Cliff Threadgold Photography


The Underground River.

posted on 2013-08-17 22:09:57 in Philippines

A great day out even with the rain it didn’t matter. The hotel pick up was at 7.30am and for a change the van was early. As I am now used to working on Filipino time it means I was not ready! I must get back to old ways before I get home.

The journey to Sabang was quite comfortable in the mini van despite I manage to get the tiny “Jump Seat” by the door, 2 tours and twice I drew the short straw for seating.

The road to Sabang was sealed all the way with the exception of some minor road works. Towards the end of the trip it got a little windy but the scenery of limestone hills with forest and rice paddies in the foreground made up for it. The only drawback was the van had tinted windows and used AC so I was unable to take any pictures along the way.

plastic mac vendor

Getting off the bus we were all immediately confronted by several vendors selling plastic macs. Lifting my eyes away from them I had a little chuckle inside when I noticed hundreds of tourist wearing plastic mac’s and most of them blue! At that point I decided I was not going to be a lemming.

placky macs

The guide had to register our names for a permit and then we had to wait for a boat, the total time we had to wait was nearly 90mins. While it was a pain at the time, it was also a bit of a blessing too…


The ferry boats were all numbered and rotated through the numbers, we were allotted to boat number 49. About 60mins into the wait boat number 41 arrived unloaded, loaded and was off again. I watched the docking procedures carefully and admired how efficiently the captains, boatmen and dock crew worked through the system. Either the next 60 minutes went very fast or our boat came back earlier than expected never the less I was not going to complain about getting on a boat, I was itching to get to the river.

big waves

As we climbed aboard the captain insisted we put on a lifevest, I was a bit reluctant but with 2 coastguard police on the pier watching I didn’t want to get in trouble or the captain for that matter. The boat trip was about 30 mins to the river and the sea was like a highway with boats regularly passing. About halfway across I noticed a boatman going back give some strange hand movements to our captain, the next boat similar ones but a bit more forceful. When the third boat passed it looked as though the boatman was indicating a capsize the way he was rolling his hands, but that was probably my imagination. The sea had become a little rougher with about a 1 metre swell but was still comfortable. Then as we approached the final headland I saw some huge waves breaking around the point, certainly big enough for a good surfer to get excited about. Our captain slowed and skillfully maneuvered the boat around the headland and then I noticed a blue jandal or flip flop, then another, then I saw the boat, almost fully submerged with an outrigger broken, I don’t know if it did turn over fully or what happened to the people on board but I suddenly became very conscious of my camera and with heart racing a little with the huge waves baring down on us I was glad I had the lifejacket on. Thankfully our captain was superb and he made a safe run with the waves to the beach and I was glad to get my feet onto the sand.


The underground river has recently been named as one of the new 7 Natural wonders of the world. It is the longest underground navigable river at 1.5km and longest one in the world. The caves created over time can be dated to over 20million years ago. The entire area around the cave and river is a protected park where many native animals, reptiles, including giant monitor lizards, butterflies and of course birds thrive.

Outside the cave swifts and swallows swoop around chasing flies while inside 2 types of bats live in the cave. The cave is full of wonderful stalagmites and stalactites some of which are a brilliant display of natural art that do not need much imagination to see what the picture. Lots of vegetables including carrots, sweet corn and cabbage, a lions head, a naked woman, a nativity scene with the 3 kings and many others. The one I was most struck with was a portrait of ½ the face of Jesus like in the shroud of Turin, amazing!

cave formations

The highest point in the main cavern was 65m and the widest place was 120m. There was an offshoot to the “Batcave” that was 200m and throughout the cave the constant noise of dripping water. Looking up at the ceiling we were advised to keep our mouths closed as there we 2 types of water that dropped from the roof, cold water – Holy Water and warm water – Holy Shit from the bats!

entering the cave

The rest of the boat trip went to plan and on our arrival back in Sabang we had a buffet lunch waiting for us. Fried fish, Pork adobo, a chicken dish, rice spring rolls and wait for it sweet potato, yes for you kiwis reading this Kumera. Now the Filipinos like lots of salt in cooking and also have a sweet tooth. This version of fried sweet potato took the work “Sweet” to another level. It must have been fried in some sort of sugar syrup. It instantly brought back memories of potatoes I once tried after spending 5 days on the Yangtze River, but that is another story.

Certainly I had a good day with lots of excitement and interest to finish my time in Palawan. Tomorrow I head back to Manila and plan to stay in a resort hotel just outside of Manila for my last night in the Philippines. I hope the rain holds off long enough so I can enjoy the use of their swimming pool before the long trip home.