Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park: A Guide to One of the New Seven Wonders of Nature
A natural wonder, a geographical marvel, a testament to the awe-inspiring beauty of our world — the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park holds a significant place on the map for nature lovers and explorers alike. As one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature, it offers an experience like no other, taking visitors on a journey through a breathtaking landscape, vibrant biodiversity, and an enchanting subterranean river system. This article will guide you on why to visit this remarkable place, its location and how to get there, the best times to visit, and what you can expect to see.
Why Visit Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park?
From captivating topography to mesmerizing biodiversity, the reasons to visit Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park are plentiful.
This park is the home of the world’s longest navigable underground river. Stretching 8.2 kilometers, this river winds its way under a mountain range, through impressive limestone karst landscapes before merging with the South China Sea. A journey down this river offers visitors a unique and exciting exploration opportunity of the dark, cool, and silent world beneath the earth’s surface, enriched by stunning rock formations and a glimpse into an ecosystem that thrives in the shadows.
Named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999 and voted as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature in 2012, the Park’s recognition by these prominent international bodies validates its environmental, cultural, and aesthetic significance.
Furthermore, the park is a biodiversity hotspot, with a myriad of unique and endemic flora and fauna species. It is home to over 800 plant species, 195 bird species, 30 mammal species, 19 reptile species, and 8 bat species, some of which are endemic to the Philippines. For nature enthusiasts, bird watchers, and animal lovers, this park offers an unparalleled opportunity to encounter unique wildlife.
Location and Route
The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is located about 80 kilometers north of the city center of Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines.
The most common route to the Park starts with a flight to Puerto Princesa International Airport, which is well connected with flights from Manila, the capital city of the Philippines, and other regional airports. From the airport, visitors usually take a van or a bus ride to Sabang, a small town and the jumping-off point for the Park, which takes approximately two hours. From Sabang, it’s a short boat ride across the clear, blue waters to reach the Park.
Alternatively, for a more adventurous route, one can opt for a trek through the jungle from Sabang to the Park, which takes about 3-4 hours, providing a closer encounter with the lush forests and the vibrant life it nurtures.
When to Visit
The Philippines has a tropical climate with a dry season from November to May and a wet season from June to October. The ideal time to visit Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is during the dry season, particularly from January to April. During these months, the weather is generally sunny and less humid, providing ideal conditions for exploring the park, the underground river, and surrounding attractions.
However, as this is also the peak tourist season, expect larger crowds, especially during holidays and weekends. To avoid crowds, an early morning visit is recommended.
What to See
Aside from the globally recognized underground river, there’s much to see in Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park.
As you journey through the underground river, marvel at the spectacular stalactites and stalagmites, and other limestone formations. With your flashlight, observe the shapes they form, like curtains, candles, and even fruits and vegetables, prompting local names such as “The Holy Family,” “Bacon,” and “Cabbage.”
The park’s lush forest cover teems with unique wildlife. Monkeys, monitor lizards, and numerous bird species can often be seen in the forest canopy or along the shores of the underground river. At dusk, the park’s resident bats take flight in a mass exodus from the cave mouth in search of food – a spectacle not to be missed.
There are also several nature trails, allowing you to hike through the jungle and visit various viewpoints, providing breathtaking vistas of the park and the surrounding landscape.
Lastly, take some time to appreciate the beautiful beaches and the clear, turquoise sea. After exploring the underground river, you can relax on Sabang Beach or even take a dip in the cool waters.
The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park truly is a gem that combines remarkable geological features, extraordinary biodiversity, and captivating landscapes. It provides visitors with a deeper understanding and appreciation of our world’s natural wonders. An expedition to this park is more than just a journey; it is a transformative experience that leaves an indelible imprint on the heart and mind. Whether you are a seasoned traveler, a nature enthusiast, or simply an admirer of the beautiful and the sublime, this park is a must-visit destination.