The Underground River in Palawan, Philippines

Boat coming out of the cave on the Underground River

Have you ever dreamt of being underneath thousands of tons of rock, in a bat-filled filled, watery cavern in pitch black?  Well then, Batman, this is the spot for you.  Not only a caped-crusader’s wet dream, the Underground River is also one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.  It’s one of the main draws for tourists on the island of Palawan in the Philippines.  The Underground River winds on for miles under the limestone rocks through numberous caverns, some of which are impressively large.

Boat BrothersMost people reach the caverns through a tour leaving from Puerto Princesa, the main port of entry for Palawan.  Make sure to book your trip at least a few days in advance as there are a limited number of permits available each day and waiting until the last minute might mean you cannot go on the day you want.  Once you do book the trip, the minibus will pick you up at your hotel and then take you and your fellow travelers up to Sabang, the town nearest the Underground River, where you transfer to a smaller catamaran which plies the waters of the bay to take you to the small, beautifully green lagoon that serves as the launching point for the small paddleboats entering the caverns.  As a pro-tip, when getting into the boat, make sure to get in first so that you are sitting towards the back of the boat.  The waves in the bay can actually be fairly big, leaving suckers sitting in the front covered with water – trust me.

AExploring the Cavernfter arriving at the launch spot, it’s time to wait for the next boat.  Luckily this is rarely long, as there are a large number of boats leaving every few minutes.  Each boat is equipped with a lantern, though some of these are fairly weak.  If you happen to be traveling with a decent flashlight, bringing it along is definitely recommended.  The boat fills up with about 10 people and then you’re off.  The inside of the underground river looks like…(drum roll….a cave!  It is interesting to go through it, and some of the structures are fairly impressive.  In fact, figuring out what each one looks like seems to have been a past time of most of the people in the cave as just about everything looks like something.  There’s a giant mushroom, a T-Rex, and even a naked woman.  Of course, get most men in th dark and they’ll see a naked woman no matter what is in front of them, but hey, it did actually look something like it.

The one negative thing about the ride is the length / space of the trip.  It was fascinating to see the cave, but after the first 20-30 minutes, most of the features tend to look alike and the silence of the cave starts to become oppressive.  Plus, there’s a lot of bats, which equals lots of bat droppings.  By the end of the 45 or so minutes of the standard tour, we were caved out.  That’s not to say that it’s not worth it, but a speedboat would be much appreciated.

SabangBeachAfter the underground tour, you are ferried back to Sabang, for a lovely buffet lunch on the beach.  The food was actually quite tasty, and much needed after a long day of travelling.  You also have the opportunity to explore the wonderous Sabang beach, which stretches out with its golden sand alongside the beautiful blue waters.  It’s a truly gorgeous sight and one of those places that puts your soul at ease by irradiating your eyeballs directly with happiness.

Despite getting a bit long towards the end, the Underground River is definitely worth the trip.  Just make sure to book in advance to avoid disappointment, then sit back and enjoy.

Posted on by Aaron in Aaron's Blog

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