Going Underground in Puerto Princessa.

Sabang + Undergroundriver-4758Finally Palawan. The last station me and the guys would travel together and we came with high expectations after hearing so many good things about this region. Our minds were filled with images of crystal clear lagoons, white beaches, secluded islands, rugged landscapes,  coconut groves, the bluest waters and a sense of solitude. But first we were supposed to go underground – into the world famous Underground River of Puerto Princessa / Sabang, one of the seven new wonders of the world and an Unesco World Heritage Site.

We took a flight from Cebu City to Puerto Princessa and from there an exhausting jeepney ride to the town of Sabang. That’s actually where the Underground River is located. We found a nice place by the beach, managed by a very friendly Filipina who gave us the family bungalow with three rooms and a hefty discount on top. To top things up, our little castle also had a nice porch with an unspoiled sea view.

We arranged our trip to the Underground River and spent the rest of the day swimming in the ocean and enjoying the view from our porch. Sabang features a beautiful wide beach, lined by coconut trees and only a few resorts tugged behind them. The place seemed to have kept its pristine charm and when night fell and all of the day trippers had left, we felt like we almost had it for ourselves.

Reminiscing to the sunset in Sabang.

Reminiscing to the sunset in Sabang. Photo by Chris Chew

End of the day ...

End of the day …

Beach Bum Life
The next day was underground time but not before 2 o’ clock. We had some time to kill and spent some more time in the floods enjoying the turquoise waters of Sabang. The temperature had already climbed so high, that we had to cool off with some cold coconut juice and some other cold beverages going by the name of San Miguel. We only came for the Underground River and didn’t expect much more than that but Sabang actually has more to offer and we took full advantage of it.

Entering the world famous Underground River
At 2 o’ clock we went over to the pier to catch our boat to the River Experience. Unfortunately there were a lot of people with the same plan and we had to wait a good hour or more for a boat to take us. We arrived at the bay where the river entrance is located and saw an armada of other bankas anchoring in the bay. After registration and having found our way to the entrance, we had to play the waiting game for another hour and a small boat to take us inside.

Banka Armada in the bay. The Underground River is popular.

Banka Armada in the bay. The Underground River is popular.

The entrance to the famous Underground River

The entrance to the famous Underground River

Waiting with us...some cute little monkeys.

Waiting with us…some cute little monkeys.

We finally entered the cave with the river and it instantly became clear why this place is one of those new world wonders. The formations and the colors inside were amazing.  We smoothly paddled deeper along the river shining our torch here and there with our guide explaining a lot. We were accompanied by hundreds of birds flying around in the cave hunting for insects. Their cries, used for orientation, were echoing through the cave. Somewhere about half way along the river, we saw another species hosted by the cave. Bats hanging from the cave\s ceiling staring into our flashlight / also hundreds of them.  After a while we turned around and made our way back to the entrance. Daylight was awaiting us and we were impressed by the wonder nature had created here.

We have done a similar excursion in the Conglor Cave, Laos. The underground river there was bigger and wider but here everything was more colorful and the formations more impressive. Going along the river by paddle boat also made it more worthwhile than with a motorized boat. It was a great side trip and definitely worth the visit. The only thing that was a little annoying was the unproportionally long waiting time compared to the actual time in the cave.

We got back fairly late but just in time to end the day with a great sunset on our beach.

Our last evening in Sabang.

Our last evening in Sabang.

Romantic atmosphere on Sabang Beach ;)

Romantic atmosphere on Sabang Beach 😉

Last thoughts …
Sabang itself and the Underground River Experience were a great and very promising start of our Palawan adventure. We didn’t expect a nice, quiet and relaxed oceanside place as we did there. Most people only stay for a day coming from Puerto Princessa for a day trip. I think it is worth spending a night or two in Sabang to enjoy the beautiful beach and take in the serenity in the evenings. Combined with the Underground River, it makes for a worthwhile and memorable trip.

Categories: The Philippines | Tags: , , , | 16 Comments

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16 thoughts on “Going Underground in Puerto Princessa.

