Why You Shouldn’t Miss the Underground River When you go to Palawan?

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park in Palawan is one of a kind habitat rarely found in any other part of the globe. Passages or routes of this the underground river are more than 24 km long and showcases various species of wildlife, rock formations, karst and massive chambers. The main province of the park, Palawan is one of the most visited places in the Philippine Island Archipelago. The province houses Saint Paul Mountain Range. This is where the famed Subterranean River Park is located considered to be a very spectacular place. Although the tourist spot is small in size, (approximately 35sq kilometers) it’s considered to be the most visited place in the island. These mountains have been formed from a dark grey limestone, which was formed in the Late Oligocene to Early Miocene age some 16 to 20 million years ago. The highest summit is the 1,027 m tall Mount Saint Paul. During the islands evolutions, thick layers of limestone was dissolved by torrential rains which resulted to intense processes that have resulted in the creation of dramatic karst landscape producing countless sharp limestone pinnacles, domes, sinkholes, shafts and massive caverns. Since time in memorial, the local Batak people already knew about the existence of large Underground River in these mountains but they believed that in the cave has an evil spirit living in it. This is the reason why the place has remained untouched for thousands of years. In written sources the underground river cave was first mentioned in 1887 by Dean C. Worcester a scientist from the University of Michigan.

Intense research of the various Karst formations has been undertaken over the last decades by Scientists from Australia, Italy, Germany, US and the Philippines and they have mapped out more than 24 kilometers of passages and collected rich historical materials from inside the underground river cavern. The cave entrance through which the underground river flows through is referred to as the Daylight Hole. It’s about 60 meters high and 100 meters wide. The entry path becomes a lot narrower as you reach the 200 meter stretch. The underground river also known as the Cabayugan River flows 8.2 km until it reaches out to the South China Sea. The Underground River is slow and smooth, in spite of the very high mountains rising above it. This Subterranean River passes the 1,027 meter high Mount Saint Paul just few hundred meters west from its summit. The River is about 8 meters deep whose navigability is about 4.2 km only. It used to be the longest underground river in the world until another one which is a lot longer was discovered in Mexico. The height of the tides in this region is approximately 1 meter while the tide wave goes as far as 6 km deep in the cave.rtisnab.ru

This has resulted to the creation of the largest known subterranean estuary in the world aside from it having the most unique habitat with diverse creatures living in it.  In 2007 – 2008 Italian speleologists (Scientist that specializes in the study of caves and karst formations) discovered in Puerto Princesa Subterranean cave one of the largest cave chambers in the world. Named as the “Italian’s Chamber” The hall is  approximately 360 meters long, 140 meters wide and 80 meters high . The Estimated volume of the chamber was approximated to about 2.5 million m³ which is so far the biggest find in this part of the world. Besides the main river entrance to the cave, there are other entries to which other small streams flows in to meet with the main Cabayugan River. Because of the risk factor involved the protocol when touring the underground river is to enter only through the main mouth of the cavern. The main entry point can be reached via a motorized boat or locally known as banca. As soon as tourists and visitors approach the mouth of the cave, they will be amazed by the dramatic seaside cliffs endowed with rich vegetations situated on cavern walls. Tourist boats are only allowed to travel 1.5 to 2 km inside the underground river but this is more than enough to see the various life forms that inhabits the place plus the countless beautiful and enormous speleothems such as stalactites, stalagmites and other rock formations.

Early inhabitants including the indigenous tribe that have remained in Puerto Princesa did not develop any kind of intense agriculture in this rugged landscape and as a result the whole of Saint Paul Mountain Range has been preserved to a point that 8 out of 13 various types of rainforest that is situated there have remained untouched allowing the park to be one of the best preserved natural ecosystems in the Philippines and perhaps in the world. The 8 type of Rainforest in this national park are extremely rich with varieties of animal and plant life. Even the inside of the underground river cavern is known to be rich with various flora and fauna. Besides the main cave there are many other underground river caves that the park boasts of with some of them more than 1 km long. A good example of this is the Nagbituka I Cave which is 650 meters long with 40 meters high waterfall inside.

The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park was actively established as a national park in 1971. The people, government and resident of Palawan had made sure that the park was kept as how it found hundreds of years ago. They were very successful in keeping the natural beauty of the Park which was located in Saint Paul Mountain Range and because of this was declared by UNESCO in 1999 to be a protected World Heritage Site. It was also during the turn of the century that global environmental organization pushed for the enlargement of the park to cover a bigger protected area to which the local and national government of the Philippines agreed to. More than ten years after the park was declared a protected natural sanctuary, one of the park’s features, the underground river was voted in as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature in 2012. This was the turning point for the park when the tourist spot became one of the most sought after place to visit in the world.

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