Puerto Princesa’s Underground River

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After our wonderful trip to Dos Palmas, we were rested up for our trip up to Palawan’s Underground River, one of the new seven wonders of nature. It was first open to the public almost 45 years ago in 1971, where it was 3901 hectares but later expanded. A two hour trek by car outside of Puerto Princesa, there are two ways to access the underground river. There’s the jungle trail which takes about 3-4 hours, or you can take a banca which takes about 20 minutes. I was hoping for the jungle trail, but the tour included the banca. That just gives me another reason to come back!

We had an awesome tour guide named Michelle who gave our group some background information about the underground river provincial park, as well as Puerto Princesa itself. The city was awarded the cleanest and greenest city as 70% of it is forest. It also has enforced some strict laws in order to help keeps its title, like its no smoking law. On your first offence you get a warning and a 500php (~$14CAD fine), but then it quickly escalates to include jail time on your second and third offences, or as Michelle explained it ‘a free visa extension with free accommodation.’ Nope, I’ll pay for both thank you very much!

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Our awesome tour guide Michelle was all smiles, all day!

Side note: okay so this may not be overly funny to you readers, but I’m going to share anyway. In The Philippines, drivers absolutely love using their car horns, and our driver Bo was no different. He honked as we turned corners, at people walking on the road, and I think whenever he thought too much time had passed since he last honked. Anyways we were slowing down as we passed through a village, and a rooster ran out into the middle of the road. Bo honked the horn and the rooster looked at the van, and then bolted the rest of the way. Robin then looks at me and says ‘Why did the chicken cross the road? Because… beep beep!’ and I was immediately in stitches. Now I’m not sure if it’s because I was so tired from the early start, or it was the way his voice was able to match the exact tone of the van’s horn, but even 2 weeks later the joke is still hilarious.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

A quaint little banca port.

A quaint little banca port.

We arrived where we take the bancas, and here our group was given an assigned number. As we waited for our number to be called, we explored the port area and vendor shops. Robin was very excited as we were finally able to find this gem – cheese ice cream! Yes you read that correctly. It was actually quite tasty and even had small bits of cheese in it! We also treated ourselves to some fresh buko juice, and then we were on our way to the river’s entrance!

Cheese lovers rejoice!

Cheese lovers rejoice!

The bancas were fairly small and seated only 8, so our tour group was split into 2. The trip over allowed us to get some glimpses at the beautiful local landscape as we approached the shore. We disembarked onto the beautiful white sand beach and made our way to the mouth of the underground river. It was an absolutely beautiful area, but unfortunately quite full of tourists like myself. It made me a little jealous of anyone who had been able to visit before it became a new seven wonder, as I’m sure their experience was much more relaxing and more true to how the river should be enjoyed – peacefully! Alas, I thanked my lucky stars that I had the chance to be there, and enjoyed the sights. Our tour guide told us to hop into a boat they were trying to fill, and to just meet us at the exit when we were done. So off we went into the underground river!

Such beautiful beaches!

Such beautiful beaches!

The banca sits about 3cm above the water, so it’s a little nerve wracking at first. We were at the back of the boat, which was nice since it meant we could hear our guide perfectly. As we went along the river for our 45min tour, he pointed out various rock formations and interesting ones that look like other people or objects. The guide made our tour awesome though – he was HILAROUS! He had tons of great one liners, but my favourite had to be this: ‘there is water coming from the ceiling, and it comes from holes. So some people call this holy water, but do not open your mouth when you look up. It’s not holy shit, it’s bat shit.’ I was cracking up.

Hard to get pictures but Robin managed to snag this one!

Hard to get pictures but Robin managed to snag this one!

After our tour which passed by WAY too fast, we were reunited with our group and made our way back to shore. Next was an amazing Filipino lunch buffet with tons of meal choices to for any diet (except probably vegan, because that’s just too hard). We are until our bellies hurt, and witness some torrential down pours as we finished. Unfortunately this meant that we wouldn’t be able to participate in other possible activities as we made our way back to Puerto Princesa like zip lining and rafting. I guess that’s just another excuse to come back again!
We finished off the day by doing some souvenir shopping and grabbing some treats. I FINALLY found some nice postcards, so those of you I send to regularly – check your mailbox in about 3 weeks! I still need to mail them so they’ll take a while to reach you.
Overall, the experience was great. There were a few things I would change, which made me realize some things about myself while travelling. I’ll keep you in suspense for now though, because that’s a blog post all on its own – so stay tuned!






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