Underground River Palawan Tips – Bat Hunting in Puerta Princesa

underground river Palawan tips

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. In today’s blog I share with you my underground river Palawan tips.

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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 or Get Your Guide. Make sure that you book at least two or three days in advance, possibly more in high season.

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.

vegetation Palawan Philippines
Vegetation and scenery in Palawan, Philippines

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.

Palawan Philippines

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.

Approach to underground River Palawan
Limestone cliffs on the approach to the underground river, Palawan

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.

underground river Palawan tips

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.

Entering the Palawan Bat Cave
Entering the Palawan bat cave

Entering the Palawan bat cave – this was as far as we could go with photography – it was pitch black after that and we were not allowed a camera with flash inside the bat cave due to not disturbing the bats in their natural habitat. There was just one low level torch that the certified guide was allowed to shine very quickly to allow us to see the bats.

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.

Underground River Palawan Tips

Here are my top Underground River Palawan Tips to help you to prepare for your journey of a lifetime…

  • 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 Get your Guide

You might also like to read more about Palawan, the world’s top island or El Nido.

Further Reading from Templeseeker

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