Despite being a person not fond (or in denial of being afraid) of caves, Cheenee highly recommends to take a cruise inside the majestic UR’s (Underground River) chambers in Palawan.
I’m not fond of caves. I’m scared of spelunking and being confined in tight, dark places. I honestly didn’t know what to expect from the Subterranean River National Park, but I chose to go because heck, it’s the world’s longest underground river at 8.2 km and a UNESCO World Heritage for its unique ecosystem. I mean, who wouldn’t be curious right?
Into Palawan’s Underground River
So I decided to join a tour with my new-found friends from SFC Davao (shout out!). We booked in advance because we needed to get an Environmental Permit to enter the National Park. The tour cost me PHP 1,600 inclusive of the following:
- Jungle Trek in the national park with a tour guide
- Underground River cruise
- Buffet lunch
- Transportation to and from the national park (with hotel pick-up and drop-off)
- All fees
The van took us to Sabtang in 2 hours. Then we did a jungle trek (another blog post!) and after 2 hours, we finally arrived at the jump off point for the cruise!!!
Jump-off Point to Underground River Cruise
But… It looked like this:
Crowd before entering the Underground River
Uh-oh. I knew from the number of people that there had to be quite a long wait. True enough, we had to wait for about an hour! Thinking that it was already noon, I was a bit worried because we couldn’t eat lunch there since it’s prohibited. We would have to wait to return to Sabtang town for lunch.
Good thing, we had this as our waiting area:
Me and my friend, Doll! 🙂
Note: Swimming is not allowed because of the strong waves. There also wasn’t any facilities for showering after swimming.
And we had monkeys for entertainers. (Warning: they can be dangerous)
Can you see Mr. Monkey? 😉
When our turn finally came, we were all smiles and we hurriedly boarded our paddle boats, wore our helmets, and (some) wore life jackets.
“I’ll finally find out why this cave is so popular!” I said to myself. I couldn’t wait to see what was inside even if I was scared and skeptical.
Our paddleboat driver and tour guide leads us into the cave… I tried to take photos but they looked crap because I’m not good at low light photography:
The cave does not have any artificial light inside. We had to use a flashlight provided by the tour guide to see the different formations.
Honestly, I wasn’t that amazed during the first few minutes. There was a pungent smell thanks to the bat droppings (guano), which are actually excellent fertilizers according to our tour guide.
“Don’t open your mouth too much especially when you’re looking up because something unpleasant might go inside,” our tour guide warned us. We all tried to keep our laughter in while closing our mouths.
The Magic Happens
As I gave up on my useless photography skills, the magic then began to happen when we entered what they call the “Cathedral” chamber. It was very unforgettable because it was about 800 meters in height and had the largest stalactites and stalagmites! The guide told us that we are under the mountain that we climbed earlier during the jungle trek. Wow!
My favorite was what they called the Candle because it looked like a gigantic burning candle that was probably at least ten meters high!
Did you know that stalactites (from the ceiling) and stalagmites (rising from the floor) are formed from the minerals in the water dripping inside caves? According to our guide, a stalactite or stalagmite “grows” from 2mm per year. Wow, that candle was old. If you do the math, the Candle is at least 5000 years old!
I wish I could have photographs to share my experience, but you will just have to do it yourself! If you haven’t guessed yet, the chamber is called the “Cathedral” because the formations inside are like figures inside a cathedral!
Another thing that fascinated me were the vandals inside. I do NOT advocate vandalism and am not recommending writing one’s name on nature to satisfy one’s small ego.
Vandals inside the cave
What amazed me was that those vandals were from the 1940s, long before the park became formally established as a tourist attraction. The people then had been random explorers who were plain curious! These people didn’t have TripAdvisor to recommend them sites and blogs to tell them how to get there!
After a few minutes and more stalactites and stalagmites, the paddleboat started to turn around. Our guide tells us that it would be the end of the cruise. There was a special 4-hour trip but it would cost more.
I couldn’t believe it! I actually felt ecstatic after our cruise. I was pleased and surprised that even if I am not fond of caves, I still loved the Underground River and the cave.
My friends from SFC Davao after their cruise
I’m still not fond of – and maybe still afraid of – caves, but I can say this:
You should never miss an opportunity to take an Underground River cruise and check out the large stalactites and stalagmites inside. Remember the millions of years that had passed to form them. Indeed, we’re a speck in this universe and I feel blessed that I got a chance to cruise through that river.
Big, big smile after my Underground River cruise