Sunday, June 28, 2015

Hirsute Beauty

I need to post today to link with the memes tomorrow. I am not prepared to continue my travel photos, but i know i have already been remiss with my postings. I still have a lot of photos from my travels lately, i know i have to sit down and assemble those photos in several travel posts.

Meanwhile, i have this for you this week. This is actually a rare cycas. I didn't know those colors are lovely  hairs when i was taking the shots. But looking at them in the bigger monitor held me in awe.

 This shot from the tip of the leaves look like there are several mirrors.

Even the longitudinal shot at the frond looks like a different material other than a frond of a cycas. I am glad i took some shots of this plant when i was waiting for the sunset during my visit to the Visayas State University, here in Southern Philippines.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

5: The Underground River Tour

Part 5-The Underground River, 7 Wonders of Nature

This is already my 3rd time visiting the Underground River in Puerto Princesa, Palawan. The first one was when it was not yet internationally famous, in the early 90s when even man-made wooden paths are not yet in place. The 2nd time was in 2013, when my friend and I decided to see it again as an alternate to a foiled group tour to El Nido. That time it was already voted as one of the 7 Wonders of Nature, and schedules within a day are already filled-up about 3 months earlier. It is now well organized that boats and trips per boat are already stablished to successfully put the desired carrying capacity within the day. Moreover, tourist shops and restaurants already mushroomed at the jump off point of the boats in Sabang pier (photo below).

Land transportation from Puerto Princesa takes about 1.5 hrs to Sabang Pier.  Many tour packages are already in place in hotels, airports, tourism office, and lodging houses. For small groups, vans in Puerto Prinsesa are available as normal transport or for hire, even on-line bookings are already organized now. Upon arrival in Sabang, group leaders or tourist guides enlist the group in Sabang Tourism Office for the boat assignment number to the Underground River.

 Above is the makeshift walkway from the pier to the boat. Local tourism staff already have a system for a more orderly flow of the activity. Boat ride from here to the Underground River takes about 20-30 minutes. Views of the mountains and shores along this short boat trip are also amazing.

This is the shore where the boats from Sabang first anchor, and the passengers will get off the boat, walk a few meters to the Underground River entrance, where another small paddle boat takes them inside the cave for the underground river cruise.

 This is the cliff facade of the entrance to the Underground River. Don't underestimate the size of that entrance, it might seem small because the cliff is very high.

This water in front of the cave entrance is brackish because the seawater comes in at high tide. It also drains freshwater from the limestone mountain ranges above it. 

 Sets of paired passengers ride these small boats paddled by experienced boatmen-tourist guides. Everybody dons a life vest and a hard hat. Boats are equipped with a portable battery pack to power the single big flash light to guide them in. A passenger sitting in front is asked to hold the flash light, and he directs the light wherever the guide tells him to. I am lucky to be sitting in front beside the light holder. I have a good vantage point for my photos.

 This is one of the passages and one with the highest clearance. As in all limestone caves, structures and figures develop from the water passing it through time, and that time means millions of years. Colors of the structures depend on the minerals and elements that leached and deposit in that area. Yellows and browns might indicate iron as one of the minerals deposited. Of course white is mostly silica and calcium carbonate, which compose most limestone rocks.

Above shows the biggest column that already reached down the water, but it also started as a small stalactite. To the right is the passage to the big dome known as the Cathedral, which has the biggest area and tallest roof. Straight ahead, where a boat is seen continues to the length of the cave.

That structure above center is a big developing structure, i am not sure if it can be considered a stalactite. I also don't have any idea how many million years before it lengthens and reach the water below. At the lowest right hand corner you can see dark spots. those are bats that live in the cave. There is one area there very full of bats, but we didn't go there for we might be full of droppings.

There is no eerie feeling while inside, but fun. Boatmen-guides have a lot of seemingly true jokes that makes everybody laughing. He makes fun of the structures seen along the route, as well as some banters about the cave.

Those are another developing stalactite points, with blackish brown minerals deposited on the tips.

 I am lucky to have shot this colorful scene, as their life vests gave a very good light reflection. They are on the way in as we are going out. The river passageway gives a very good clearance for traffic that will give every boat the feeling that they are alone in there.

Another formation developed with the help of the leaching droplets of water from above. This looks like hair strands. I would like to specially mention the boatmen guides, they are very witty that everybody laughs at what they are saying about what they see. Perhaps they are well-trained, but i guess it is very effective because they are naturally witty.

 This is the view on the way out. The two entrances seem like a natural provision for dividing Entrance and Exit.

 As you can see, there are still a lot of passengers waiting for their turn to get in. As one boat anchors back, a loaded one starts to paddle in. The trip lasts for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. This continues non-stop daily except during typhoons, keeping everybody happy.

Above is the shore where outrigger boats wait for their respective passengers while still inside the Underground River, to bring them again back to Sabang.

I am inviting everyone to go and get the experience, it really is amazing and very interesting. I am comparing in my mind the differences of an undeveloped natural site and a developed one. This one is still undeveloped because no man-made structures are put in there. It is only the system that they improved, and that is the best way to do in natural wonders like this.

Monday, June 8, 2015

4: Unusual Cave in El Nido

I almost forgot an important part of our Island Hopping Tour in El Nido, Palawan. It was actually part of the islands we early visited in the morning. It was actually the 3rd island we anchored in, the Cudugnon Island, and we came here for the Cudugnon Cave. It is one of the farthest island in Tour B.

Caves normally have very mysterious appeal to me. Somehow i always wonder if there will be something unusual hidden in there, that could be obvious to many or i might be the only one to see!

 The entrance to the cave is at the right side of these boulders, excitement could have enveloped me that i forgot to take a photo of the entrance while still outside. So sorry about that! These outside landscape is so mesmerizing that had me staring for several minutes, what a lovely rock garden, nature made!

I was so fascinated when we were lined up to that very small hole (below right at the above photo), assisted by our guide. Vests were removed and put on that small bottom opening as pads, so we will not scratch our back going in. It was a difficult entry because we made contortions so our body can fit in there. The guides already mastered the strategy, so he gave instructions step by step; e.g. put your right arm first, push your upper body on the ledge, then pull your legs up, etc, etc.

Some of us are already inside, others are still coming in. Inner chamber is wide, lighted only by two holes from the side and from the top. It is impossible to reach those openings from inside, i have the feeling that maybe the entry we came in paved the discovery of this cave.

openings at the top serve as light source

 This is another area we went through a small slit on the wall. The guide went up there to take our group photos while on the ground. I am amazed at the different colors on the walls, made from mineral deposits.

 This looks shiny and metallic with the light. I wonder what minerals line these walls, it is also interesting. The passage of water is visible on those walls.

 This is another unusual structure of a wall surface. The minerals here can be more porous leading to these texture when mixed with water.

At the top are also interesting structures from by water through time. At left looks like two fairies in translucent gowns, can you visualize what i mean? At the right even shows roots from plants outside that eventually creeped in here through the crevices. This will eventually weaken these boulders as the roots and plants grow.

 Some of us take turns in having photos on the rock ledges. This is their first time to be in places like this.

  The boulders touching the sea outside the cave

Vegetation on the boulders outside the cave

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