Credits: Papers by Plum Dumpling Designs, Pri Rocha, The Design Girl, Trixie Scap Design; Ribbon by Design by Tater, Red string with flowers by Graham Like the Cracker, and String wrap by Haynay Designs.
Elusive in the past, I became disinterested and eventually gave up the idea of visiting Palawan’s famous Underground River. Then they re-opened the Jungle Trail.
Initially slated for December but due to unforeseen reasons, we moved our Puerto Princesa trip to January. We planned to simply chill out, visit our favorite jaunts and catch up with friends. Then, the grand idea— “why not go to Sabang for the day so you can finally see the Underground River?” Anton to me. Me to him, “Ok, but we will trek to the cave.”
The Sabang Pier is the main jump off point to the Underground River or The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, once also called the St. Paul Subterranean River. Yes, it has many names. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999, the cave was provisionally chosen (through votes—and you know how we Filipinos can vote) as one of the 7 New Wonders of Nature in 2011.
Entrance from the shore
The usual way to get there is to take a 15-20 minute boat ride (I estimate) from the pier.
There are two trails to the cave, The Monkey Trail, and the Jungle Trail. The former has been closed for a time now and the latter re-opened only last year. Having heard of the Monkey trail from friends who did it some 10 years back, I knew that I’d do it at some point. Well, the jungle trail, I reckon, is good enough.
The trek starts by crossing the mangrove.
A recommended option for the active, the jungle trail meanders through a beautiful lush forest.
It lets you hike through ancient trees, well crafted wooden staircases, bridges and benches made from confiscated wood that adds character to the trail
and at one point, limestone formations becomes backdrop behind the foliage.
Not only does the pleasant 2-hour hike enhance the experience but it also gives jobs to the 20 or so Tagbanua indigenous community members.
As “Park Wardens” they serve as guides and caretakers of the jungle.
the path from the trail
The Underground River itself was not a let down at all. Having heard of so many mixed reviews, expectations were low.
Waiting in line to enter the cave.
But to my surprise, the chambers especially the one called “the cathedral,” towering some 800 meters high, impressed me.
Truth to tell though, I fell asleep some part of the way, perhaps due to exhaustion and the fact that the only thing lighting the way was a flashlight held by the person in front. Our guide was adept and quite engaging in providing intelligent albeit elementary information about what a cave system is.
My take on this experience: to go there just for the Underground River may not be worth the effort (it’s still a 2-hour ride to Sabang). The hikes makes the difference. Having seen Sabang, I wish I had stayed a few nights to explore the quiet town.
5 thoughts on “The Trek to the Underground River”
Well you have to see it at least once in your lifetime, plus the hike is so picturesque that it added to experience I hope.
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The hike definitely made the trip. So glad they opened the trail and takes good care of it as well.
I’ll leave in February and I’m organizing underground river tour..reading your page I would like do the same trip ! I have read in web that there are a lot of tour operators that offer different options but nobody organize jungle trail ? How have you done to get the permit ?
We were able to arrange the “special” tour with our guide. I don’t have his contact at hand but will look through my notes. I will forward his contact if I find it. But I found a website that offers a trekking tour through the jungle trail: http://www.excitingpalawan.info/#!ur–jungle-trail/c13nd
There are 2 options, the 1st option (what we did) is to hike one way to the underground river and take the boat back to town. The 2nd option (which might entail an overnight stay in Sabang) would be to hike both ways.
Permits are usually handled by the tour operator.
I hope you have a good time in my country. Sorry for the late reply… I was travelling. 🙂