Saturday, October 22, 2011

Commuting to Puerto Pincesa's Underground River

Tourism in Palawan is very organized. If you'd like to go to a particular attraction, you just need to inform your hotel about it and they would be directing you to their partner local travel agency who have fixed rates with each tour as regularized by the city tourism department. The running rate for the Underground River tour is Php1500. That includes the round trip van transfers that will take you to Sabang, the jump-off point to this Unesco World Heritage Site - then back to your hotel in just a day, the motorized boat that will take you to the entrance of the cave and the smaller paddle boats that will tour you inside the Cave. The rate would also cover for the Underground River permit fee and a lunch prepared by the agency and a tour guide. If I think about it, the rate is fair enough, even on the cheap side considering you won't have to go through the hassle of  an arduous research on how to make a do-it -yourself tour. Van ride is far more comfortable than a non AC bust ride to Sabang.

However, if you're like me who is more on the adventurous side or would like to stay for at least a night in Sabang or you'd like to trek the Monkey Trail going to the Underground River's entrance and Jungle Trail on your way back to Sabang, then commuting is your best bet.

What you need to do first is to go to the New San Jose Terminal in Puerto Princesa. Travel will be about 20 minutes from the city center. There are multicabs passing Rizal Ave plying that route but if you're in a hurry you can also ride a tricycle willing to take you there. We did the second option and paid the driver Php70 for the three of us.

Arriving in New San Jose Terminal, there are vans available going to Sabang. I just couldn't provide you information about the scheduled time because we opted to ride the 9 AM non-airconditioned Christ d King bus going to Sabang. Christ d King usually have 4 schedules leaving for Sabang. Earliest is 7AM, then 9AM, 12NN and 2PM is the last trip. The day we traveled, they only had the 7 AM and 9AM trip which turned 10AM because they had to finish repairing the bus. There was also a typhoon when we traveled so they suspended the last two scheduled trips. We paid Php125, that's the discounted rate for Filipino tourists, I think they ask Php200 from foreigners. To verify their schedules prior to your travel, you may contact them at the numbers posted above.

The route to Sabang is a two and a half hours of winding and sometimes steep road. There are few stretches of unpaved roads but majority are cemented. The bus isn't comfortable, seats are hard and is almost congested inside the bus. It was a good thing it was raining so it was cold. The picturesque views at the right side of the road also somewhat eased the slow travel. You'd pass by white limestone formations and interesting landscapes.One is Ugong Rock, a cave inside a rock formation. Some of the locals are also amusing when they crack their jokes to one another that we didn't help but overhear. It was tiring but fun. :)

Halfway to Sabang is Salvacion Junction, where tourists from Sabang usually alight to wait for another van/bus coming from Puerto Princesa to El Nido.

From Sabang, Christ the King also travels back to the New San Jose Terminal. Schedules are also 7AM, 9AM, 12NN and 2 PM. On our way back though, we opted for the van since we were in a hurry to catch our flight. The van arrived in New San Jose Terminal after 2 hours. We paid Php120 each. You may contact them for their schedule but earliest trip is 7:30 AM. Lexus Vans also offer van rental to El Nido. Their numbers are listed on the photo above.

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