If you need a little break from lying in a hammock by the beach or exploring a cultural city during holidays, then visiting the Underground River in Palawan, Philippines is a fantastic option to consider on your next vacation.
It takes about less than an hour to reach the Underground River from Puerto Princesa City to Barangay Sabang in Palawan (see map). The tour inside the cave is only an hour or maybe less. So what should you do for the rest of the day?
There are a few things that most tourists don’t know about when visiting the Underground River. Many of us would just be excited to see the stalactites and stalagmites in the cave or the rock formation surrounded by breathtaking turquoise waters. To make your trip more worthwhile, try these five things that are absolutely priceless.
1. Take a moment to view the Tres Marias Islands.
Have a quick stop to get a glimpse of the magnificent Trest Marias Islands on your road trip. You’ll pass by a small area where drivers and passengers can have a bathroom break. This is the same spot where you can have a free view of the islands, blue water and luscious mountains. Now that you know about this, don’t forget to bring a binocular.
2. Capture photos of monkeys and monitor lizards.
Once you reach the Underground River, you see monkeys near the photobooth, around the trees and on rooftops. Yes, they are all over the place! However, it’s not advisable to touch them. You may take photos of or with them but be careful when getting close to them as you don’t want them grabbing your hair.
Don’t panic and run when you see a monitor lizard or two sneakingly walking toward you. They are also everywhere. Worry not, they are usually harmless as long as you keep your distance.
Most importantly, do NOT feed these animals.
Palawan never ceases to amaze me! One of the things I like about this place in general is their advocacy in protecting the environment. Although the entire region is gradually developing in terms of infrastructures, the government and its residents are keeping the whole place clean and green and making sure animals live in their habitats (except some crocodiles and bearcats as you may see them in Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center, also known as the Crocodile Farm).
Fun Fact: Did you know they don’t allow locally harvested mangoes to be shipped out from the island? It’s true! My family liked the sweet flavor of the fruit (FYI I only eat green mangoes though) and wanted to take some home. It seems the taste of their mangoes is a little different than the regular ones you buy from standy-by vendors or at any supermarket. But the vendor said this product would be seized by authorities at the airport. It’s primarily because some mangoes are infested by an insect called mango pulp weevil.
3. Enjoy a zipline ride.
Do you see a rope lining over the water? That’s for zipline riding. I’m not sure how long this is but it’s situated in between the docking area in Sabang and the Underground River park. When we visited this place, we didn’t get the chance to do it. Why? We had no idea! And this wasn’t included in the tour. It would have been fun for sure. But, you have the option to do it.
Sabang X Zipline
4. Have a buffet of Filipino dishes.
I apologize I don’t have any photos of viands you may order when visiting the Underground River. But you, especially if you are an international tourist, must not leave the place without taking a plate full of white rice and Filipino foods from chicken or pork adobo to fried squash. Oh my goodness, I loved the fried squash. That was three years ago but I still remember how good it was. At one point I tried cooking back home but didn’t get the same taste and texture (what a shame haha!).
5. Interact with the locals.
Basketball is a phenomenal sports in the Philippines. It is embraced by almost Filipino men. You don’t need a large stadium to play this game. Just set up a net, get a ball and you’re good to go. That being said, why not play some hoops?
Maybe you can help the guys in charge of the motorized pump boats. It’s a good way to initiate a conversation too.
For young ladies and older women, you can just have a chit-chat with the residents or vendors. Even better if you can donate some used clothes, help with the chores or teach little kids some basic English reading or number counting.
Do you think you can add these five things to your itinerary when visiting the Underground River? Whether you choose one or all of them, your trip is definitely more rewarding if you can make most of your time doing a lot of stuff like what’s suggested above.
Also, remember to display an attitude of gratitude. Give back to every place you visit. Show love anywhere you go!