Date: April 28th 2011
I was up and ready by 7:30am. I waited for the tour van to come pick me up for today’s tour of the longest underground river in the world, the Sabang Subterranean River (which on November 11 this year, became one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature — based on public votes).
I was the first to be picked up. I was also given a bottle of iced tea and a Palawan souvenir pouch. I don't know if it was because I was the first to be picked up, but I didn't see other passengers get it
One of the members in our tour van had to be picked up from the Microtel Beach Hotel
Which gave me the chance to check out the mangrove beach on this side of Puerto Princesa
It was a bit of a wait, so we all went in
Microtel is one among the few posher accommodation options in Puerto Princesa
The beach isn't great, but it's all you get near Puerto Princesa citytown
We headed back to our van
The lobby of the Microtel hotel (Above photos were all taken using my phone)
Once everyone was picked up from their respective hotels, we were on our way
Since I was sitting at the back, I tried my best to take photos from behind the tinted glass
The hills of Palawan look lovely
To our right was Honda Bay
The smooth roads eventually gave way to bumpy ones
The van stopped at a viewpoint on the way for a break.
Yes mayor, I'm sure you did this with your own salary. Psssh.
The locals sell food and other small items here -- and there's a toilet, thus the stop
The South China Sea
We got back in our van
The guide pointed to that big hill
The underground river is beneath that!
After one and half hours of driving, we were by the sea
Ahh, finally! What I came to Palawan for. No, not the boats... crystal clear water!
It was time for my group to begin our tour
I like these boats, they feel safe
The bamboo poles on either side prevents the boat from flipping over (well, in theory at least)
Even though I've seen similar sights in Malaysia and Thailand, I never tire of these limestone rock formations amidst blue waters
We arrived at the Puerto Princesa National Park
Since our tour cost ₱1500 ($34/€25), all our charges were covered
Lots of monkeys here too
I walked towards the underground river
This place is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
The cave... beautiful, isn't it? :)
We had to wait for our turn, as they only allow one boat in at a time
Look at the colour of that water!
Yes, finally, a photo of me
When it came time for us to go in, the guide asked which one of us would volunteer to hold the light. When researching, I read that the person who has to hold the light gets to sit in the front, so I ‘volunteered’. Now, I needed to sit in the front if I wanted to take good photographs inside, because as it is, it was going to be dark. On top of that, I didn’t want somebody obstructing my view. Also, holding the light gave my camera a light beam to focus on — and I could only shoot with auto-focus on given my hands were now occupied with two tasks.
So I sat, adjusted my tripod’s height and set the camera’s settings. I was going to hold the light with my left hand and press the camera shutter with my right hand.
Helmets and life-jackets on, we followed suit
Here we go! :)
I knew it was going to be tough to shoot inside while moving and shooting in manual mode that too. I didn't want to use flash since I assumed it wouldn't be good for the eyes of the cave's creatures.
But other tourists inside the cave were shooting with the flash on and the guides didn't say anything. So I switched my camera to Auto mode and continued shooting.
It was cool inside the cave
Other boats were making their way back
Kinda looks like car in the distance doesn't it?
Besides the sounds of the cave dwelling fauna, the only echoes one could hear were the cheers of the tourists
The guide would point to many limestone formations that were moulded over hundreds of years into shapes resembling many things. Like these 'dinosaurs'.
Scientists visit the underground river quite often
The 'candle' rock
Spot the horse :)
There are a lot of birds flying about inside
This is the only 'land mass' we came across
This was something resembling a 'religious' event, but I can't recall what the guide told us
There were many more object-shaped rock formations
We had reached the end point for tourists. Even though the underground river is the 8.2 km (5 miles) long, only a kilometre is allowed to tourists. To go beyond that, you need a special permit.
The boat turned around
Because I was holding the torch lamp, these big bugs were all over me. I had no idea what they were, but they made my position all the more uncomfortable.
This was a 'face' rock
Swallow birds, lots of them inside
Past the candle rock again
I don't remember if I took this shot because the guide told us it resembled Jesus' face
Yes, the boat went in between these rocks
After nearly half an hour inside the cave...
..."light at the end of the tunnel"
Here we go...
The boat dropped us back to the banks where I collected my bag from the counter. Going inside the subterranean river is my second cave experience on this trip, the first being back in Sagada last week. I truly enjoyed this though! The above photos were just a few of the 140 shots I totally took from inside. 30 minutes went by really quickly and you don’t even realize it took that long until you look at your watch. I wondered what the remaining 7 kilometres must be like.
Walked back towards the boats
Our tour group gathered and headed back to our boat
Everytime I see islands like this, I'm reminded of LOST (man, I miss that TV show!)
