Palawan is known for its beaches, having been chosen as one of the 33 Best Beaches in Asia (Conde Nast Traveller magazine, October 2007 issue). Aside from its beautiful beaches, Palawan is also known for the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park.
If that name is a bit hard to remember and pronounce, perhaps you could try Underground River, which is now its “unofficial” name. The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 1999. It is a finalist in the New 7 Wonder of Nature . You may want to take some time and vote in support of this natural wonder.
The view along the route towards the Underground River, such as this jagged titanic rock eroded by the elements through time, is spectacular. It’s just like, well, an extended tooth decay, only much more beautiful. Makes you think how the harshness of nature creates marvels, pretty much like how problems in life shape character.
Located in Barangay Bahile, which is around 81 kilometers from Puerto Princesa, Palawan, the Underground River is accessible by pumpboat from Barangay Sabang. The boat ride takes around 10 minutes, although I must confess that it’s a very rough estimate. It probably took more time, considering that I was enjoying the ride.
The beach is a few meters from the staging point going inside the Underground River, and you have to take a short walk through a wooden (and woody) path. The official park figures say that they are 168 birds, 800 species of plants, and 23,779 species of insects, mollusks and anthropods. I didn’t get to see any birds, but I was glad not to encounter the 23,779 species of insects and other creatures. They also say monkeys patrol this area, but we didn’t get to see any. Instead, we saw monitor lizards, also known as bayawak, rummaging through the food brought for the lucky few who were on a group tour.
Anyway, swimming is not allowed in and around the Park, although I just can’t resist the temptation of exploring why swimming is not allowed.
After paying for the boat that will take us inside the cave, we donned our life jackets and helmets (it’s really interesting when you put “helmet” together with “life” jacket). Of course, I would’t spoil the fun and the surprises that await inside the Underground River, so I’ll shut my mouth, er, keyboard, at this point. Enjoy the Puerto Princesa Subterranean . . . I mean, the Underground River. Here’s a short clip from our trip:
[See Map: Directions on how to get there. Congratulations, the Puerto Princesa Underground River is now part of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.]