This was our first time in Palawan Island. It is a beautiful place and recently I saw it was one the most beautiful islands in the world. In brochures you will see the crystal blue waters, perfect white sandy beaches against the grey karst limestone backdrops.
The island is long and narrow and there are also several smaller islands (hello! Philippines is made up of more than 7000+ islands!) consisting of Coron, Busuanga and several others that make up this province.
We took the Cebu plane from Cebu to Puerto Princesa, where we spent a few days here visiting the Underground River and doing some island hopping.
In Puerto Princesa we stayed at a hostel called the Sheebang Hostel which was a distance away from the airport and there was not much outside of the hostel. The main road was extremely noisy and busy and it was great this hostel was tucked away from the main street.
We both really wanted to go to the Underground River in Sabang (80km or 50 miles away from the city center). The Underground River is located in a National Park that was recently discovered back in 2010. The cave is one of the biggest ones in the world with the river running through it and eventually joining up to the West Philippine Sea. It has no been named of the great wonders of the world and given a UNESCO title and so many people come here to venture into the longest underground river in the world. Due to it being recently discovered, a lot of research is still being carried out hence why only a small proportion is open to the public. They do say that you have to obtain tickets prior to going there because only a certain number of people are allowed in on each day but we booked our through a tour company (thanks to our trike driver or dropped us outside the agent and we bagged a 10% discount) and they will usually have tickets reserved already.
The cost of the tour is normally 1500 Pesos but we did get a 10% discount.
To be honest I was a little disappointed because we only got 45 minutes in the cave. The journey takes 2 hours to drive to Sabang along the short and windy roads (with the joys of someone vomiting freeflow on the way). You then get there and have to wait due to the number of people waiting to get on the local boats to the island. You can spend 550 Pesos to do the zipline but we hadn’t brought that much cash with us so we waited and had the buffet lunch, which was nice. After that we headed out on a boat to the island and then queued up for another hour and a half before getting on a boat and heading into the cave. I have seen pictures of the river from a Filipino friend but I just think now with so many tourists flocking here it isn’t as beautiful anymore. The 45 minute tour is nice but not informative (no details about the discovery, research etc). There is some information but then you will be spending the last 30 minutes trying to spot the elephant, Buddha, snake etc!
We also decided to do some island hopping but we were both very excited about because we wanted to see the views that we had seen in the pictures elsewhere. The cost for 1 day was 1000 Pesos and then you had to rent the snorkel and mask. Shoes, which were recommended could also be rented but we decided to risk it and save 300 Pesos. Everything was kind of adding up and we weren’t used to paying for added extras. We were in a group of 8 and because there are multiple islands we had to choice which of the ones we wanted to go to. Island Pandan was apparently the most beautiful island but again we were told we had to pay extra to go there. We refused to pay but ended up going there anyways. We visited 3 islands in total – Starfish Island, Cowrie Island and Pandan Island.
Starfish Island was a total disappointment. I was angry because people were just picking up the starfish and taking selfies and then throwing them back into the water. No one was telling them not to do it and that there actions would have consequences for the sealife. Even the Fillipinos were joining in. The whole place was a tourist trap. It was not nice at all – the coral was dead and I didn’t see many starfish.
The next island was Cowrie island with its white sand and blue waters. We had our buffet lunch here too.
Island Pandan was also great but again, I just felt something lacking with the all of this island hopping. Yes sure it was nice scenery but I think people’s actions had put me off a little bit.