-5 hours to reach the other end. Inside the cave, you can see insect bats flying around and there’s a lot of them. To be honest, I was awe-stricken by the different rock formations inside the cave. And as what the recording said, it is up to your imagination to make something out of it. There’s the cathedral where there seems to be an altar, a giant candle, an angel and a sculpture of the virgin Mary. Then there’s the market where the stalactites and stalagmites resemble various fruits and vegetables. Then there’s the portion that is home to tarantula spiders, scorpions snakes, etc.
The tour inside ends in the part of the cave with cross marks. According to our boatman,
those marks pertain to the water level during high tide and it reaches about 25 meter high. The marks were written by American soldiers who hid inside the cave during the war.
There were other rock formations that the boatman pointed on our way out that were not in the recording like Snoopy. Apparently, I wasn’t able to take a picture of it but it really looked like Snoopy.
Once out, we immediately went back to the port then started our way back to town. Later that evening, we went out for dinner at bay walk, as recommended by the couple in our group. There’s a Dampa-like restaurant, K na Boyet, where you can buy seafood and ask them to cook it for you. For us, we just bought to crabs and crocodile sisig. Generally, the place is just along the bay and it was really dark. We had a hard time eating. For the food, well, it tastes good. I liked the crocodile sisig, because it was not as oily as the pork version. The crab’s a bit small also. Nevertheless, I was able to eat a lot that night. Along the bay, here were also bicycle rentals. As much as we want to, we weren’t able to rent one because it was a bit late already and our stomach’s really full. IIt was pretty relaxing compared to MOA’s seaside.
For the next day – our last day- we went on a half day city tour. To be honest, there’s not much fancy to see. Fun thing was we were able to get hold of a baby crocodile in the crocodile farm. And it was really heavy. I don’t know how old was it though. The place sure has a lot of crocodiles and a few birds. At the back is the nature park but since we don’t have much time, we didn’t went further to see it.
Then we went to see Rancho ni Mitra. Well, the view from the place was magnificent. Aside from that, there’s not much to see. Near it is Baker’s Hill. I loved the place. Though the theme is still for Valentine’s day. Haha. Hearts everywhere. But the place looks like one from a fairy tale. We bought different goods from the place for pasalubong. And they’re delicious. At least those I was able to taste.
Last stop is the cathedral and Plaza Cuartel beside it. Church is simple and pretty. Painted with white and blue. The Cuartel holds history I’ve never heard of before. Palawan played a major role during the second world war not written and taught in history. Well, the crucial event mostly involved Americans which probably explains why. But the place marks the ruthlessness brought by war which we all should hope would never happen again.
We were supposed to go to baywalk but asked our tour guide to just drive us to Ka Lui. Based on our research, it was one of the best restaurants in the place ad one must make a eservation to guarantee accommodation. But we tried our luck, and lucky enough, we got a seat and ate our lunch there.
Shoes must be let at the door before entering the place. Ambiance is really good. It is very Filipino. The decorations as well were all beautiful. The overall design was just so good and so homey, even the comfort rooms. For the food, we just ordered the set lunch which includes rice, fish steak, prawns and fish rolls. But they served seaweeds for complimentary starters. The whole meal was sumptuous. I guess the only negative thing was that we were already done eating when the prawns were served. Nevertheless, the taste and presentation were all excellent. There’s even a free fruit for dessert! No wonder the place is highly recommended all over the internet. Staffs are friendly and very accommodating as well.
As soon as we’re done eating, we went back to our hotel to prepare our things and check out so as not to miss our flight. Our stay might be short but I believe we surely made the most out of it. And we’ll definitely be back.