Are you having difficulties in arranging your trip to Puerto Princesa Underground River? Or are you worried because you don’t know what to expect during the tour? Is the tour already fully booked? – These questions and more popped in our minds when we decided to go to the world famous underground river/cave of Palawan Island.
We had these questions because we didn’t book the Underground River ahead of time. In fact, we made the decision to go when were already in Palawan.
I bet that you have the same questions if you’re planning to visit the Puerto Princesa Underground River (also known as St. Paul Cave).
I will try to answer some of your questions. So read (and follow) this list of 7 important things that will surely give you hassle-free tour in Puerto Princesa Underground River:
1. Book the Tour before Going to Palawan
Due to being recognized as one of the New 7 Wonders, Puerto Princesa Underground River was placed to international attention. Hordes of tourists descend to Palawan to visit this river. Thus, it is advisable to book your Underground River Tour before going to Palawan.
There’s no online booking for the tour. The official website of the Underground River only provides info and nothing else. The best way to have an advance booking is through the hotel where you’ll stay. Hotels in Puerto Princesa usually are connected with travel agencies.
However, if you found yourself in the same situation as us then you will have to go to a more tricky process. But don’t despair because there’s hope (especially if it is not the peak season). Read my post on how we obtained the entry permit walk-in visitors to know the trick in joining a tour to the Underground River.
2. Be Mindful of the Weather
Visitors to the Underground River have to ride an outrigger boat. This means that Underground River tour is very much dependent on the prevailing weather. Expect tours to be cancelled during inclement weather. I read of sad stories of tourists who waited in vain for the good weather. Many of them had no choice but to leave Palawan because of their tight schedule.
Take note that June to October is the typhoon season in the Philippines so it would be good to go to Palawan in the months of November to May.
3. Never Forget: Patience is a Virtue
It took us more than an hour of waiting at Sabang Wharf and the entrance to cave. I read that other tourists waited much longer. With the great number of visitors to the Underground River, you should expect to wait. I guess your Underground River tour would be the best opportunity to test your patience.
4. Beware of the Monkeys Thieves
Monkeys inhabiting the forest around the Underground River are no longer afraid of humans. In fact, they consider humans as source of food. These monkeys are attracted to sound of plastic bags because they think there’s food inside. So, hold your bags and gadgets tightly unless you want to give them away to the monkey thieves.
5. Bring Powerful Flash for Better Photos
St. Paul Cave is very dark and the light used during the tour is not bright enough for good photos. So it is advisable that you bring a camera that has flash. I used a Lumix point-and-shoot camera which, unfortunately, is not enough to brighten the rock formations that I was photographing. A camera with a powerful flash will surely give you beautiful shots of the stalactites, stalagmites, and columns.
6. You May Need an Audio Tour
Boatmen/cave guides can speak English but there were times that they speak in Filipino. You will not understand the jokes and other things that he is saying. If your very particular in understanding the wonders of Underground River then you must get an Audio Tour.
The Audio Tour is available at a booth before you enter the forest trail. IWelshCo at TripAdvisor said that you should listen to the audio tour before entering the cave because the voice of the boatman and the echo will make it difficult for you to listen to the audio tour.
7. Don’t open your mouth
Make sure to keep your mouth shut especially when looking up. St. Paul Cave is inhabited by bats and some of their poo might drop into your mouth. Bat boo will surely ruin your tour (and may make you hate bats, Batman, Dracula, and all other thing related to bats).
Bonus Tip. Give Your Boatman a Tip
A boatman/cave guide paddles the 1.5 kilometer length of cave for 8 times a day. Their income is barely enough to support their daily needs. If you’re satisfied with their performance then giving them a tip is a great way of showing your appreciation.
The Park Management allows tourists to give tips to their boatmen. The only requirement is that you give the tip to a boatman/cave guide that performed well. This will make sure that the boatmen/ cave guides will do their best to please park visitors.
Puerto Princesa Underground River is a truly wonderful place. And every one must visit it. So drop your hesitations. Book a tour and book a flight and go to Palawan!
Read more of our adventure in Puerto Princesa Underground River:
How We Obtained the Permit to Enter the Puerto Princesa Underground River
Puerto Princesa Underground River Adventure Part 1: Playing the Waiting Game at Sabang Wharf
Puerto Princesa Underground River Adventure Part 2: Our Boat Ride to the Underground River
Puerto Princesa Underground River Part 3: Hidden Wonders of St. Paul Cave