  1. I’m glad you enjoyed Palawan. I haven’t been there myself, but it’s on a long list of places I plant to see soon.

    • Hi Reggie, thanks a lot for stopping by my blog. Palawan is great although some of the tourist hot spots are already pretty crowded. It is easy though to get away from that and find those fine places with lots of solitude. Make sure to stop in Port Barton, a place we missed here and which we regret. Greetings from Coron,

  2. peter montgomery

    hi Phil , i got sick in puerto p , so missed the underground river . got to honda bay and iwahig prison [ visitor ] . see u are up in busuanga , hope you enjoy gutob bay .

    regards peter montgomery

    • Philipp Dukatz

      Hi Peter, too bad you missed it. If you want to go sometime, consider the waiting time. It definitely takes long to get in. But maybe it was just bad timing. I reckon some other time of the year must be more relaxed. Never been to the places you mentioned. It’s a pity, so much to see and do and so less time… How is life back at Gold Coast?

      • peter montgomery

        hi phil
        yes life on the gc is getting cooler , max 26 degrees .

        just saw on the news that mayon volcano has blown and 5 climbers been killed ? you are probably closer to the action .

        hope alls well up in busuanga .

        regards peter montgomery

      • Philipp Dukatz

        Hi Peter, better break out that down jacket….26 degrees…..brrrrr.

        Saw the news as well. Sadly three fellow Germans among the climbers who died. Must have been crazy. Will be around Legazpi day after tomorrow. Maybe I can still see some of the action. Will leave Manila tomorrow.

        When are you planning to come back to Biri? Probably around December, right?

  3. Alexa C.

    Hey Phil, may I ask what camera you used for the underground river? Your photos are amazing. I used a waterproof camera instead of a dSLR and not a single shot turned out as nicely.

    I enjoyed the Underground River as well, our guide is funny and he is proficient in English. I had an early morning slot – 9 am. So the waiting time was not as long. But as we got back to the wharf, the crowd grew considerably larger. I regret not staying in Sabang overnight, it seems like a nice place to unwind. I’ll do that when I get back to Palawan later this year. Thanks for this post!

    • Hi Alexa, I used my DSLR and I have to say that it was really difficult to take shots with it. It took me a while to figure out the settings and I still wasn’t happy with the outcomes. I have to admit that I did a lot of editing with Lightroom on those. That really did the job and made the pics pop. Sabang was really nice, which we didn’t really expect. What will you be doing in Palawan later this year then?

  4. Susana

    Hello Phil. I feel like we are already friends while reading your blog. Enjoy the Philippines. Hope to have you back in our country.

    • Hi Susana, I am back from PInas and I had the best time there. Thanks for stopping by my blog and I really hope I will be back in the Philippines soon.

  5. danica

    Hey phil, did you have any problems getting your underground river permit not through a tour? I keep reading mixed things. Great blog!!

    • Hi Danica, in my opinion this is just false information to curb business for the tour companies. There is no problem in obtaining the permits, at least we didn’t encounter any. Every hotel has a certain amount of daily tickets for their guests. So if you check in, you should be able to get the permit. I am not sure how it works when you don’t stay overnicht there …. I am personally not a huge fan of tour companies..but maybe there are some good and honest ones out there ….

  6. danica

    We plan on landing in pp, trying to get permits from the office (this worked back in 2008 for me) and if we don’t we are still going to head to sabang that night and try in the morning for permits. I’m never a fan of tour companies, finding honest ones is not the norm, but I also don’t want my partner to miss out on something he really wants to see. We will likely take our chances! Thanks!

    • Hi Danica, let me know how it goes and how it all worked out. I think a lot of people would find that info very useful. Thanks a lot … and best of luck for your trip … Phil

  7. I wasn’t planning on doing the Underground River on this trip as my last few trips have had me feeling ‘caved out’. But you have re-sparked my interest.

    • Hi Tara, it’s good to hear that my post reparked your interest in the PP Underground River. It is not like your average cave and sure worth a visit. The only thing that was annyoing was the long waiting time to get in …. Must have been main season or something …

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