Sabang & the Underground River
Our journey from Siquijor began with Bong taking us to Larena jetty for a ferry to Dumaguete. Next up a ferry to Bohol, then onto Cebu. Our top tip is to get outside on the ferry although this is easier said than done. I don’t really understand why the crew don’t want you to go outside but they really don’t. Inside are random martial art films played at full volume, and people suffering from sea sickness!
We had around an hour at each port so just enough time to meet the local touts and grab a drink.
Back in Cebu
On arrival at Cebu, we had a few hours before our flight to Puerto Princesa. As we found when last in Cebu, the city isn’t really one that you want to hang around in. I came up with the bright idea to go to the Radisson Blu hotel for lunch, as it would be easy with our luggage. We had the most amazing buffet lunch, but boy did we pay for it. Was it worth it? I’m not sure, but we loved it all the same. We definitely ate as much as we possibly could and I treated myself to a nice glass of wine.
Our Cebu International flight to Puerto Princesa was uneventful, except for the 3-hour delay that meant Greg (and I) drank rather more than planned at the airport – that pesky San Miguel Light.
We were collected by the owner of our night’s accommodation, Citadel. A South African guy who had lived in the Philippines for a while. During the journey, he repeated that his wife, a Filipina would be able to help us with any questions we had in the morning. On arrival at Citadel, we were shown our room. It was ok, but did have random Christmas decorations on the ceiling. Very quiet though so a good night’s sleep.
The next morning, we woke up bright and early. Greg went off to find the helpful wife. Our primary aim was to arrange a van transfer to our next stop, Sabang. Greg came running back in the room shouting that I had to deal with this woman as otherwise he might punch her! I thought that Greg was being a little overdramatic so went out to get a timetable. Wow, this lady wasn’t born to be in customer facing service! She was so rude. We subsequently had a disagreement over the charge from the airport too. Citadel is a good place to stay from the airport but be prepared to be insulted, or simply avoid the owners!!
Our First Van
The van travelling experience is a must on Palawan. There is no cheap way to travel easily around the island without using these services. The vans are generally in a good condition but are built for around 10 Filipino size people, but 15 European size people are squeezed on.
We were collected on time by Lexxus Shuttle service to Sabang. Two other travellers were already on board, a couple from Switzerland, Fabian and Nadine. We were soon joined by around 10 Filipino travellers. This was not luxury travel but everyone was friendly and only one person got travel sick, so all good.
So, a mere 5 hours later we arrived in Sabang.
There is not a great number of accommodation choices in Sabang and having left It late to book, we were left with one choice, Daluyon.
It turned out that Fabian and Nadine were staying at the same hotel. We walked from the van along the beach to the hotel. Wow, the poshest place yet on our tour. The hotel is just lovely. A gorgeous swimming pool with swim up bar – fancy!! Our room was bigger than my first flat.
The staff were also lovely, particularly when you embarrass yourself as I did………..At breakfast I went to get some fruit juice. Next thing, loud clattering sound as I knock the top off the juice dispenser it bounced and rolled along the floor, making as much noise as possible and would you believe it, straight into the stream that runs alongside the resort. Brilliant, there wasn’t a person around that couldn’t see what I’d done! The staff had to fish it out of the stream!!
The local beach was long and beautiful. A few of the other guests had issues with sand flies, but luckily, we weren’t bothered by them. Worth noting that it isn’t possible to get deet in the Philippines, so if you suffer with bites, you’ll need to bring your own. We did find that a locally available Tiger Balm natural product was very effective though.
Its fair to say that we loved Daluyon. The hotel is just beautiful and a complete luxury compared to our other accommodation choices.
The Underground River
Everybody comes to Sabang to visit the Underground River.
It’s in a protected area located about 80 kms north of Puerto Princesa. The underground river entrance is a short hike or boat ride from Sabang.
In 2010, a group of environmentalists discovered that the underground river has a second floor, which means that there are small waterfalls inside the cave. They also found a cave dome measuring 300m above the underground river, rock formations, large bats, a deep water hole in the river, more river channels, and another deep cave, as well as marine creatures and more. Deeper areas of the underground river are almost impossible to explore due to oxygen deprivation.
In 2011, Puerto Princesa Underground River was provisionally chosen as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.
Our Float Through Nature
We agreed with Fabian and Nadine to pay for the 4 of us to get a private boat. We thought that this would give us the best chance for getting a good view etc.
The next morning, bright and early the 4 of us set off to get our tickets. You have to register for a pass the day before and then get it endorsed on the day of entry. You can buy ready made tours, but they are more expensive for exactly the same experience.
The jetty was empty but for 3 other people. They wanted to share the costs so the 4 of us ended up having a boat with 7 people. It was absolutely fine, it was not a problem to see around.
The first noisy boat took us across the bay to the entrance to the underground river. This journey only takes 10 minutes or so but can be bumpy, even cancelled in bad weather.
On arrival we were given life jackets and led down to the river. It was very peaceful and we were handed headphones for the tour. In order to keep everyone quiet, the guide at the front of the boat advised that open mouths may end up filled with bat poop – eeewww!!!
It fair to say that the underground river is pretty stunning. The geology and vastness is breathtaking (with a closed mouth). The guide seems to be able to make shapes from the stalagmites and stalactites, like a vegetable market, animals, St Paul’s Cathedral etc. Greg and I don’t have the imagination to see it, but it was entertaining all the same.
We returned to base and were greeted by a monitor lizard and macquet monkey. A few happy snaps later and we were back on the boat. Fabian and Nadine decided to take the hike back. It was just too hot and sweaty for us, so we just went to the pool. May as well make the most of our fancy facilities.
Eating in Sabang
We had dinner in the lovely Agkarawat, where we had a lovely vegetarian meal. The local kids were practicing kung fu when we arrived, and spent the evening watching Bruce Lee on Greg’s phone. It was very funny to watch.
The other places were pretty average and the hotel was just too expensive. The sunset was beautiful every night, so the food tasted better anyway.
One upsetting thing about Sabang, were the dogs again. They were so skinny and I worried about their future.
Our next stop is Port Barton, where we will meet up with Fabian and Nadine again as we’ve both chosen Deep Moon Resort to stay there.
Have you been to the Underground River? Are you thinking of going to the Philippines and would like some advice? Leave us a comment below and we’ll respond.
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