I’ve always known from the very start that I’ll grow up pretty more of a nomad than normal. (Normal – I mean being somebody contented of getting a degree and a stable job, and that’s it! :D) I spent countless of hours on my childhood trying to imagine places described in my school books and eventually praying that I may set foot on each one of them someday.
While my friends at school (especially those in my Graduate Studies) share the same passion with me, my own mother unfortunately don’t. Travel for her was all about meeting and reuniting with family members and distant relatives. No sightseeings, no adventures. Not until this trip however.
Having gotten two one-way free Cebu Pacific tickets to any local destination in the Philippines, I’ve thought of using it to surprise my mother of a trip to somewhere she always have longed to go – the Underground River in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. Despite of her hesitation to go with me, she silently and excitedly (I assumed 😹) packed her things for our two-day getaway. So here’s how’d it go:
Since ‘doing-it-ourselves’ Underground River Tour will seem to eat a lot of our time, having known the scarcity and irregularity of public transportation to and from Sabang Beach (jump off to Underground Subterranean River), I decided that having a travel agency to handle the hassle will fit us better. With barely 3 weeks before our trip, I was a little bit scared that our agent may not get us slots for our desired date. Fortunately, they were able to squeeze us in and it made the risk just so great. 👏👏
Our guide picked us up at Puerto Princesa International Airport and proceeded to fetch our travel mates for the tour. After an hour and a half of van ride, we were treated with some 5 minutes of rest at the Buenavista Viewdeck.
Twenty-five minutes later, we finally arrived at Sabang Beach where tourists get to start off their journey towards visiting the very famous Underground River.
And after a while of waiting, we finally boarded our boat with our guide and started right away the 20-minute ride to Underground Subterranean River.
If you are a ‘nature-thing’ kind of traveler, then this tour is just so perfect for you. Even before reaching the shores, your eyes will be treated with so much paradisiacal beauty. Clear-blue waters, white sands, fine shorelines, lush mountains, picturesque rock formations – name it! I bet Palawan can satisfy anyone who has their heart for nature.
Being so ‘WOWed’ by the breathtaking sights while on the boat, I hardly noticed that we’re already approaching the shores. Nothing’s really exceptional at my first glance. But after another blink of an eye?? Good Lord! This place is a masterpiece!
It took a little while before we had our turn on riding a boat going inside the Underground River. Before boarding however, some locals, who facilitate and accommodate the registration and other important tour formalities, handed us each a headgear and an audio device (the life vest we’ve used during the boat ride were also the ones we did utilize for the tour proper).
While our assigned boatman started to paddle our way towards the waiting underground cave, the womanly voice coming from our audio devices also commenced in welcoming us to this newly recognized wonder of the world.
Upon entrance, we were greeted with a stinking smell which I later learned to be ‘guano’ or bat and bird droppings. The Underground River, blessed with a rich biodiversity and a “delicately-balanced ecosystem”, has many dwellers inside ranging from winged beings to the swimming and crawling ones.
Wanna know some trivias around here? Well, have you ever wondered why Underground River made it to the New Seven Wonders of the World list?? I hope you’ll be amazed as I and my mother were, because for one, this beauty is pronounced to be one of the most important underground estuaries in the world. While many underground rivers exist on Earth, only a few of them flows directly to the sea, one of which is our very own Puerto Princesa Underground River. 👏🚣👏
Second, Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) also hosts one of the most complex (if not the most complex) karstic or cave systems in the world. It houses scientifically and aesthetically unique speleothems or cave formations (including crystals) which according to Italian scientists, may lead to the discovery of new cave minerals not found elsewhere. Here are some of these cave formations I’m talking about:
Third, it was found out that the PPUR has a very high content of energy making it one of the few cave systems in the world to offset on its own the effects of high-impact tourism, and thereby allowing it further to become naturally sustainable.
Fourth, the scientist found out that there seems to be a bat burial site inside the caves of PPUR, where bat bones were recovered yet no single bat alive exists in the area. (Weird, huh?) 😮😮
Fifth, upon further exploration by the Italian scientists of the Underground River cave system, they discovered a second underground river which is way too narrow for a boat to navigate. This discovery turned out to be a big wow for everyone because this ‘second small underground river’ has been very long unknown even to the locals. (Imagine that??) 😮
The sixth and last discovery literally left my mouth wide open for more than a minute. This most exciting (yet the most unexpected) discovery inside the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) undoubtedly proved PPUR to be one of the true wonders of nature. A 20-million year old Miocene Age sea mammal fossil we now popularly known as ‘Sea Cow’ was found to be embedded in one of the walls of the Underground River. As this sea mammal is only known to inhabit the oceans of Europe and the Meditteranean, the discovery of its specimen in the Philippines is considered to be the first in this part of the world, and is indeed a one-in-a-billion! Amazing, right! 👏👏👏
Hearing all of this great facts from my worn audio device, I am proudest at that very moment for being a Filipino! Setting foot on one of the most prized attractions in the Philippines made me cry like hell, as if I’ve been called to the stage to receive a Nobel Prize Award (hmmm.. exaggerating).😴😴
That was around five months ago, but all I could remember feeling on that day is that it has been a life-changing experience. Not only for me but as well as for my mother’s. It was already special knowing that I ticked off another destination from my bucket list, but realizing that my mother just made one of her childhood dreams come true made this trip even more special.
Wondered how we ended our day? She mouthed a shy ‘thank you’, I slept with a big smile. 😊😊😊