The Ultimate Underground River
Welcome to Palawan, the Philippines’ last frontier and home to the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR), recently voted as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature and also one of the World Heritage Sites in the country.
It is the world’s longest navigable underground river at 8.2 kilometers with a lot of amazing natural structures inside.
Monkeys, large monitor lizards, and squirrels find their niche on the beach near the cave.
At the cave’s opening, a lagoon with clear waters is framed by ancient trees growing right to the water’s edge.
Up to 10 persons are allowed in a boat. If you opt to have more privacy during the boat tour, you can nicely request the tour operators ahead of time to have your group take the entire boat. This would also depend on the crowd waiting. Our group of 5 people was allowed to take the entire boat.
Upon entering the cave, the only light that you would have is the headlight of the boatman/tour guide. Unless you have your own powerful light, it is very difficult to rely on the boatman’s headlight for sights that you would like to capture on camera. Most of the time even camera flash is not enough. As we did not bring our own light, I tried my best to capture the sceneries where the headlight was currently focused.
You can also spot Pegasus resting.
You will then pass through the “highway”.
Normally, some few more meters after passing through the highway the tour will end. However, if you request the boatman/tour guide to take you to the sea cow fossil, then it would be another mile beyond the normal tour route. And we did exactly that!
We were able to see the recently discovered fossil of the 20 million year old Sirenia, commonly know today as the Sea cow or Dugong, of the Miocene period which is plastered on a limestone wall. This became the highlight of the underground river tour. On the way back, you will pass the same route that you had earlier and you will have another chance to take those photos again.
I would like to share some things to consider when visiting PPUR.
when to go
To avoid extremely choppy boat rides, you need to visit the Underground River from December until May.
how to go
PPUR can only be reached via Palawan’s capital Puerto Princesa. Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific Air and Air Asia have one-hour flights from Manila to this laid back capital city that is the jump off point to many of Palawan’s other natural attractions like Honday Bay, El Nido, Taytay, Tabon and San Vicente. You can check my blog here on the best places to go in Palawan.
From Puerto Princesa, there are a lot of vans that would take you from the airport to Sabang Beach in less than 2 hours. From Sabang Beach terminal, a short walk away is the port where boats are docked that would take you to PPUR. You need to get a ticket ahead of time as there is a limited number of visitors allowed per day. There are packages from travel agencies that would offer the PPUR tour for 1,200 pesos including the van from the airport to Sabang and back. You also need a licensed tour guide to go with you. At the port you need to wait for your name or your group’s name to be called when you’re ready for boarding the boat. The entire PPUR tour starting from the Sabang Beach port and back could be done in around 2 hours.
This is the area where boats would load the passengers going to the Underground River.
what to do
Sabang Beach is the gateway to the natural wonder. You can either base yourself in Puerto Princesa or stay for one or two nights in Sabang Beach. The few things you can do around Sabang Beach is to visit the Underground River, hang out at the quiet beach or ride the nearby zipline. If you are checked in at the two major resorts in Sabang Beach, they have a lot of resort facilities that you can use. I prefer staying just one or two nights in Sabang Beach because I would rather go back to Puerto Princesa area and spend time in nicer Dos Palmas in Honday Bay with almost the same rate.
This is Sabang Beach right in front of the resort where we stayed which is discussed next.
where to stay and eat
If you opt to stay around Sabang Beach for a while and just want a really simple place to stay, you can select from the many inexpensive lodging houses lining the beach. If you want a nicer place to stay, you can choose between the area’s only two major resorts, Sheridan Beach Resort and Spa and Daluyon Mountain & Beach Resort, a few steps away from each other.
I have chosen Daluyon because of its more natural feel, native charm, eco-friendliness and slightly cheaper price than Sheridan.
The air-conditioned rooms are all sea-facing and they are simply amazing where you can open the doors and windows for a more relaxed and airy feel.
Cabana 102 was perfect for us. They also have a three-bedroom suite that can accommodate 6 persons with private pool and dining area.
Its common adult and kiddie pools at the back of the resort have the mountain view.
Sheridan is more contemporary.
The resort has a really huge pool.
If you like a modern place to stay then Sheridan would suit your needs. Since our breakfast at Daluyon was complimentary, we tried having our lunch at Sheridan one time and the food was good.
We also had some afternoon drinks at Sheridan too. There are other smaller and cheaper restaurants lining the shore that are alternative dining options and we enjoyed them too!