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Palawan Palawan Philippines Rivers Travel

Puerto Princesa: Journey into St Paul’s Underground River

Palawan Underground River

I kept hearing “UR” over and over on a conversation one night on my first trip to Puerto Princesa with other bloggers. I kept nodding my head to agree and then have to ask “What’s UR again?” I was thinking “Usual Route” but it turns out to be the popular term for the “Underground River” there. Oh hell with the names whether it’s St Paul’s Cave or St Paul’s Subterranean River, we’re going there now and it sure isn’t hell from the views I’ve seen on a boat from Sabang to the entrance of this famed UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Entering Saint Paul's Underground River
Entering Saint Paul's Underground River

I kept hearing “UR” over and over on a conversation one night on my first trip to Puerto Princesa with other bloggers. I kept nodding my head to agree and then have to ask “What’s UR again?” I was thinking “Usual Route” but it turns out to be the popular term for the “Underground River” there. Oh hell with the names whether it’s St Paul’s Cave or St Paul’s Subterranean River, we’re going there now and it sure isn’t hell from the views I’ve seen on a boat from Sabang to the entrance of this famed UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Tuturinguen Point Karst hides the beach jump-off
Tuturinguen Point Karst hides the beach jump-off

From the Sabang Pier, the ride to the jump-off point of the UR is at least 10 minutes. It was a pleasant ride with nice views of the amazing karst formations that seem to have been a common characteristic of Palawan. We took a sharp right turn on the rocks called Tuturinguen Point where it hid a small stretch of nice beach where most of the boats dock. Swimming here is also not allowed.

Monitor lizards
Watch out from crossing monitor lizards along the way

From the beach there’s still a short walk to the St Paul’s cave opening. We followed a wooden footbridge passing by a dense growth of forest. I’m actually impressed on how they managed this National Park. The place is still pristine, and if you’re lucky, you might pass by a few monitor lizards and macaques veering out of the Monkey Trail.

Wooden foot planks along the trails
Wooden foot planks along the trails

On green brackish water where the sea meets the river is where most of the boats are launched to the mouth of the cave. Strict rules are implemented here like wearing the bright orange life vest and helmets after registration. Boats can only accommodate 8 persons plus + guide who’ll be paddling the boat. The two persons in front will be the powerful torch-light bearers.

Boat Station for UR
Boat Station for UR

The journey into the 1.7km (back and forth) pitch black bowels of this 8km subterranean river was surreal. It’s really an impressive network of caves, stalactites and stalagmite formations. Just don’t look up or in awe with your mouth open. Water drips along the way. Even bat pee.

Another group heading back
Another group heading back

The experience also depends on how good your guide is as he’s the one to give the story and shape in this dark world. Good thing they would undergo training and don’t try throwing them into the water if they spurt out some really corny jokes. In the couple of times I’ve been there, I’ve been fortunate enough to have good guides. The UR Tour takes about an hour.

The famous UR Highway
At the famous UR Highway

I like the underground river but if I ever come back here, I’ll definitely try the longer route that spans up to 3km of the whole network. I will do the Monkey Trail instead of the boat ride. I had friends before who took that trail and boy they do have exciting stories to tell.

From the UR jump-off beach, our boat went straight to Sabang Beach. We had our lunch there first before heading back to our hotel in Puerto Princesa. We were a bit pressed for time heading back since we have an afternoon flight. But we did made in back with enough time to freshen up before heading to the airport.

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Join our Backpack Photography Photo Tours and Workshops for early 2011. Banaue Photography 101 for beginners on February, Bewitching Siquijor Photo Tour on March 2011 and Batanes Island Hopping in April 2011

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