One couldn’t go to Puerto Princesa without making a stop at the Underground River, one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature since January 28, 2012. Tita Carmen arranged everything for me and I was paired with my cousin Olivier, who is a guide there.
The underground river has to be accessed by boat, because access by road has been deemed detrimental to the fauna in the park. It is an 80 km drive from Puerto Princesa to the boat boarding point.
The cave itself is more than 24 km long, but the underground portion of the Cabayugan river is 8.2 km long. Major formations of stalactites and stalagmites are a main attraction of the cave, and the guides have quite a bit of imagination when it comes to describing them. The cave also has several large chambers, including a 360-meter-long Italian Chamber that has an approximate volume of 2,5 million square meters. Luckily for you, you get to see this chamber (which is one of the largest cave rooms in the world) during the tour. Until the discovery in 2007 of an underground river network (cenotes) in the Yucatan Peninsula, this underground river was reputed to be the world’s longest underground river.
A few facts about the underground river:
- It spans over two level
- There are some small waterfalls inside the cave
- Nine species of bats and two species of swiflets inhabit the cave
- Whip spiders can be found in the deeper parts of the cave
- There are deep water holes in the river
- Some channels are branching off of the main river
- You could suffer from oxygen deprivation in the deepest part of the cave (which is restricted to scientists for now)
To visit the underground river, you need a permit as this is a mean to control the number of visitors which has been set to 900 per day to protect the fragile habitat of the underground river and not disturb its animals beyond what they can take. It is generally recommended to obtain this permit 2 weeks in advance, although I have obtained mine the day before directly from the city office (which is doable, but not recommended if you really don’t want to miss it).