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Palawan’s Subterranean River, Philippines

November 12, 2014 – 3:18 pm

St Paul's UNderground River, Palawan

St Paul's Underground River, Palawan

Claimed to be the longest underground river in the world (although I hear rumours that a much longer one has been found in South America somewhere) is located in the St Paul’s National Park in Palawan, Philippines.

Emptying directly into the South China Sea through a cave at the bottom of karst limestone cliffs, topped in rich rainforest, the river flows underground for about 8 km, and it is possible to row small boats through the cave system for at lest half of that distance.  By kayak, much further… although I am told it is not possible to actually emerge the other side.

To get to the entrance of St Paul’s National Park and to the underground river, you have to take a banca (Philippine version of an outrigger boat) along the Palawan coast from the small seaside town and beach of Sabang. 

Monitor Lizard

Monitor Lizard

Once there, you disembark onto a pristine white sand beach (shoes off) from where there are forest trails leading off into the jungle. One of these leads to a boat landing point where you charter your boat and boatman to take you into the caves.

This is a popular day out for local Filipinos and there can be quite a long wait to get a boat, so get there early or plan to spend some time bird watching and wildlife spotting along some of the other trails in the park. In the short time that I was there I saw various monkeys and several large monitor lizards – very close up – in addition to plenty of our feathered friends.  Reinforcing the reputation of the park, there was also a posse from the Philippines Birding Society there laden with expensive-looking optical gear.



The St Paul’s National Park is named, it is said, for the shape of the mountain above the caves (see pic) which strongly Catholic Filipinos reckon looks like the profile of a well known Saint!

Most visitors come to visit the underground river from the main town of Puerto Princes, a 2-3 hour drive away (parts of the road are still under construction and parts are very poor).  To be there early, I would recommend staying overnight or longer in Sabang where there is one delightful little resort right on the beach called the Daluyon.  Swimming pool, nicely appointed rooms in 2 storey villas and excellent food!  There are backpacker places at the other end of the beach in Sabang town itself.

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