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.

25 comments:

  1. What a wonderful experience! I hope I'll go there one day too.

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  2. What an amazing place. Yes, I'd love to see it for myself one day if I could.

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  3. What an amazing place. Great pictures.

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  4. Thank you for sharing this extraordinary place - you did well to capture the atmosphere.

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  5. Wow, this was beautiful! Thank you for sharing your experience! It's all amazing and wonderful. God's beautiful creation.

    Have a great week ~ FlowerLady

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  6. Oh wow, what an amazing place to see. The underground river looks awesome. Great images. Thanks for sharing your trip!

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  7. What a great trip! I loved all your photos - I'd do this in a heartbeat. Thanks so much for your nice comment on my blog! I enjoyed hearing from you.

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  8. Staggering Andrea. I would wish for silence during the time in such a grand space. I like that it is all natural without man-made items. Though the lights used are necessary and make for an interesting effect. The outside cliff images are beautiful too. Greetings from Western Massachusetts.

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    1. Yes Carol the boatmen-guides always speak in low voices, for the tourists it seems like the grandeur and condition of the place will subdue any loud voice and untoward acts when inside it. It feels like you are being unconsciously controlled by the elements there, whatever those are! We just merged with the energies around, or we were unconsciously compelled to.

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  9. Unbelievably beautiful. I am with the commenter above with the wish for silence during the trip to absorb all the "mystical energies" of this grand space.

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  10. Oh wow... you all look so small compared to the rock formations. There are so few really spectacular wild places anymore.. Wonderful trip... Andrea..I have known you several years online and I can't believe I didn't have the link. I did have it but put it under my plant resources list.. LOL.. I am so sorry and fixed it.... Thank you for being such a lovely online friend... Michelle

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    1. Thank you so much Michelle for the kind words. Yes we have been blogger friends for already some years, and i think i've maintained a few through the years too. I love my garden blogger friends, and i've been saying that peace in the world will easily happen if we're all like our blogger friends, haha! Maybe you put your link in my other blog 'Pure Oxygen Generators', because that is all about our plants in my garden and my area. Whatever, i am just only a link away, and i am always a linker in Nature Notes. Thanks for that too.

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  11. beautiful photos, what a gorgeous place!

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  12. What an amazing adventure. It may be touristy, but in a good way. - Margy

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  13. What a great trip this must have been...I would be too scared to go thru the cave.....I am such a wimp. :)

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  14. Wow, what a beautiful and amazing adventure. Thanks for taking us with you!

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  15. Oh my those caves look amazing

    Mollyxxx

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  16. What a beautiful place and these caves are gorgeous !

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  17. Spectacular lighting in the cave highlighting all those fascinating rock features. What a wonderful trip.

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  18. Wow, the caves are fascinating! Enjoy your week.

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