Facts About the Underground River in Puerto Princesa
The Underground River northeast of Puerto Princesa is a favorite destination among tourists, both local and foreign, because it offers a unique view and experience of natural limestone formation overarching a river. In reality, the river is not under the ground as you may think relative to sea level but just a little above the sea level as its waters flow out to St. Paul Bay adjoining it.
How do you get to the underground river?
The underground river is about a two-hour ride (76 kilometers away) by land vehicle from downtown Puerto Princesa northwest of the city. It is located within the declared protected area known as the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park or PPSRNP. Before reaching the park, tourists can get a glimpse of the scenic landscape of Tagabinet where the notable Ugong Rock, a cave formation offering a caving experience to tourists a few hundred meters from the concrete highway can be found.
What’s inside the underground river?
Once inside the underground river on board a fiberglass boat, tourists can have an entertaining ride as the boatman tells stories about the different formations of stalactites and stalagmites along the corridors and open chambers within. There are formations that look like the holy family, a mushroom, a horse, a naked lady, a cacao fruit, among others.
In open chambers, bats chatter and occasionally let out their poop. It’s a good idea that the tourists all wear helmets as they traverse the recesses of the underground river. Besides, it is possible that some loose stalactite might fall off the roof of the cavern. Safety is a primary concern of the operators so each tourist needs to wear a helmet and life vest.
Although the underground river is known to be 8.2 kilometers long, only 4.3 is easily navigable for tourists to see. A special permit is required to explore the inner portions where it is possible to wade through the waters. The underground river in the city of Puerto Princesa was once reputed to be the world’s longest underground river until the discovery of an underground river in Mexico.
Biodiversity in the park
The diversity of life in an underground river and vicinity is very high. According to reports, more than 800 plant species of plants were identified within the park. This very high diversity of plants is able to support a diverse range of animals notably the monkeys and the monitor lizards that tourists can even feed. Precaution must be exercised, however, as the monkeys at times will approach unwary tourists and suddenly grab a camera or snack food. Birds, likewise, abound in the park. About 65 percent of the birds in mainland Palawan can be found in the park.
A day’s visit may not be enough to tourists who would like to commune with nature. Various amenities are able to cater to tourists who need to spend more time in the park. Lodging inns and houses are available as well as restaurants featuring various cuisines. If not, tourists who have not rented a van will just have to ride a local bus to get back to downtown Puerto Princesa.