It takes a few hours to drive the winding road from the city of Puerto Princesa to Subterranean River National Park. Surrounded by a rich eco-system packed with birds, flora and fauna, the park is home to the world’s longest navigable underground river, an 8.2km waterway that creeps into a limestone cave. Bucket listers don hardhats and flashlights, with a guide rowing the first kilometre so you can enjoy the sweeping bats and striking cave formations. As the cave mouth slowly disappears, the acrid smell of guano is accompanied by the sensation that a great beast, complete with rows of sharp stalagmite teeth, is swallowing you whole. The boat doesn’t go all the way. At a cut-off point, your guide turns the boat around reassuringly towards the light at end of the tunnel. As with many experiences on the bucket list, your journey makes the destination.
Length of Trip : Although the boat ride is only an hour long, factor in a full day for the journey and some time to explore the trails and beach.
Cost : Round trip tours from Puerto Princesa cost about US$40 per adult, US$30 for children. You can certainly do the trip travelling independently, but tours will save you a lot of hassle with driving, boat rental, and permits.
Best time to go : Peak season is October to April, when it can get busy. May to September is typhoon-free season.
Wheelchair friendly : Contact operator if arrangements can be made.
Family friendly : Yes
Where to eat : Tours typically include a buffet lunch at a nearby beach restaurant.
Getting There : It's a two hour drive from the capital of Puerto Princesa to Sabang Port, where you'll buy tickets for the excursion. From here, it's a short but very sweet ride on a banca (a traditional outrigger) where you'll meet a guide on the beach and walk for five minutes on the jungle "Monkey Trail." Look for monitor lizards and mischevious monkeys!
Note from Robin : For your paddle into the cave, you'll be given a life vest and hard hat, although safety is not an issue. Don't worry, bats rarely hit people! As with all cave excursions, taking photos is very challenging. Better to just enjoy the experience. Boats can hold 8 passengers, and have a spotlight you can use to look at the formations. Even if it's very busy, only 10 boats are allowed in at a time. Audio guides are provided, although some bucket listers might prefer to listen to the sounds of the cave. Once you're back in glorious daylight, consider the one hour hike on the Monkey Trail back to Sabang, or enjoy the warm seas on the boat ride back.