Published: November 17th 2010July 17th 2010
We woke up early in Puerto and were ushered onto a nice minibus. We were then driven half an hour around the houses until we came to a rather plush looking hotel. We were then transferred to another minibus (slightly less nice) and then driven for half an hour round the houses until we were back at Banwa, where we picked up a trio of dutch people that we had met the night before whilst drinking in the hostel. An annoying start – but it didn’t curb my excitement too much as today we were heading to Sabang and to one of the nominations for the new “natural wonders of the world.”
The tour package to the subterranean river national park isn’t that cheap – but it is fixed for all tourist operators so there is no point in shopping around. The only way you may be able to make it cheaper is to get to Sabang yourself, pay to hop on one of the boats over to the national park and then arrange for the tour at the mouth of the cave. This did not sound too appealing to me, with the tour price you are guaranteed a place
on the river tour and all is sorted for you (Sue me).
It was a nice drive through mountain passes in the morning. When we got to the highest point on the road we stopped at a nice viewpoint and had a coffee whilst enjoying the view(point). The countryside is really pretty and we were beginning to see the Philippines properly. We met a man here who had stolen the room we had reserved at Banwa on our first night so we were reluctant to speak to him.
“Hello – did you just come from Banwa?”
“Yes we did.” Admittedly a bit blunt.
“You like the manager? She used to be my wife! Pretty no?”
“Errrr yeh, she was a nice lady.”
“I built that place 8 years ago.”
Ohhhhh thats why he was allowed to steal our reserved room. Fair play. I would expect that if I helped build the place. He was a Scandinavian man who had lived in the Philippines for 10 years and had a hand in a lot of the development in Puerto Princesa. It was quite extraordinary hearing about what the place was like only 10 years
ago - with some indigenous tribes, now inhabiting the interior in the deep south of Palawan, still around the outskirts of the city.
Sabang literally comes out of nowhere. This is a small town in a deep cove backed up by a large set of mounthills so you have to drive through a couple of dirt track type roads before you suddenly appear on a beautiful beach. This place really did take me back a little. I have been told about the beaches of the north in Palawan and the beauty found in the Bacuit Archipelago but this place had been overlooked (except by the Sheridan hotel). I thought it was stunning.
The beach sharply curves with the contours of the cove and is quite sizeable. The sand is soft and the water is clean (not the clearest I have seen though). The mounthills dominate either side of the cove and they go on for what seems like forever on the right side of the beach. The top of the beach is lined by some impressive palm trees and plenty of hammocks. The little town settles in the space between the mounthills at the back and the beach
at the front and is quite humble.
Anyway – on this day we had lunch at one of the larger hostels and then had a bit of time to spare so we went in the sea. It was really easy to lay in the shallows and relax here. It was then time to get on the boat across to the national park. You have your own time slots and the operation is run quite professionally here, with many of the same boats making the return trip. It reminded me a bit of waiting at the meat counter at Tesco. We landed on the beach and followed the short board walk to the entrance to the caves. It was a beautiful place but it was very busy. This is a main attraction of the Philippines, so expect it to be popular. We kitted up and got on our little miniature banka. The tour was very smooth, taking us 1km into the cave and then turning round and coming back. The tour guide was very knowledgeable and gave constant commentary. The natural beauty of the cave was awe inspiring – really is worth the money.
We had organised to stay
at Marry’s which is tucked away to one side of the beach – this gives you your own little stretch of beach and a beautiful, uninterrupted view. It wasn’t hard to secure cheap accommodation upon arrival so there is probably no need to book ahead. Marry’s was really nice if you want a quiet couple of days – it is only a 5 minute walk along the beach to all the restaurants and other accommodation but it still feels very isolated.
We spent two days here just relaxing. It was a really nice place for this purpose and I am glad we stopped here. There are a number of quite demanding trails that you can hike on a free day. They are well kept but make sure you pay the rangers fee at the main office on the beach before embarking on your journey! We didn’t complete a trail because we forgot to do this and because of the unbelievable amount of mosquito’s on the trail. The walk to the trail entrances is nice enough though as this place is really under developed and you have the place to yourselves. Some friends who completed the trail said it was
much more demanding than they thought and they did get bitten a lot regardless of the copious amount of repellent they were wearing.
I enjoyed my time in Sabang a lot. This is what I came to the Philippines for and I was not disappointed. There is not a lot to do here – but that is part of its appeal. I happily lazed on the beach, fished off the rocks and mingled with the locals. This place is hidden slightly in the shadow of the nearby hotspot of port Barton, so people often only pass through on their way to the national park but I would recommend staying to relax for a few days. There is a lovely charm to this place and it is stunning.
There are more photos below