Saturday, August 16, 2014

puerto princesa underground river

One of the main reasons I wanted to go to Palawan, out of all the islands in the Philippines, was because of the Puerto Princesa Underground River which is both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.

In order to access the park we had to take these boats there. The park has a limit of 900 visitors a day in order not to disturb the wildlife too much.

entrance to the underground river
There was a lot of waiting involved. Waiting for the boat to bring us to the park and then more waiting to get onto the boats to actually bring us into the Underground River. While we were waiting we saw monkeys steal snacks from other tourists and we even saw a monitor lizard!

Everyone in front of us on the boat was part of our tour group. Look at our fancy outfits - in case we fall out of the boat or smack our head on low hanging rocks. I enjoyed viewing the Underground River because it was cool sailing on a boat in the dark. However because it was dark it was also very frustrating not to be able to see anything since only the person in the front controlled the flashlight. I couldn't see how grand of a scale the cave was while inside or even take any decent photos. The whole place smelled like bat guano and the tour guide even said if something cold dropped on you then it was probably water but if it was warm then you were lucky because a bat pooped on you! There were so many freaking bats and they kept swooping everywhere. I had an irrational fear they would hit me. Because we were so far back I couldn't hear the description of the different rocks or stories the tour guide was saying so that was a bummer. All in all in comparison to other caves I've been to I would say this was pretty disappointing. I would love it if they had lights and such in the cave so that we could view the stuff but then of course that would disturb the ecosystem of the cave and all the animals living within.

Our tour included a buffet lunch at this restaurant that every tour group seemed to stop at.

the first plate of many: lumpia and roast pork!
Right outside the restaurant a little girl was selling tamilok, a wood worm found in rotten mangroves.

Some people in the tour group tried it and it looked so disgusting especially since its super long and they just ate it like this. Bleugh can't give eating bugs a try though actually tamilok is a mollusk and not actually a worm...but too slimey and gross looking! As part of the tour there were side excursions we could have done like zip-lining or spelunking but because it was raining while we were there we didn't get to do them. Sometimes it feels like my rain curse will never truly leave me...

The best food I've had so far here has been the endless amounts of fruit. Granted I've had way better fruit back in America because my grandma and mom actually know how to pick the ripe ones but I've been deprived of fruit for so long that I went slightly insane at the market. This small selection was only the tip of the iceberg.

Here were have black and red rambutan which taste like lychee, though harder to get to with its tougher skin. So many mangoes. Mangoes in Japan sell for $5-6 for ONE! Though in one of my mangoes there was a freaking bug. The sad part was that I had already eaten one half of the mango just to cut the other side to find bugs in it! Ugh so disgusting. These bugs were a reason why mangoes can't be transported outside of Puerto Princesa, they want to keep it from spreading. Our bus was actually stopped on the way to Port Barton so that military personnel could do a check. The last but not least in the picture above are some green mangoes. Unfortunately they were very sour. So difficult to find sweet green mango like the ones I had in Taiwan.

The Details
Isla de Puerto Underground River Tour
I really enjoyed the tour guide who showed us around. He had amusing stories and cracked dumb jokes on the ride there. The tour includes transportation, entrance fee and lunch. If you go to the Underground River yourself you will have to register for a permit yourself in the city and then find your own transportation there. There are so many tour groups we reached out to but unfortunately a lot of them didn't respond which was super frustrating. Also many places required a deposit to be transferred. Because sending money over international waters carried such a hefty fee it was not a feasible option for us. Luckily this company was fine with collecting the money when we landed in Puerto Princesa. However a worker of theirs drove us to the bus terminal when we first arrived to catch the bus to Port Barton and overcharged us by a lot for the ride - now that I know how cheap it actually was. I would suggest meeting them to pay for the tour and then just hiring a trike outside the airport to bring you into the city.
Tour Price: 1500 php per person

Lakas ng Trip - a do-it-yourself guide to visiting the Underground River

Puerto Princesa Underground River Official website

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