Underground River of Puerto Princesa, Philippines

Puerto Princesa, in my opinion, is one of the most exotic and beautiful places on the planet. A couple of hours drive from Puerto Princesa sits an under ground river, which is one of the largest cave systems in the world. The river itself is over 8 km in length, all of which is subterranean. This place is so gorgeous that it is listed as one of the national parks of the Philippines and one of the UNESCO world heritage sites

Hayley and I were privileged to visit this national park in June as part of our scuba diving trip. The best way to get there is to join one of the local tours who will arrange transport and entrance permit for you.

Boat Trip to the Underwater River

Once we got dropped off at the entrance of the national park, we took a boat trip across the sea. What a beautiful ride we had across azure colour sea! It was so relaxing and refreshing to see such a beautiful natural scenery after travelling overnight all the way from Hong Kong.

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We had a beautiful ride on the local boat to a beach near the cave entrance of the underground river. What a picture perfect photo! Or it maybe one of the “wish you were here” photo!
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Short walk through a tropical forest to the actual cave entrance of the underground river.
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The national park operates a ticketing system so had to wait for half an hour for a paddle boat that took us to the underground river. But fear not, we were able to enjoy the beach nearby while we were waiting. In fact this made the entire trip very relaxing.

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People waiting for the paddle boat to enter the underground river.

Underground River Rocks

Sorry for the pun, but this has to be done!

We were amazed by the different shapes of rocks. We were able to see the typical Karst topography in which the rocks (normally limestone, which contain high amount of calcium carbonate) were dissolved by the acidic water that sipped through the cracks running through the mountain. Some of calcium carbonate were redeposited back onto the tip of the rock surfaces, giving what are known to most people as stalactites. 

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This was our turn. Guess who were the Bob the Builders! We were given these builder hats for safety reasons. Well, more like in case the bats poo on us! We were given an earphone each that is linked up to an audio guide. The national park does this to minimise the noise level from the boatman and the tourist. Apparently, excessive level of noise affects the bats badly.
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Another picture perfect photo. That was the actual entrance to the cave.

 

Apart of the amazing geology inside the underground river, we were able to hear the sounds of the bats living in there. Of course since our eyes were not adapted to see in the pitch black, it was very difficult to see them even with the light emitted from the torch of the boatman.

Apart from bats, we were told that there were many species living inside the underground that were totally unique and completely differed from those living outside the cave. Apparently many of these species do not have mechanism in protecting themselves from UV light! Well, that makes sense from an evolution point of view.

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Look at all these stalactites! A small portion of the rocks can take millions of years to form.
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We enjoyed the peace and quiet inside. We even heard the bats flying around

 

Side Trips After the Cave

After the trip in the cave, we were able to explore some of the countryside along the way. But first, we looked around one of the villages at the entrance of the national park. Despite there were quite a few tourists going in and out, and the fact many of the shops were selling random stuff to the tourists. It didn’t feel over touristy, but somehow quiet rustic.

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Hayley and I explored the local village near the entrance of the national park. One of the tour group member from Manilas treated us with some yummy local snacks of deep fried banana and sweet potatoes. They were yummy. We would like to thank them for their Filipino hospitality!

 

On the way back,  we stopped off at a local rice farm with some karst mountains. It looked very similar to those of Guilin, China and those in Bai Tu Long Bay in Vietnam. As we approached the mountain, we even saw a buffalo working in a field with a farmer. It looked like we were in some kind of far away exotic country, or maybe we were!

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Karst mountain and a hut near a rice field
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Lovely rice field, it was very peaceful

On the way back to Puerto Princesa, we were able to stop at one of the viewing points over looking at the West Philippines Sea, otherwise known as the South China Sea. It was really nice to be at this vantage point!

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A picture taken at the vantage point, which is overlooking at the West Philippines Sea

 

Trip Detail:

  • Getting to Puerto Princesa: there are many domestic flights coming from Manilas, including Philippines Airlines, AirAsia and Cebu Pacific. If you are coming directly from another country, you may want to consider taking the same airline in case you get delayed and miss a connection at Manilas. Flight delays are very common.
  • Joining a tour: There are many tour operators around town. The price are very competitive (approximately PHP 2000 / person including hotel pickup, transport and a lunch at the national park). We went with the tour operator at the hotel (Blue Lagoon) which we stayed at.

 

Have you been an underground river or an UNESCO World Heritage Site of a similar nature?  We would love to hear your story. Comment below!

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. So you went to the real Bat Cave! (Sorry.) Actually, it sounds very peaceful, if a little terrifying. No one got claustrophobic or freaked out?

    Like

    1. yhpchung says:

      Yes a real bat cave. Unfortunately we weren’t able to see bat mobile, after all the cave was 8km long and we only explored maybe 2km of it. He might be hidden inside deep in the cave.

      I had to say no-one freaked out. The cave was so big that you can fit a small city in it.

      Liked by 1 person

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