The Underground River is considered one of the 7 wonders of the world and therefor a Must See if you are in the area. Only Jesper and Noah went however since Line did not feel like taking the 2 our drive there (calling it the Puerto Princesa Underground River seems to be a marketing stunt since it is pretty far from the city)
Getting there turned out to be much harder than expected. We were picked up by the mini-van around 7 and arrived at the pier around 9. From the pier you need to take a boat to be transferred to the beach where you can enter the river. Unfortunately the river had been closed the day before because of Christmas so twice as many people were lined up. Adding to that an extremely low tide making it difficult to get the boats to the pier it was the recipe for a very long wait time. 1,5 hours later our guide decided that we should do an early lunch instead. Unfortunately the line speed up considerably during that time which meant that we missed our number and had to wait another hour before it was our turn. 12.45 – 3 hours an 45 minutes after arriving at the pier we finally boarded the boat that would take us the 15 minutes ride to the beach.
Arriving at the beach we were lucky enough to spot a few monkeys but unfortunately also an incredible amount of Homo Sapiens waiting to board the small boats that should take us inside the river.
With a fantastic beach right in front of the river and a beautiful setting it did not seem so bad though. To our (bad)luck however this was pretty much the only beach in the Phillipines where swimming was not allowed (we still cannot find out why that is and how that should “protect” the outflowing water of the river). So being practical and not able to get a reasonable answer from anyone we chose to ignore the restriction.
And who wants to miss a chance at playing with the 12 pictures per second feature on the camera with a setup like this:
Finally at 2.30 (7,5 hours after being picked up in Puerto Princesa) we entered the Underground River. Had we known it would take so long we might not have done it but once there the 45 minute ride inside the river was fantastic. We tried to take pictures but you need professional equipment to capture the 65 meter tall atriums inside and the many rock formations. It is so amazing that you almost forget the bat pooh dripping from the ceiling 🙂 At least until the guide warns you not to look up while opening your mouth to say “wow”. To keep the tour quiet and not disturb the many bats and birds that inhabit the river – everybody is given a set of earphones and an audio recording guiding you through the many aspects and formations of the river. The river stretches 11 km. under the entire mountain but you only get to go about 1,5 km inside and actually many kilometers of side-streams remain unexplored – and probably still will be many decades to come.
Fortunately we were with a great group of people which made all the waiting time much more enjoyable.
Most tour-companies offer the chance to go by Ugong Rock on the way back to Puerto. It is a 75 meter high rock where you can do a light version of spelunking and caving to get to the top and ride a Zip-Line all the way down. It costs 450 pesos for the standard zip-line and 550 if you want the super-man version going down the other side. It is government sponsored and run by a local community where it provides a much needed extra income. Usually it is a majority vote among the group whether to go or not. Noah had made it clear that he looked as much forward to this as the underground river so Jesper had spent some of the time waiting lobbying for our group to go. That worked and it was a clear 80% for going and 20% blank votes.
It was a very nice experience. Some of the steeper parts of the climb can be challenging for a 5 year old so you need an adventurous kid of that age if you consider going.
Everything went well however and both Noah and Jesper opted for the Superman version on the way down. Jesper managed to get a few pictures of Noah flying down the zip-line.
You would expect a 5 year old to be ecstatic after a 21 second flight from 75 meters down a 400 meter long zip-line. Noah seemed a bit sad however. First Jesper thought that it might have been to scary but it turned out that he was just disappointed because he forgot to “flap his wings” like a bird on the upper part of the zip-line.
We should have been back in Puerto around 3pm but due to the extreme amount of wait-time it was almost 7.30pm before we found ourselves back at Subli Guest Cabins after a long day.