Puerto Princesa and the City
An hour’s flight from Mactan Cebu International Airport Puerto Princesa is the hub for Palawan island and the starting point of our Puerto Princesa-El Nido Adventure.
We arrived at the New airport terminal just across from the old terminal. Deplaning from our aircraft using stairs is something new to me and is already a sure sign of great adventures to come.
The Airport lacks a formal transportation system to get you out from the terminal to the city, well the city is just a stone’s throw away anyway, so the minute you exit the terminal doors, you are all on your own. There is a myriad of taxis and tricycles waiting to be hired outside the terminal so we took the first tricycle driver we saw.
A 15 minute hop from the airport terminal to our Hotel, the airport side in, at first I had my doubts with the hotel, it was located a couple of meters from the main road and the side road was unpaved and dimly lit.
My initial doubt about our quaint accommodations was soon extinguished when we entered the hotel itself, I felt very at home despite its basic offerings. An open guest receiving area, multi-purpose hall, and dining area. it was excellent for the budget we had. We unpacked our bags and headed for some late-night exploring and see what the town had to offer.
A 15 minute walk from our hotel we arrived at the city center, The Palawan provincial capitol searching for a place to eat dinner. They had a provincial fair when we visited and food stalls occupied the park fronting the capitol. We decided to walk a little further and found the Balinsayaw Restaurant, famous among the locals , A great casual restaurant for our meager budget but huge appetite. After our meal, we took a tricycle back to our hotel and called it a night.
The Underground River
We started our day early and had our breakfast in the hotel enjoying the sound of birds chirping and the mellow scent of the trees that dotted our hotel. We had arranged our van to the underground river to pick us up early for the 3 hour journey to Sabang, the jump-off point to the underground river.
We had to share our van with fellow tourists to Sabang to cut costs and meet our budget this option usually puts you in a tour group where you cannot control your time. We had the unfortunate experience of waiting for our fellow van passengers for an hour.
The trip to Sabang continued after the delay without further incident from our fellow passengers. Surprisingly the road conditions to Sabang were great. the long and winding roads were well marked and potholes were distances apart, a far cry from what we have in Cebu. Local traffic is far between and houses are kilometers apart.
The route to Sabang was dotted with amazing views and landscapes and made me wish that we could stop just to take in the view. Towering limestone cliffs are spread across the landscape when you are near Sabang. As rice paddies disappear and turn into tropical jungles. We whizzed past elephant mountain, A site well worth stopping and one of the stops for Asia’s amazing race, Our tour guide remarked but made no effort to stop as our driver hurriedly made time due to our earlier delay.
As we arrived in the town of Sabang it was already high noon and we proceeded to have our complimentary lunch on the beach side just a few steps from the Van terminal. We hurriedly ate our lunch as storm clouds loom on the horizon. We still have a 30 min boat ride to reach the river itself.
The 30-minute boat ride was uneventful but the view was stunning, The beaches were picture perfect and you get a glimpse of the kilometer-long zipline on the shores. We made our landfall on the beaches mindful to wear our lifevest at all times even on solid ground, don’t lose your vest you’ll need it on the river tour. The beach we landed on was pristine and it’s well worth the mention. As we hiked inland to the mouth of the river we were greeted with an afternoon monsoon rain.
The monsoon rain poured heavily and the tours were stopped for almost an hour. We had to take cover on a bare structure with a roof that is barely able to house all the tourists stranded by the sudden outpour. We were deep in the forest and the heavy rain was amplified by the surrounding trees the distant calls of monkeys and the resounding thunderclaps left me in awe and made me appreciate more the power of nature.
As the rain subsided into a squall our local guides hastily continued our tour. The damp air and the thousand different sounds that congregate at the mouth of the river made me closer to nature than I ever was.
Our tour guide provided us with a multilingual device and a headphone that you need to wear so you can listen to a pre-recording of the river tour and its historical and geographical background. You must also wear the life jacket provided by the boat at all times and also wear a hard hat helmet provided at the mouth of the cave.
The tour took as 4.3km deep inside the cave. Numerous bats and even birds call the cave home. Large caverns filled with stalactites and stalagmites are spread across the length of the river. As our guide paddled our small boat water falling from the cave’s ceiling can be audible in all sections of the cave. As we passed chambers upon chambers inside the cave we could see rock formations that are jutting out from the cave walls or hanging from the ceiling, each rock formation affectionately given a name by the locals such as the Vegetables, the holy family, and fruits. The tour roughly took 45 minutes to complete.
you can view our video inside the cave just click the link: Undergroud river video.
After our underground river tour we hiked back to the beach front where our boat was waiting to take us back to Sabang. As we hiked back monkeys started appearing in our trail calling out to us as if asking for food, we were forewarned not to approach the monkeys as they have a tendency to grab your camera and cellphone. We still have a couple of minuets to frolic around and take pictures as our fellow tour mates slowly emerged from the forest. The boat ride back was uneventful but gave us a chance to mingle with our fellow travelers and share their experiences.
The 3 hour drive back to Puerto Princesa was again uneventful and we busied ourselves by checking the pictures we had taken earlier.
Puerto Princesa should be part of your list if you are planning to visit El Nido and Coron. Not only are the flights cheaper to Puerto Princesa than going directly to El Nido, regardless of the 6 hour trip from puerto princesa to El Nido itself, the 6 hour trip is also an adventure by its own right as you get a glimpse of Palawan from the van’s window if you manage to hold off sleep. You’ll also get to visit Honda Bay from Puerto Princesa , a fitting preview of the picture-perfect beaches to come.
So, Travel Wanderously…
For a complete album on the Photos we took at Sabang, feel free to visit our Facebook page: FB/Travelwanderous or click the link
by: Ishmael fusilero
You can view our complete album on our trip at : facebook/travelwanderous