Underground River - Palawan

A spectacular work of Nature can be found at the bosom of Saint Paul Mountain Range about fifty kilometers north of Puerto Princesa City on the island province of Palawan in the Philippines.

This is an underground river that indigenous tribes long ago believed as the sacred abode of the gods that no one dared to trespass for fear of incurring divine wrath. For hundreds of years, this subterranean waterway remained unexplored until the decade of the seventies when an adventurous group of torch-wielding spelunkers entered the cavernous mouth of the underground river to explore its inner sanctum.

For the first time, the mysterious veil of darkness was lifted to reveal to the world its marvelous secrets and awesome beauty. This subterranean river meanders through a limestone cave dotted with large chambers and gigantic stalactites and stalagmites until it empties itself into the South China Sea some 8.2 kilometers away.

While this underground river is known as Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, its entrance is actually located a short distance from the town of Sabang and not in Puerto Princesa City, which is about a good two-hour ride away. Despite the distance, the trip to Sabang is guaranteed to give a pleasant scenic experience of the unspoiled Palawan countryside.

The mouth of the cove where the underground river begins can be reached in 15 minutes aboard a small pump boat from Sabang. From there, visitors are transferred to a small outrigger boat that a guide will deftly paddle into the cave entrance and through the crystal clear flowing waters. The play of lights and shadows on the stunning limestone formations inside the cave gives the illusion of mythical, and even religious images like dragons, serpents, cathedrals, and even a very life-like scene of the Nativity.

The underground river as well as the forest canopy above it is home to 165 of the 252 bird species endemic to Palawan such as the White breasted sea eagle, Palawan hornbill, Blue-naped parrot, Tabon scrub fowl and the Hill myna. Moreover, mammal species such as the Bearded pig, Long-tailed macaque, Palawan stink badger, and Bearcat were observed in the area. The subterranean waterway itself hosts two species of swiftlets and nine species of bats whose guano droppings give the cool air in the cave a robust acrid smell.

The Sea cow and Hawksbill sea turtle have also been observed feeding in the coastal area and in the clear lagoon leading to the underground river entrance. Because of its stunning features and diversely rich ecosystem, the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park has been inscribed as a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO.

 




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