Underground River

Underground River, Sabang, Palawan { Photo Credit: MarkAngelo - Source}

Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR), as you might have seen in my Grand Adventure Wish List is a national park with an 8.2 km subterranean river flowing directly into the sea within a limestone and karst mountain. It was nominated as one of the "New 7 Wonders of Nature", known to be the world's longest underground river4 kilometer of it is navigable. However only 1.5 km of it is commercially accessible from the sea and a special permit is required to access the rest of it.

Sabang Beach

Where is it located?
Contrary to its given name, the Underground River is not in Puerto Princesa. It is quietly tucked away in Sabang, a surprisingly interesting beach town two hours away, roughly around 80 kilometers. Some can make it there in 1.5 hours via a tour van, but it's safe to keep it at 2 hours due to a lot of stops on the public jeepney loading and off-loading goods.

Sabang view from the pier
When is the best time to visit?
The park is open all year round. The peak season in Palawan is between November to March sometimes stretching to April, but the best time to visit is from January to May. The depth of the water in the cave is influenced by the tide so during the monsoon months of June-September, there are possibilities of the park being closed and tours being cancelled due to high tide and/or typhoons.

As expected during our trip, the calendar days even as far as the next two weeks were already fully booked. Since we had no fixed schedule in our itinerary and would like to keep this trip for last, we booked the available date and time -the day before our flight departure from Palawan.

We decided to do the trip ourselves and not through a tour operator.


What is this  Visitor Entry Permit (VEP)  and who takes care of it?
  • There is a no-permit no-entry policy in the Underground River.  
  • They are issued by the PPUR Office located at the Ground Floor of City Coliseum along National Highway, Bgy. San Pedro, Puerto Princesa.
  • They strictly observe a first come first serve basis in allowing a maximum of 900 visitors inside the cave per day.




How to apply for a Visitor Entry Permit (VEP)?
  • Passports or Valid Identification Cards (ID) are required for booking a VEP.
  • There's usually a long queue. A small number is handed by the lady at the entrance of a small office. 

As we waited for our number to be called, we watched a group of French tourists miss their chance to visit this popular ride, because there were no more available slots for the day. However, we found a German couple who traveled a bit with us who came all the way from Coron and were lucky to be able to get permits on the day at the pier in Sabang.

How much? (Currency in Philippine Peso)


Note:  Once you have your permits, the dates cannot be changed anymore.

According to one of the PPUR staff, they are currently working on an online booking system that will be available soon, sometime middle of this year.

Do they accept walk-ins?
Yes, they have reserved slots of about 100 per day for walk-ins and you're most likely to get this during weekdays -Monday to Thursday.

Contact:
Underground River Booking Office
No. 350 Rizal Avenue, Bgy.Bancao-bancao
Puerto Princesa City 5300, Philippines
Email:  info@puerto-undergroundriver.com, undergroundriver_ppsrnp@yahoo.com
Website: http://www.puerto-undergroundriver.com/

Sabang Booking Office
Telephone Number: +63 (48)7230904
Telefax: +63 (48) 4342509

**For a higher success rate, the City Coliseum office is the best place to check. Otherwise, stay in Sabang and approach the PPUR Tourism Office at the Sabang Pier first thing in the morning. We heard that they don't usually accept walk-ins in Sabang Pier Office, but the German couple traveling with us who were assisted by Dab-Dab Resort (where they stayed) luckily managed to get permits at the Sabang Pier, scheduled the next morning.

What if I want a hassle free tour without being bothered by permits?
These entry permits can also be taken care of by Tour Companies should you hire them from Puerto Princesa. Most hotels and inns offer tour references. These tours usually offer a day trip  including the van transport from your hotel in PP to and fro, a lunch buffet, boat hire and fees. There are reserved slots from each tour company/hotel.
A tour like this usually costs Php 3,500 (USD 86 / Eur 67) for a van of 6 pax. It's usually cheaper when traveling in a group.

Which is the best boat ride schedule?
The best time to enjoy the Underground River boat ride is the first trip around 8:30-9:30 AM-morning tour and this is possible if you're staying in Sabang. This will allow you to avoid the massive groups of tourists aboard vans at 10AM from Puerto Princesa.

Taken with the parked boats at the National Park
Once I've booked and I'm at the Sabang Pier on the day of our scheduled date, what's next?

Sabang Pier
To Do:
  • Present your Entry Permit at the PPUR Sabang Pier Office, located somewhere on the left of the Sabang Pier (photo shown above) along with a valid ID or passport. 
  • Be there at least an hour before your scheduled tour timing.
  • Proceed to the white tents (as shown in the above photo) to ride a boat. 
  • The boat has a maximum capacity of 8 passengers and a private boat costs Php 900 (USD 23/ Eur18)
Tip:  We found other tourists looking for "boat-mates" to fill up the boat and we split the fare with them. We were about 8 tourists in the boat- it was a win-win.

View during a 5- minute boat ride from Sabang Pier to get to the National Park
Puerto Princesa Underground River National Park Entrance
We were asked to log in, followed by zipping up life vest at the entrance. A short hike in this wildlife reserve where monkeys and monitor lizards can be spotted freely roaming about.


Tourists are then asked to board a smaller boat. The tour guide / boat man  will lead the trip and will be paddling on a 8 to 9 meter deep sea water inside a dark tunnel.

Note: The person sitting at the front of the boat is always designated to be in charge of the torch lamp. 


River Experience
Guess what?
Please don't look up with your mouths open. Bat droppings are special treats inside the cave.

There's a rich wildlife inside. There is a large community of bats, birds, tarantulas, and reptiles living in there. I once watched a National Geographic documentary about a special specie of spiders found inside the cave.  More snakes can be spotted during the rainy season.

Cave Entrance
For those planning a trip there, hope this post helps you plan a stress-free trip. Now I understand why my friends kept asking, "Have you been to the Underground yet?" It was definitely an unusual experience. 

Other related articles you might be interested in:

 How to Get to Sabang from Port Barton
 How to Get to Sabang from Salvacion

Do you think this cave boat ride is something that would interest you? Do you like caves?
Was there a particular cave experience that you really liked? Where and when was it?


Happy Easter everyone!

XOXO,
Arni

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{All mentioned costs are subject to change. The prices mentioned were valid during the published date of this post.}

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4 comments

  1. I've always wanted to visit too, but I didn't know about the 900 people per day cap. Handy piece of information. And I love how the sign with the costing uses the term 'differently abled' that warmed my heart xoxox

    ReplyDelete
  2. Talk about an amazing experience (although I must admit to shuddering about the tarantulas and snakes). This is so useful, as ever, I am bookmarking this for my future trip!

    ReplyDelete
  3. This place is gorgeous no wonder it would be considered another Wonder of the World. Your are so lucky to travel so much.

    xo,
    Cindi
    Breakfast at Cindi’s

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi

    We have booked the Underground River Tour very convenient thru http://ppur.com.ph

    We really recommend it!

    ReplyDelete

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