January 19, 2022
LEY - Underground River

A Nerve-Wracking Trip to the Underground River in Puerto Princesa, Palawan

After spending one full day in the city of Puerto Princesa, it was finally time to head up north to see the Underground River. Officially known as the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, the underground river is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of Palawan’s most visited spots. As a matter of fact, for a lot of travelers, a trip to Palawan is never complete without a visit to this famous site.

A Trip to the Underground River

Our tour group left the city of Puerto Princesa very early. The town of Sabang, where the underground river was located, was 70 kilometers away. And according to the guide, the tour was going to follow the “first come, first served” scheme. Also, they had to take into consideration the ever-changing weather in this part of the island. So, the best option was to arrive very early and have a chance to check out the river.

For those of you who know me, you know I have motion sickness. And you also probably know how I loathe vans during long-distance trips. Not only are vans cramped and tight, but the seating is also usually very uncomfortable. So, you could just imagine how I felt when the vehicle started moving at top speed even when the roads were winding. And it didn’t help that the people behind me started barfing an hour into the ride.

Believe me, I was this close to throwing up. If it wasn’t for the unexpected pit stop, me and my mom would’ve been drenched.

Thankfully, we arrived at the boat terminal in Sabang safe and sound. And dry.

By the time we arrived (and it was very early), the place was already almost packed.

Since it looked like we would have to wait for at least an hour, I decided to roam around to take some pictures. Being able to walk around after a long, dizzying ride usually makes nausea go away.

Sabang Beach

Check out this view of the beautiful Sabang Beach. It looked really nice and peaceful. Pretty manageable, I thought. Little did I know that my suffering wasn’t over yet.

My mom asked for a quick photo. I envy my mom because she doesn’t get sea sick or even sleepy during long trips.

Also, this was her first trip outside the Visayas.

Thankfully, our guide was very skilled in handling different kinds of situations. And just less than an hour after we arrived, we were told that our boat was on its way.

Now, the boat ride was an entirely different story. It obviously deserves its own post.

Crazy Boat Ride

Now, where do I begin? Oh yeah, our boat almost capsized. You read that right. I didn’t know that the waves in these parts could get that treacherous. It was so scary. We were all very wet and nervous. Heck, even the boatmen were probably also a bit nervous. I swear, I’ve never prayed so hard in my life. The boat ride was only 20 minutes long. But trust me, it felt like 4 solid hours.

Dry land, at last. I almost kissed the sand because of joy.

The boatmen warned us about some white-tailed macaques roaming around the area and stealing people’s stuff. Yet another reason to be stressed out. Haha.

Still wearing our life vests, we marched through the jungle towards the mouth of the cave where we would take another boat. Oh no!

After a few minutes, we reached the docked and were immediately ushered into the waiting boats.

Trying to smile like I’m still not dizzy and shaking.

And, off we go! By the way, the water looks murky because of the horrible weather. According to our guide, the water in this area is normally emerald green. Dang!

The Underground River Experience

Our boat slowly made its way to the mouth of the cave. In front of us were other boats where our tour mates were.

Now, let me tell you, these photos won’t give the whole underground river system justice. Remember all the drama and stress and nausea I felt? They were all gone the moment our boat entered the cave. It was just spine-chilling!

Our boat guide would use his flash light and point at various things along the route and explain a bit about them. It was really interesting.

Sometimes, he would tell us to mind our heads especially when we move close to the sharp rocks.

Probably the highlight of the whole river tour was the main ‘cathedral’ deep inside the cave. This part was so massive you wouldn’t think it was still inside a cave.

There were also hundreds of thousands of bats inside the cave. And we spotted a lot of them near very interesting formations.

I know this shot is horrible but I wanted to include it to show the situation inside the cave. Our guide warned us about occasional ‘rains’ within the wall. So, most of these shots were taken while inside my rain coat.

After reaching the end of the river, our boat made a U-turn and slowly moved back to the mouth of the cave.

And finally, a few minutes later, we were out of the cave.

An Unforgettable Experience

While waiting for the other members of our tour group, we waited at the beach and enjoyed the lovely view. I was also thinking about the horrible boat ride I would have to endure all over again.

To be honest, the ride back to Sabang Beach was still the same. However, I didn’t feel as scared or as nervous. Probably because I knew that it was only going to last for 20 minutes. Also, my eyes were closed for the most part of the ride.

Back at the beach, our guide informed us that breakfast was waiting for us at one of the restaurants in the area. Which was cool because all the stress just made me super hungry!

Here is my final shot of Sabang before we all got back inside the van to endure another four hours of hell. Haha.

It was ALL worth it, however, because Puerto Princesa’s Underground River was nothing short of astounding. You definitely should visit!

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