Yes, our boat would go through these rocks as well
Don't know if the boat drivers do it as a challenge :)
I was looking forward to spending some time at the beach and in the water
We walked back to the shore, where a buffet lunch was prepared for us
I thought of hitting the water before lunch but...
... I don't know why it was so
I still went into the water, knee deep.
Panorama comprised of 7 shots
I then decided to check out the accommodation available on Sabang beach in case my readers were looking for information on where to stay on Sabang beach.
There weren't many beach front 'hotels' as such
Got a card from here. Some info: 09196011227/09215492156; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ph: 0910-978-4539/0926-701-9246; e-mail: email@example.com (as mentioned on their card)
The lady at Green Verde curiously asked me where I was from, among a few other questions. I asked her if it was easy to get from Sabang to El Nido and she told the only way it’s ‘easy’ is when there is a group big enough to fit a private van that can be booked in advance. That’s it. Otherwise, its back to the junction at the main highway and wait for a bus to El Nido.
Considering how much time I spent yesterday, going back and forth thinking how to do Sabang and then El Nido, I guess it is far more convenient to do the Underground River tour from Puerto Princesa City itself.
I liked taking panorama shots of these trees (comprised of 6 shots)
I had my lunch, which was mostly barbecued tuna and other dry dishes. (Didn't really enjoy it much)
We left Sabang past 2pm
No matter how far or how small a village is, you will always find a basketball hoop in Philippines
The journey back was another one and half hours. In the end, I felt I made the right choice by opting to simply do a tour from Puerto Princesa itself, instead of attempting it myself. I mean, I would only suggest going at it alone if you plan on staying on Sabang beach a few days. It would have cost me about the same but had I done it myself, it would have proven to be quite difficult.
I spent the rest of the day back at Banwa Arthouse’s cafe, researching on El Nido, but as I went through my photos, newer guests who had checked in that day said their “hello” and began conversations. First a Japanese surfer, who spent a few months in Canada picking apples (seriously, some of the people I meet on my backpacking journeys) and then spent those earnings traveling throughout India and is now in the Philippines. (Sigh, it’s moments like this I wonder why I spent 8 years working at multi-national corporation back in Bangalore!)
Then a group of young Danes (I believe they told me they were Danish) asked me where I had been today. We spent quite some time talking and then, we decided to go to Baybay for dinner and check out what was happening there tonight.
We walked to Baybay expecting a crowded festival.
Hmmm, not quite
We all bought some beer cans and decided to snack. We tried fried chicken intestine first.
Had this next. Barbecued... something (I don't remember what)
Quite a lot of Filipino cuisine is this shade of dark brown
Walked around a bit with our beers in hand
'Main course' was hamburger
Just as we were walking out, a b-boy dance battle was announced to begin.
Puerto Princesa's finest dance crews (I'm presuming) were on stage
Some of the moves were impressive
We didn't hang around for too long though
Back in the room, the Danes were curious about all the places I had already been to in Philippines and wanted to see my photos. After an hour of that, I paid for my two nights stay at Banwa Arthouse as I was checking out tomorrow early morning. I had to call it an early night. Tomorrow I was going to take the first bus to the final stop on my Philippines tour — El Nido.
And wait till you see those photos!
Previous posts in this series:
Philippines 2011: Day 11 – Arriving in Puerto Princesa, Palawan
Philippines 2011: Day 10 – Bohol tour: Chocolate Hills, Loboc river cruise, Tarsiers, churches
Philippines 2011: Day 9 – Cebu: Fort San Pedro, Basilica of Santo Niño, Taoist Temple
Philippines 2011: Day 8 – Manila tour: Rizal Park, Intramuros, Manila Cathedral, China Town
Philippines 2011: Day 7 – Leaving Angeles City for Manila, Mall of Asia
Philippines 2011: Day 6 – Good Friday in San Fernando, San Pedro Cutud Lenten Rites
Philippines 2011: Leaving Sagada for Baguio, and arriving in Angeles city (Days 4 & 5)
Philippines 2011: Day 3 – Sagada’s Lumiang burial cave, Sumaguing cave, Hanging Coffins of Echo valley
Philippines 2011: Day 3 – Banaue town; heading to Sagada via Bontoc
Philippines 2011: Day 2 – Banaue rice terraces; trekking to Batad village
Philippines 2011: Day 1 — Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Fort Bonifacio
Philippines 2011: Flying over South China Sea for the first time
Other posts in this series:
Philippines 2011: Day 13 – Puerto Princesa to El Nido by bus
Philippines 2011: Day 14 – El Nido island hopping tour A and sunset at Las Cabanas beach, Palawan
Philippines 2011: Back to Manila, shopping, and my final thoughts about the country (Last post)
Tags: baybay, beach, caves, inside cave, limestone caves, new 7 wonders, palawan, philippines, puerto princesa, sabang, sabang underground river, subterranean river, tour, underground river