Palawan: Puerto Princesa & Underground River

March 16, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

-by Vlad-

After a short stay in Cebu, we arrived in Puerto Princesa, the capital of the island of Palawan in the Philippines. We took a tricycle from the airport, luggage and all, to our guesthouse 20 min away. Our driver asked if we had any plans while in PP and strongly suggested a tour or two by taking us to a tourist agency on the way. He said for us to mention his name there should we book anything since he would receive commission and a bag of rice. Shady or not, if we could help the guy get a bag of rice for his family, why not help. We returned a day later to book an underground river tour and hopefully helped him out

Walking around the city of PP was underwhelming. Other than a Robinson Mall, which we went to many times in Manila, there wasn't much to see. We went to Baywalk, an area along the water with restaurants and vendors but were a bit disappointed as the area was not as lively as it could have been given its location. As we would soon learn about the island, the beauty lies outside the towns, especially on the many surrounding islands. Since we were heading north to the town of El Nido in a few days, where we would do more island hopping and sightseeing, we decided on only one tour: The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park

Located about a 2 hour van ride north of PP, and a 20 min boat ride to the island, this national park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Because of cancelled tours the day before due to choppy waters, as well as limited boats due to owners not renewing their licenses on time, there was a long wait. We used this time to observe the beautiful fauna and hang out with two of the parks most famous inhabitants: the monitor lizard and the long-tailed macaque, the only primate found in this area. These guys were used to humans and hung around tourists, looking for stuff to steal. One macaque grabbed a plastic water bottle and took it up into the tree before the owner of it realized what was happening. 

When our turn finally came up, we were taken on a 45 min boat tour in the pitch black cave. With the aid of a spotlight and a humourous guide, we learned about the history of the cave, as well as rock formations that resembled, among other things, asparagus, a nativity scene and a posing figure aptly named Sharon STONE...get it? These guys had quite the imagination. 

On one of R&R days, we called up the 5 star hotel in the area and used their pool and restaurant facilities for the day for about $12 pp. Because the hotel was in their soft open phase, we had the enormous pool area almost to ourselves. We even stayed for dinner and watched the Pope's arrival into Manila on TV with the staff. 

Our last night was a quiet one as we had 5am pick up for the 6 hour van ride north to El Nido. Join us there for the next post.  

There are no direct flights from Cebu to Puerto Princesa so we had to fly through Manila.  Our hotel in Puerto Princesa was very modest and basic at $28 per night.  Before we headed to explore the island we spent a day at a pool of a five star hotel for $12pp. Ground level rooms had their own private access to the pool.

Edyta reflecting on how hard life can be at times.  One day at a luxury pool was enough to re-charge our batteries.    Time for dinner. As you can see there was barely anyone around.  Sunka, a local game that I learned to play when I first visited the Philippines, is popular with the locals. It's too bad I forgot the rules.  Our nightly stop to pick up water, mango, and other fruit to snack on. Also the above tricycle was a typical mode of transportation in Palawan.  Fresh paint job on this jeepney. Arriving at the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park after a 20 min motor boat ride. Check out the beautiful limestone rock formations in the background. From then on we waited about 2 more hours before entering the underground river in a small boat.  A monitor lizard. A long-tailed macaque eating something he probably stole from an unsuspecting tourist.  Entrance to the cave. We had to wear helmets for safety.  Entrance to the underground river. 

Stalactites hanging from the ceiling.  There were a ton of bats in the cave. You can see them and their droppings all over the cave.  Grilled banana and taro on a skewer after the tour. So delicious.  A bunch of birds mysteriously congregated at one particular intersection on the wires overhead. It was so strange as the next intersection had no birds.   Evening bird meeting on electricity lines.  Rush hour in Puerto Princesa. There were plenty of these geckos in Puerto Princesa and in South East Asia. They make a loud chirping noise, similar to that of a bird. 

Join us next as we venture out to the north of Palawan to the picturesque El Nido area!





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