Underground River – Bat Hunting in Puerta Princesa

One of the highlights of my trip to Palawan was the underground river in Sabang. You can see bats in their natural habitat. The Puerta Princesa underground river has recently been announced one of the new seven wonders of the natural world.

It takes two hours from the capital city Puerta Princesa, where most people fly into. It can be done as a day trip as part of an organised tour. I booked my trips through Sheebang Hostel.
You can also book the underground river online with Viator (partners of TripAdvisor). Make sure that you book at least two or three days in advance, possibly more in high season.
Hotels in Puerta Princesa on Agoda (up to 50% discount)
Hotels in Puerta Princesa on Booking.com
Hotels in Puerta Princesa on Hotels.com (Book 10 nights, get one free)
There will be a stop on the way for water and toilets. The scenery en route from Puerta Princesa to Sabang is amazing – full of lush bright green vegetation.

Eco Tourism of the Underground River Conservation Area

As this is a conservation area, only 1000 tourists per day are allowed to visit the Underground River. Sound like a lot? Actually, it is around 10 people per boat, so only 100 boats per day.

The island of Palawan is an Asian pioneer in eco-tourism. You will be pleased to know that minimal lighting is used inside the cave so as not to disturb the bats while they are sleeping (they are nocturnal). The motto ‘take any memories, leave only footprints’ greets you as a sign before you board the initial motorized boat.

Book your Subterranean River tour with Viator

What to Expect During your Underground River Tour

When you board the motorized boat, expect your feet to get a little wet. That is why flip-flops are recommended. It is essential that you wear your life jacket at all times for safety. It’s approximately 10 to 15 minutes to the entrance of the underground river and you will see phenomenal limestone cliffs and blue waters on the approach.

Boarding the motor boats to head to the Underground River

When you arrive at the entrance to the underground river, you will need to continue to wear the same life jacket for the paddle boat. Don’t worry, you won’t have to do any paddling, the guide will do that for you.

You are given audio guide to wear and listen to as you enter the underground river. This highlights important safety aspects and explain how you must behave around the bats.

If you are scared of the bat touching you or flying in your face, don’t worry, they usually avoid humans. If they do touch you, they won’t hurt, they will simply fly past.

However, if you are quite scared of the bats, I recommend that you sit in the middle or rear of the boat. There was a woman on another boat is sitting at the front and apparently got hit in the face by that it brushed her cheek and she squealed!

Entering the Batcave

Entering the Batcave, as you can imagine was extremely exciting. We were about to embark on a journey through one of the largest cave rooms in the world.
The Puerta Princesa subterranean river remained the longest underground river until 2007 when an underground river was discovered in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula.
It became darker and darker as we entered deep into the case on the paddle boat.
The limestone formations were phenomenal. Some of them are said to look like giant vegetables, such as a pepper and a mushroom. Some of the limestone formations in the Cathedral (the largest point of the Cave) are said to represent spiritual figures such as the virgin Mary and Jesus Christ himself – it certainly was very peaceful inside.
Every now and again, amongst the sound of water dripping from the cave ceiling, you would hear the screams of a bat who may have noticed the light and our presence.


 
Our guide shone the torch up to the roof of the bat cave and we could see what must have been hundreds hanging upside down! To see these creatures in their natural habitat was truly amazing.

Tips for your Journey on the Underground River

  • Book in advance especially in high season (Dec – March) to avoid disappointment.
  • Stay overnight in Sabang if you want to avoid the 4 hour total journey from Puerta Princesa. Otherwise, book it as a daytrip.
  • Wear shorts and flip flops and prepare to get wet!
  • Take a waterproof case for your smartphone or iPhone.
  • If you’re scared of the bats touching you, sit in the middle or rear of the boat.
  • Do not make a noise inside the cave, it will disturb the bats and they are sleeping.
  • Inside the cave, don’t look up with your mouth open – you might swallow some dripping water, or even worse, BAT SHIT!

Book your Subterranean River tour with Viator
You might also like to read more about Palawan, the world’s top island or El Nido.
This post will be updated with more pictures to follow once I am in my Manila apartment!
 

Templeseeker

Hi, I'm Amy Trumpeter and I have over 25 years of travel experience. I love seeking out temples, Churches and other religious and historical buildings. I write mainly about Asia, Europe and North Africa. My BA (Religions and Theology) and MA (South Asian Studies) were gained from the University of Manchester. Come and join me on my templeseeking journey around the world!

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