Finally Palawan. The last station me and the guys would travel together and we came with high expectations after hearing so many good things about this region. Our minds were filled with images of crystal clear lagoons, white beaches, secluded islands, rugged landscapes, coconut groves, the bluest waters and a sense of solitude. But first we were supposed to go underground – into the world famous Underground River of Puerto Princessa / Sabang, one of the seven new wonders of the world and an Unesco World Heritage Site.
We took a flight from Cebu City to Puerto Princessa and from there an exhausting jeepney ride to the town of Sabang. That’s actually where the Underground River is located. We found a nice place by the beach, managed by a very friendly Filipina who gave us the family bungalow with three rooms and a hefty discount on top. To top things up, our little castle also had a nice porch with an unspoiled sea view.
We arranged our trip to the Underground River and spent the rest of the day swimming in the ocean and enjoying the view from our porch. Sabang features a beautiful wide beach, lined by coconut trees and only a few resorts tugged behind them. The place seemed to have kept its pristine charm and when night fell and all of the day trippers had left, we felt like we almost had it for ourselves.
Beach Bum Life
The next day was underground time but not before 2 o’ clock. We had some time to kill and spent some more time in the floods enjoying the turquoise waters of Sabang. The temperature had already climbed so high, that we had to cool off with some cold coconut juice and some other cold beverages going by the name of San Miguel. We only came for the Underground River and didn’t expect much more than that but Sabang actually has more to offer and we took full advantage of it.
Entering the world famous Underground River
At 2 o’ clock we went over to the pier to catch our boat to the River Experience. Unfortunately there were a lot of people with the same plan and we had to wait a good hour or more for a boat to take us. We arrived at the bay where the river entrance is located and saw an armada of other bankas anchoring in the bay. After registration and having found our way to the entrance, we had to play the waiting game for another hour and a small boat to take us inside.
We finally entered the cave with the river and it instantly became clear why this place is one of those new world wonders. The formations and the colors inside were amazing. We smoothly paddled deeper along the river shining our torch here and there with our guide explaining a lot. We were accompanied by hundreds of birds flying around in the cave hunting for insects. Their cries, used for orientation, were echoing through the cave. Somewhere about half way along the river, we saw another species hosted by the cave. Bats hanging from the caves ceiling staring into our flashlight / also hundreds of them. After a while we turned around and made our way back to the entrance. Daylight was awaiting us and we were impressed by the wonder nature had created here.
We have done a similar excursion in the Conglor Cave, Laos. The underground river there was bigger and wider but here everything was more colorful and the formations more impressive. Going along the river by paddle boat also made it more worthwhile than with a motorized boat. It was a great side trip and definitely worth the visit. The only thing that was a little annoying was the unproportionally long waiting time compared to the actual time in the cave.
We got back fairly late but just in time to end the day with a great sunset on our beach.
Last thoughts …
Sabang itself and the Underground River Experience were a great and very promising start of our Palawan adventure. We didn’t expect a nice, quiet and relaxed oceanside place as we did there. Most people only stay for a day coming from Puerto Princessa for a day trip. I think it is worth spending a night or two in Sabang to enjoy the beautiful beach and take in the serenity in the evenings. Combined with the Underground River, it makes for a worthwhile and memorable trip.