Saturday, February 27, 2010

Palawan - Underground River

Our third and final day trip in Palawan was to the Puerto Princesa Underground River tour. The river itself is called the St. Paul River. Roughly the final 8 km of its length is through the cave of limestone and marble. The Puerto Princesa Underground River is vying to become one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. Everyone should go vote for it. I think it's in 13th or 14th place right now out of 28 finalists.

Our Underground River trip began at about 8. It is about a 2 hour drive to get the river from Puerto Princesa City proper, although the entire trip and the river itself are technically in city limits. In fact, Puerto Princesa City covers a large portion of the central part of Palawan from one coast to the other. The road to the river took us past Honda Bay again and then wound up through the hills and eventually across the island to the other side and to the north. Our tour guide joked with us when we started out that there was a free 5 minute massage included in our trip-part of the road isn't paved, it just has mostly gravel and larger rocks. Actually, I was impressed with the condition of the road in general, especially closer to the city proper. There were guardrails when necessary and most of the road was paved with concrete, however, some of the turns were a little tight. My legs and arms were definitely a little tired by the time we got to the river and when we got back to our resort in the afternoon because I was using them to balance myself the entire time.

When we arrived at our destination, we registered and were told that our boat from the Sabang Wharf to the mouth of the river would be leaving at 1:30. It was only 10:00, so we went to another river nearby, within walking distance. Here the locals give tours in small boats to the people waiting to tour the underground river. This river water is brackish (essentially a mix of fresh and saltwater) and therefore Mangrove trees line the banks of the river. The tour lasted about 25 minutes and included our tour guide singing the Mangrove tree song complete with the Tagalog and English versions just for us that has probably been passed down in their culture for many years. After that we ate dinner which included more Pansit (which I like), pork, chicken, fish, and of course rice. Then it was about time for us to walk back to the wharf and get on our outrigger boats for the 20 minute ride to the mouth of the river. This ride on the South China Sea was definitely in the open more and was a lot more wavy than our ride in Manila Bay to Corregidor or our ride in Honda Bay. Once we got to the mouth of the river, we waited about 10 more minutes and hopped on a much smaller boat. Once again it was just us and our tour guide. Our tour guide was very good and made sure to point out the formations inside the cave that have been named over the years. There was the Virgin Mary, the Three Kings, the Holy Family, and yes, the Sexy Lady. There were also a lot of bats. Abi had her big flash along that worked sporadically, but we still have probably 20-30 good photos inside the cave. The tour itself last 45 minutes and tourists are only allowed to go into the cave up to 1.5 of the 8 km. From there we got back on our outrigger boat and headed back to the wharf. Once there, we bought some drinks from the vendors, jumped in our vans, and headed back to our resort.

That night we decided to stay in at our resort and spent some time in the pool. Our resort opens to the public most nights, and there was a birthday party there at the pool with kids running around with noisemakers. One of the boys liked us and was trying to show off for us at the pool and while we were eating with his noisemaker. They were all pretty cute kids.

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