In a bid to beat the crowds, we arrive in Sabang after nightfall, and the sight we see the next morning comes as a nice surprise. We sleep a few steps from the beach, where waves quietly end up on the white sand. The bay is surrounded by a bright green forest, and we quickly make our way to the pier where we wait for a boat to take us to the entrance of the subterranean river. The ride on a traditional bangka across the bay is a bonus: morning rays of sunlight shining through the mist rising from the surf. We sail into a small bay with spectacular limestone cliffs as guardians, and are greeted by a monitor lizard and a monkey on the beach. A short walk takes us to the small boats, where we make the mistake to let the others board first, so we are in the back seats.
Listening to the explanations of the device we were given, we say goodbye to daylight as our boatman rows us into the opening of the limestone rocks. One of the first things we hear is to be absolutely silent, so as not to disturb the variety of fauna living inside the extensive cave system through which the subterranean river runs. It is 8,2 km long, and obviously it is pitch dark inside. Another recommendation is to close your mouth during the ride, especially when you look up, as you might catch droppings of the swiftlet birds and bats living in the darkness. As we glide over the quiet waters of the Cabayugan river, we listen to the explanations on our device. It is timed perfectly with the pace of our boatman, and we see formations which resemble animals, religious statues, vegetables and fruits, as well as famous persons.
Even though we are early, we encounter many other boats, some of which have people not respecting the rule of being quiet: they sing, make fun, laugh, flash their lights around the caves. Just imagine being later, with many more people in the cave system. Meanwhile, we are baffled by the beauty of the formations, which are brilliant when the torch of our boatman shines on them, and then disappear into the darkness. In some parts, we see hundreds of bats clinging to the cave ceiling: this enormous cave system is their home. In fact, the Italian's Cave is one of the largest known caves in the world. Besides its dimensions, the cave system holds rare, and perhaps unique, minerals, and even after 40 years has not been fully explored. Just a few years ago, a second floor of the river was discovered. Despite the nuisance of others not respecting this piece de resistance of Mother Nature, we are in awe when we finally sail into daylight again. Instead of taking the bangka back to Sabang, we take the Jungle Trail instead, taking us over limestone formations and through a thick forest to the white beaches just east of Sabang.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Puerto Princesa Subterranean River (Philippines). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Puerto Princesa Subterranean River. Read more about this site.