At a Glance |
The Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) is the most striking feature in the sprawling 22,200-hectare Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park. This park is one of three most visited UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Philippines, along with Vigan in Ilocos Sur and Banaue Rice Terraces in Ifugao.
See facts and trivia about:
• Puerto Princesa: The City in a Forest
• Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park
• Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR)
• Forests and Trees in the National Park
• Wild Animals in the National Park
• PPUR’s Notable Awards and Titles
Puerto Princesa: The City in a Forest
When you first step in Puerto Princesa, much of what you see is the bustling city center.
Puerto Princesa is a lot bigger than this, however.
The actual size of the city is three times the size of the city center. It’s so big (2,500 km2 in land area) that it’s twice the size of Rome.
With this land area, Puerto Princesa is not just the largest city in the Philippines. It’s also the greenest city in the country.
Outside the city center, the remaining two-thirds of Puerto Princesa is thick with tropical forests, mountain ranges, and long coastal beaches.
In short, Puerto Princesa is a city within a forest.
Over the past two decades, much effort has been done to preserve its natural beauty.
Mining, logging, and illegal fishing have been completely banned.
The local government also continues to plant thousands of endemic trees every year and guard the forests and the ocean.
With a robust environmental platform, Puerto Princesa continues to thrive and prosper, working hand in hand with nature.
• Puerto Princesa is the largest city in the Philippines
• It’s also the greenest city in the country
• One-third of Puerto Princesa comprise of the city center
• The remaining two-thirds is covered with thick forests, mountain ranges, and coastal beaches
• The city continues to thrive with its robust environmental platform
Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park
This natural landscape features a “mountain-to-sea” ecosystem covering more than 22,200 hectares.
The National Park is so massive it’s about four-fifths the size of Honolulu, Hawaii.
The entire park includes limestone mountain ranges, sweeping tropical forests, complex cave systems, and beautiful long white beaches.
Its biodiverse location is home to more than 800 plant species, 300 tree, 195 bird, 30 mammal, 19 reptile, and eight bat species.
The park’s distinguishing feature is a 30-million-year-old limestone karst landscape with a long and scenic underground river.
Known as the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR), this is the second longest navigable underground river in the world.
• The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the world’s New 7 Wonders of Nature
• The Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) is the most prominent feature of this park
• The National Park is so huge it’s four-fifths the size of Honolulu, Hawaii
• The National Park covers more than 22,200 hectares of biodiverse mountains, forests, and sea ecosystem
• It is also home to more than 1,350 species of wildlife, many of which are unique to Palawan
Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR)
Situated at the base of St. Paul Mountain Range, the Underground River is in itself an incredible experience.
Part of a complex cave system, the Underground River was shaped for millions of year by water streaming from the mountains, into the limestones, and out into the sea.
At 8.2 kilometers long, this watery tunnel would take you at least six hours if you were to take a paddle boat from end to end.
Only the first 1.5 kilometers is open to the public, though. Seeing the first 4.3 kilometers of the Underground River requires a special permit, while the rest is off-limits due to limited oxygen.
Tour guides often point at some of the prominent rock formations in the cave as well, including those shaped like a dinosaur skull and a naked lady.
The most awe-inspiring sections of the cave, however, are the chambers that are as big as cathedrals. These go as high as 75 meters.
If you get a special permit and go even farther along the river, you’ll discover bone fossils protruding on the walls.
These bones are 20 million years old.
You’ll also see unique, glittering natural rock formations, including clear-cut crystals and minerals found nowhere else in the world.
In 2010, environmentalists and geologists found a second floor to the river. This led them to believe there are waterfalls in the cave as well.
A standard tour to the Puerto Princesa Underground River takes about 45 minutes. The special tour covering 4.3 kilometers takes about six hours, back and forth.
Please note that the PPUR is one of the most popular and most visited destinations in the Philippines.
This means that it’s very touristy, but also very well-received. Just be patient. Once you experience this tour, you’ll understand why!
• If you were to boat along the entire length of the Underground River, it would take you about six hours from end to end
• Only the first 1.5 km is open to the public
• Exploring the first 4.3 km of PPUR requires a special permit
• The rest of the cave is off-limits due to the lack of oxygen
• Other than the cave’s natural formations, the most interesting things to see are glittering crystals and minerals found nowhere else in the world and the 20-million-year-old bone fossils embedded on the cave walls
• The boat tour inside the cave lasts about 45 minutes
Forests and Trees in the National Park
The National Park has a diverse range of forest formations.
Of the 13 forest types found in Asia, eight exists in this park alone. Incredible!
These include forests over ultramafic soils, forest over limestone soils, montane forest, freshwater swamp forest, lowland evergreen tropical rainforest, riverine forest, beach forest, and mangrove forest.
Researchers have also identified more than 800 plant species from 300 genera and 100 families.
These include at least 295 trees dominated by the beautifully trunked dipterocarp species.
In the lowland forest, large trees such as the Dao, Ipil, Dita, Amugis, and Apitong are common.
The oldest identified tree in the park is a mangrove tree of more than 300 years old.
• Of the 13 types of forests in Asia, eight exists in the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park
• The park has 800 identified plant species from 300 genera and 100 families
• The park is home to several large trees such as Dao, Ipil, Dita, Amugis, and Apitong
Wild Animals in the National Park
Birds comprise the largest group of vertebrates found in the park.
Of the 252 bird species known in Palawan, 165 species of birds were recorded in the park. That’s two-thirds of all Palawan bird species found in this park alone!
In addition, all the 15 endemic bird species in Palawan can also be found in the National Park.
The park’s biodiversity is simply remarkable.
There are also some 30 mammal and 19 reptiles species that have been recorded.
One of the most common animals you’ll see is the giant (but harmless!) monitor lizard.
There are also numerous long-tailed macaques in the forest canopy and along the shoreline. They are the only primate found in the area.
These monkeys are so used to being fed that they now grab food from tourists. Beware!
• Two-thirds of all bird species in Palawan are found in the National Park
• All 15 endemic bird species in Palawan exists in the park
• Two of the most common wild animals you’ll see are the giant monitor lizard and the long-tailed macaque
PPUR’s Notable Awards and Titles
New 7 Wonders of Nature
The New 7 Wonders of Nature was the result of a massive Swiss-based campaign that attracted about 100 million votes from around the world. The Underground River won the award together with Indonesia’s Komodo Island and Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest. These have outdone other spectacular finalists such as the islands of Maldives, Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro, and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park was recognized by the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as having cultural, historical, and scientific significance, and thus deserves international protection for the benefit of all humanity. The National Park is listed along with other UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Philippines such as Manila’s 400-year-old Intramuros, Ilocos Sur’s old Spanish town Vigan, and Ifugao’s 2,000-year-old Banaue Rice Terraces.
Philippine National Geological Monument
The National Park was declared a National Geological Monument in 2003 by the National Committee on Geological Sciences Philippines. The St. Paul karst limestone mountain range where the Underground River is located is about 30 million years old, with numerous caves and waterways. The National Park continues to grow and evolve as if with a life of its own, building stalactites, stalagmites, and boring deep trenches. The tour, meanwhile, aims to share its beauty while keeping its environmental impact to a minimum.
Ramsar Wetland of International Importance
The National Park was designated as a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands on June 2012 to promote the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands globally.
• PPUR has four awards and titles
• The most prestigious include its being a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the world’s New 7 Wonders of Nature