Sabang and the Underground River

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Sabang is the nearest town to the world famous Underground River.  It is a small little town along a strip of coastline, that seems like it was relatively untouched by tourism until a few years ago when the popularity of the Underground River exploded after it was named on the list of the Seven Natural Wonders.

We arrived in town after dark and it was pouring rain.  Amanda jumped out of the van with our bags, and took shelter in a little cafe on the beach near the bus stop.  Some friends that we had met in Puerto Princessa had ridden motorcycles into town earlier that day and and found a nice guide name Luis who met us at the bus stop.  Luis and I took a walk up and down the beach in the rain, looking for accommodations, but because we arrived so late, every single place was full.  When we were about to give up, he jumped on a friend’s motorcycle and took off.  A few minutes later, he came back and found me, and let me know that he found a place away from the beach a bit.  He said it was cheap but I should see it first.  So I hopped on the back of the bike, and we rode about 5 minutes to find a hut…with half inch gaps between all the boards, set aside from the road near a swamp for $15 US a night.  Perfect!  We picked up some mosquito coils at the nearby sari-sari (small stall/shops that sell a variety of mixed things, they had everything from baby shoes to beer), and enjoyed our night of pseudo-camping.

The next morning, we got up at 6am so that we could arrive in time for our 8am boat to the Underground River.  We met up with our friends form Puerto Princessa, jumped in one small boat from the beach (arranged by Luis who never asked for or expected a tip for any of his help), which took us to the to another island that was the launching point for the actual river.

The river was a really unique and cool experience.  Our bangka (local outrigger canoe) had a car battery in the front seat, that was hooked up to a powerful lamp.  We went about a mile into a mountain, which apparently makes it the longest subterannean river in the world.  The sound of the water in the cave was very soothing and the hundreds of bats added some excitement.  Our guide pointed out how all of the rock formations were scenes from the bible: the last supper, the three wise men, the virgin mary, and the big J himself.  My favorite line though was “The drips from the ceiling are Jesus’s tears, and the bat droppings are holy shit, so if you get splashed either way, it is holy”.

Sabang and the Underground River had a lot of natural beauty and they were cool experiences but Sabang has a long way to go if it is going to support the influx of tourists that are arriving due to its newfound fame.  We were ready to head up to the north of Palawan for some beaches, snorkeling, and diving, so we arranged for transport to El Nido for the following morning.  We were a bit surprised when we were woken up at 8am to see to a fully loaded (and I do mean “fully”) Jeepney waiting for us in front of our hut.  We scrambled to finish packing and when Amanda ran out and asked where we can sit, the driver simply pointed up.  So we climbed up top, nestled in with the sacks of rice, and prepared for our 90 minute ride through the jungle to the transfer point in Salvacion.

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Posted: April 20, 2012

Author: Adam and Amanda

Category: Asia, Blog, Continents, Philippines

+1 Comment
  1. [...] the fact that it was recently added to the list of the New Seven Natural World Wonders (similar to Sabang and the Underground River in the Philippines).  We were sort of thinking of skipping it but after hearing the glowing reviews from our new [...]

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