Hello from the island of Palawan in Philippines. This island has been cited as the most beautiful one in the country, and it certainly has been impressive by far. The island still has the natural feel, meaning that it has not been overrun by tourist – the resorts are next to little villages, and touristy hagglers are still rare.
The key attraction of the island, besides little islands and deserted beaches for snorkeling and diving would most certainly be the Underground River – called to be one of seven new natural wonders of the world. Getting there is not easy, so be prepared to book your tour in advance. You don’t need a tour guide, but they do make it easier for you.
Before booking a tour you need to get a permission from the government to visit the site – you can do that either in the government building in Puerto Princesa, or in the village of Sabang Beach where the boats depart for the Park. You need to show the passport when getting the permission as well as on the day of the tour when you pick up your tickets and pay the local tax at departure point. The permission for four (including two half-priced kids) cost PHP 700 (a bit under 20 USD) for us – and we were really lucky to get walk-in tickets as the tour operators I found online all cited the tours being fully booked for weeks ahead!
You will be assigned your own boat for the tour – the ride there takes about 15-20 minutes in little, traditional narrow wooden boats (very loud engines though) and then the river tour will be another 45 minutes or so. This little national park is located on a beautiful, secluded beach and the park has also plenty of plants and animals – little monkeys included so don’t bring any food with you (we saw monkeys stealing a back of crackers from someone’s bag).
The river tour flows at leisurely pace and covers a couple of kilometers. The first row passengers get to hold a torch and point it at formations based on the instructions of our guide. Be prepared for darkness, flying bats and water trickling on you throughout the journey. This is an interesting experience and something rather unique, so definitely worth the journey!
An island so peaceful still – the number of tourist is limited and one needs to apply a permission to vist the place in advance from the government