Published: July 18th 2011July 18th 2011
On Wednesday I took a tour to the Subterranean River, Sabang. I was picked up early at around 7 and then had a two hour van journey to Sabang. To get there we had to travel to the other side of the island through the forested mountains which make up a large part of central Palawan. The main road is fairly slow with many ups and downs, twists and turns but the scenery kept my mind off the buffeting inside the van. Sabang has an amazing beach and is lovely with coconut trees overhanging the sand. We weren't to stay there long though because we boarded a Bangka (pump-boat) which took us around the head to a smaller beach (again lovely) and the entrance to the Subterranean River Park. After we had queued to buy entrance tickets and inadvertently signed a petition to make the park one of the natural wonders of the world (it's funny how we were asked to sign the form before we had actually seen the river) we set off down the path to the river boats which would take us in. On the way, a large Monitor lizard crossed the path right in front of us
and when we got to the boat station two monkeys came out of the forest (probably looking for food to steal) which was really cool, they weren't scared at all and came extremely close. A short wait later and we boarded the boats for the tour. The entrance to the tunnel looks pretty eerie with Swifts flying around the entrance and a musty scent from their droppings (it does feel like something out of Indiana Jones). Inside though it is pitch black and all you can see is the torch out in front and every so often other boats. The guide was good, cracking jokes and pointing out all the formations within the cave which were often massive and imposing although they didn't always look like the people or objects the guide said they were named after. The walls were mainly smooth and shiny as water ran down them constantly and there was dripping water from the roof which could have been bird/bat sh*t for all I knew - just keep your mouth shut as you look up! The cave got larger and smaller in different sections with the highest point at 65m. My pictures haven't come out too well
because the flash wasn't powerful enough to illuminate the walls/formations but they were good. The tour lasted about 45 minutes but we didn't go all the way through as the tunnel becomes difficult to navigate with a large boat (8 people). After the tour it was back to Sabang for a barbeque on the beach and then back to Puerto.
Thursday came and it was time to travel up to El Nido, which is the main town for access to the Bacuit archipelago. The journey up took about 6 hours, through the mountains again, but it was much more cramped. At one stage we had 15 people and their luggage on board a van designed for 12. The driver was sat on a passenger in the driver’s seat for much of the journey and he did rather well considering a third of the route has no road, only dirt and gravel track – with many potholes. I got there in one piece and checked in to my hotel on the beach – I stepped out of my door onto the sand with a hammock, between two coconut trees, waiting for me. Out over the sea stands Cadlao Island – imperious;
with its karst limestone cliffs (Clive, I may have the terminology wrong) reaching high into the air. El Nido is surrounded by the same cliffs and all the islands in the archipelago are formed in the same way leaving extremely jagged and breath-taking scenery – at times I felt like I were on a film set and the cliffs weren’t real.
The main activities in El Nido are diving and island hopping and all the tour operators run the same four tours, A-D, for a set price so I booked tour A for Friday and tour C for Sunday. The islands are simply amazing with crystal clear water, colourful coral reefs and fish, hidden beaches, lagoons and plenty of sunshine – this really was paradise. The highlights for me were the big and small lagoons on Miniloc Island because they are the types of scenery you only get to see in films. Some of the beaches and lagoons can only be accessed through small holes in the rock which are surrounded by jagged edges and coral so you feel like you’re on an adventure all day.
On Saturday, I hired a guide to take me to the top of the
mountain overlooking the town so that I could see the view. The guide assured me that there was a path to the top and we could do it without climbing gear - he was so confident that he did in his flip-flops. I soon discovered that there was no path to speak of and climbing was the only way to the top. It was very tiring and so hot but the view was worth every ml. of sweat. Out in front I could see the whole town, the three mountains on Cadlao Island and the other islands off in the distance – amazing!
Today I’m back in Puerto Princesa after another long van ride and tomorrow I’m flying to Coron for more treks, beaches and snorkelling.
There are more photos below