The main reason we booked a trip to Palawan is to see the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park. Our trip was scheduled during our second day in the city, which thankfully pushed through after rain the day before ruined our Firefly Watching River Cruise tour.
Everything was still last-minute until a call at around 7AM from the front desk officer woke us up to tell us that the tour was given a green light by the local tourist board. So there, we quickly went down to fill up for the busy afternoon ahead.
Here’s our filling breakfast at Palo Alto’s Salakot Cafe. They have a coffee nook that was superbly organized–and clean!
Tours in Palawan are very organized. You really don’t have to worry about anything because your hotel will take care of everything for you. However, you have to make sure you let your hotel know of your tour plans, especially Underground River because they have to secure permits for you first. Palo Alto did so with such finesse, we really didn’t have to worry about anything.
The tour operator’s van fetched us from Palo Alto, where our tour guide claimed all the necessary permits and whatnot that Palo Alto got for us. We were grouped with a group of four, and two pairs of couples. The trip took about two hours, stopping first at some pasalubong center. Throughout the trip, the our tour guide kept us all entertained. They really do train their tour guides, I must say.
The Elephant Cave is another scheduled stop where you’ll be treated to a scenic view of this mountain. There’s not much to see here that’s why we only stayed here for about 5 minutes. It was here when our guide warned us not to bring out plastic bags when we arrive at the Underground River because there were mean monkeys stealing every plastic bag they see. According to our guide, the monkeys associate plastic with food, which explains it all.
Lunch is included in the Underground River Tour Package. We were pleasantly surprised to see a lot of options on the buffet table. The food was good, but the view was better:
Dining by the beach made me want a seaside home! Imagine waking up to the sound of the ocean? That would be amazing.
After walking around the beach, we proceeded to the port where all the boats headed to the Underground River were waiting.
It was a bit cloudy when we left the port so all throughout the boat ride, I was keeping my fingers crossed that it won’t pour while we’re in the open water.
A photographer took our picture–the boyfriend and I–and we were all game for it. We felt like stars being hounded by a paparazzi. Apparently, this is all part of the whole experience since you can buy your photo at the “photo kiosk” near the registration area.
The short walk to the Underground River is all sorts of amazing. There were some loose animals around the forest, but there’s really nothing to fear since there were forest rangers around to keep watch of things.
There were still a bunch of people waiting for their turn so we whiled away the time by taking pictures:
Monkeys freely roam around too so you better watch out for them. Avoid bringing plastic bags or opening your bags unless you want to be sort-of-attacked by them. Just like what happened to me, which counts as one of my most embarrassing moments.
You see, B and I were patiently waiting to be called by our tour guide so we could get our hard hats and life vests. But since I was holding on to my camera, I decided to put it in my bag for convenience. The next thing I know, this monkey is leaping towards me–arms wide open. I couldn’t do anything so I just froze in my seat and watched him climb up the trees with my pack of Kleenex. Apparently, the monkeys will grab anything that’s plastic, even if it’s just a pack of tissue. I didn’t move for about a minute or so because I fear the monkey would come leaping back at me. I just let B hold my bag.
When it was finally our turn to hop onto a boat, I excitedly wore the hard hat and life vest. Partly because I wanted to be as far away from the monkey as possible.
A lot of my friends who have been here before have always said that the boat ride was so-so as well as what await tourists inside. I came there with a clear mind, not remembering any of what my friends told me. Anyway, a horrible stench will bombard you as soon you get near the entrance to the cave.
All the stone formations, bats and stalactites inside would have been doubly amazing if we had our own floodlight or something. Sadly, there’s only one per boat and whoever’s sitting in front would handle that. Therefore, the boatman had nothing to do but paddle and humorously explain to us the various stone formations.
I wasn’t carrying an SLR so my camera’s pretty much useless inside the cave. Here are the only photos I was able to capture before we plunged into the darkness–wow, so poetic. Haha.
The boat ride took about 30 minutes methinks, which went by pretty fast when you’re inside the Underground River. The tour was nice and it was amazing inside. I couldn’t imagine how this big-ass hole carved itself inside the mountain. Our boatman told us that the local government is planning to extend the length of the tour-able waters.
We were lucky to have finished the tour before the rain poured oh so heavily. But then, we had to ride the boat back to the port under the rain. Talk about big-ass waves that battered the hell out of my sanity.