Famous in the whole world since being one of the winners of the 7 Wonders of Nature contests in 2011, this river inside a cave, but with direct access to the sea, is a pleasant visit, although not by far in my opinion it should be consider a wonder of the world, when it is not even the best in its own country. No one should fly to Palawan because of this river, but why not to visit it while passing by, since this island has many more attractions? It is UNESCO heritage since 1999, together with the rest of the Park.
LOCATION AND HOW TO GET THERE
- Most visitors make a day trip from Puerto Princesa. They cost from PHP 2400 per person, last from 6 to 8 hours and include transportation to Sabang, transportation by boat from Sabang to the cave, admission to the cave, guide and lunch (usually free buffet).
- On our own, we must first get to Sabang, usually from El Nido or Puerto Princesa (see the post TRANSPORTATION IN SABANG). Once there you can:
- Take a boat from the village to the entrance of the cave and vice versa. It costs PHP 1200 per boat, maximum 8 people. It is booked through the Tourist Office in Sabang, it takes 15 minutes, but they do not usually leave until they are full. It allows some scenic views of the coast. In case of surge, the boats will not set sail.
- Go walking along the Jungle Trail, 5 km (3 miles) long, which is itself an attraction. That is what we did, since the sea was very rough, and the truth is that we are very happy because the path, although with some sections of slopes and wooden stairs, is relatively simple taking it with tranquility, and it is very nice indeed. It is very well marked, but we will not be allowed to go freely, we must mandatorily be accompanied by an unnecessary guide and ask for a permit. We can hike the trail even if we do not want to see the Underground River, which is not a bad idea at all.
Given that the views of the coast are apparently quite good, and the trail is also very interesting, probably the best option is to go by boat and walk back, or vice versa.
Being a national park, an entry fee of PHP 300 per person is required as a permit. There are a limited number of permits per day, and the government prefers to sell them to organized tours, so in high season it is suggested to request it two or three days in advance. In Puerto Princesa you can apply at the City Coliseum office; in Sabang it is requested in the tourist office itself, next to the jetty, and usually requires less advance notice.
Once we get to the entrance, we will change to another boat, more appropriate to navigate inside the cave.
It’s more than 24 km (15 miles) long, which makes it the largest known underground river (although one in Mexico discovered in 2007 disputes the title), but only 8 (5 miles) are considered river as such and only 4.3 (2.7) are navigable, of which tourists are only allowed to access the last kilometer and a half. There are multiple stalactites and stalagmites and inside there live thousands of bats hanging from the ceiling (careful to look up, it is advisable to protect your eyes and not open your mouth). In one of its sections you will reach the Italian Chamber, one of the largest chamber caves known.
OTHER ATTRACTIONS IN SABANG
In addition to the Underground River and the road that leads to it, Sabang has two other things to do, although none is very out of this world:
- Sabang Beach is more than acceptable, although its sand is not as white as those we may have already seen in El Nido or Coron.
- There is a nice waterfall 15 meters high that falls directly to the sea, about 30 minutes walk along a very stony path to the west of Sabang. After a few minutes we will pass through a small temple where we must register, but we do not have to pay unless we want to make a donation.