Sabang Underground River National Park, Philippines-
There is a very pleasant, seldom visited fishing village on Palawan's western coast that is home to the Sabang Underground River National Park. The park, located in the town of Sabang, sits nearby a pristine expanse of rainforest, a long stretch of perfect beach, and the world's largest underground river. Running 8.2KM inland from the ocean, the underground river snakes its way through an impressive cave system that's prime for exploring by boat. The park guides will show you all types of limestone formations that resemble things like mushrooms, religious figures, and even a highway! To reach the underground river entrance you can either hike through the rainforest or hire a private boat to drop you there. Boat prices are fixed at 500 pesos (10USD) and can be arranged at the park permit office in the town center. If you decide to hike (highly recommended), you simply need to gather your camera and head north (face the beach and head right). As the trail heads into the forest you’ll pass a park office that offers mangrove tours and then cross over a wooden bridge before reaching the trailhead. You’ll have the choice of two trails: Jungle or Monkey. At their best in the early morning (7-10AM), the sounds of life waking in the forest are overwhelming and make this trip even more worthwhile. Both trails are roughly the same length, one takes in more of the rainforest, the other offers frequent views of monkeys on the rock formations. The best option is to start on Jungle trail and return on the Monkey trail. I say this because the Jungle trail will be full of animals making calls and rustling in the canopy in the early morning, not so in the early afternoon. It’s hard to explain just how much noise these wonderful animals make! Both hikes can take anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours to complete, depending on your speed and stamina. Neither is too grueling, steep, or uninteresting. The national park has been expertly maintained by various agencies and there is a great chance you will spot wild monkeys, goanna, snakes, birds, and other wildlife along the park's great hiking trails. The tree and plant species are also amazing. When the two trails merge you will need to descend a long stairway and register with the park ranger. The ranger will take you to the boat landing where you will gear up for the boat ride into the cave.
To access the national park, first find your way to Puerto Princesa, the capital of Palawan. This city is easily reached by plane or boat from the nation's capital of Manila, as well as a handful of other towns like Cebu City, Iloilo City, and Batangas. From Puerto Princesa, you'll need to take a bus or hire a private vehicle to reach Sabang which is about three hours drive northwest of the city. Public buses are plentiful and will cost only a few dollars; cars can be hired from the numerous travel agents that line the road in between the airport and the town center. Floral Travel, inside the Moana Hotel, is a good travel agency and is very near the airport. If you are left in Puerto Princesa after the last bus to Sabang has departed, don't fret, there are numerous great hotels, guesthouses, and pensions in town. For a quiet place to rest, try the Duchess Pension located two blocks behind Mendoza Park. There are also more up-market hotels near the airport
on the main road. All accommodation is easy to find and taxi drivers will be more than happy to take you to a nice place. Accommodation is also quite plentiful in Sabang where most hotels are located on quiet stretches of pristine beach, tucked under swaying coconut palms. When you arrive in Sabang, there is a helpful tourist information booth as well as an accommodation board, which lists and maps each hotel in town. Most accommodation is in traditional beach huts, but there are a couple of proper hotels in town. If a traditional thatched hut is on your mind, try Maria's Cottages (huts pictured in this gallery). If you're in the mood to shop there are a handful of souvenir shops and small restaurants near the pier; all resorts also have their own menus. Don’t forget to purchase your park permit while your in the town center; prices are 200P for adults, 100P for under 21 years of age, and 50P for children. These rates in dollars are $4 for adults, $2 for those under 21, and $1 for children. One last tip: though you may still have time to reach the underground river the day you arrive in Sabang, its best to relax at your beachside resort and head off to see the river in the morning when the hiking is at its best.
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