The Underground River

Boarding the Plane in Manila from the Tarmac

We flew into the Philippines for the Chinese New Year Vacation. It is our first time having this break, which is almost a month-long. All of our Filipino friends have told us that when we go to the Philippines we need to visit Palawan. Palawan is one of the Western islands amongst the 7,000+ islands of the Philippines.It is very close to Taiwan all together, flight time to the capital city of Palawan, Puerto Princessa, was about 3 hours. After three 12 hour flights to and from the states this summer, this seemed like the right vacation for us.
In true D&M fashion, we decided to check out the National Park/UN World Heritage site on the island, the Underground River. It has recently been declared a natural wonder of the world. We were picked up from our cabin and taken on a two-hour van ride through the jungle to a small town called Sabang. Along the way we stopped at a place called Udong Rock, where we explored a natural cave and did some very assisted rock climbing to a zip line that quickly brought us back to the ground.


The Underground River is an amazing natural wonder. There are a series of chambers and rock formations that until they were discovered sat in the dark for no one to appreciate. Now they for the most part are still in the dark, you wouldn’t want to disturb the bats. On the tour you sit in these long wooden canoes. One guide paddles the boat and has a headlight on his helmet with which he points out the items in the cave that are discussed in the audio tour. Everyone is given a set of headphones that plays a guided tour in your language about the cave chambers. You are encouraged to not talk as it will wake up the bats and disturb the natural environment. You are also told to keep your mouth closed for fear of bacteria dropping from the cave ceiling and bat guano. I think the helmet is mostly to protect against that too, not the stalactites (rock formations) hanging from the ceiling.

The Entrance to the River
If you look closely you can see the bats

The cave is very long and has huge cavern chambers that even in the dark you can feel the impressive spacious room in the cave. At one point in the tour, the tour guide turns off his head lamp, so you get a sense of the darkness. I thought I understood what pitch black was, now that the person sitting in front of me successfully turned off his iPhone screen, I know what it means to be in utter darkness. There is so much to see on this tour, which seems ironic because you are sitting in the dark on a boat, but it is true.

Another highlight is on the island where the cave is located there are macaques and monitor lizards. Not something I see regularly outside of the zoo, so very exciting to see them. We took a motorboat to the beach near the entrance to the Underground River and it was wet and bumpy. Fun, but I apparently was sitting in the splash zone as I took most of the wave fallout and was wet from the waist down and most of my right side too. The French couple sitting next to me were trying not to laugh, but also thanked me for taking the brunt of the sea spray.

Tomorrow, we head North to El Nido, for our 4 day island hopping camping expedition.

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