A new wonder of the world - nha probably not

Sabang Travel Blog

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First look at rice paddies on this trip - there will be many more later

I am heading out of town today on a short daytrip to the Sabang underground river which is the longest navigable underground river in the world. There is quite a bit of hype around this river for the moment with some people trying to get it elected as one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. If it is so impressive that you will try to get it elected as one of the 7 most outstanding natural sites in the world it got to be great so I am really looking forward to this place - what is it gonna be like? I get on a day tour and much to my surprise I am actually the only European on the trip - the others are all from Manila I find it refreshing to actually be travelling with some semi locals instead of foreigners which so often is the case at the main attraction of a country.

 

First it is necessary to drive to the national park headquarter.

First look at rice paddies on this trip - there will be many more later
It is about two and a bit hours drive from Puerto. The trip is in an aircon minivan - which just means you are freezing the entire trip to the river. On the way to the park I wonder if we have made a wrong turn because it does not really look like we are driving on a road. The rain is so hard that the road looks more like a fast flowing river and at times the visibility is very limited out of the windows. But we make progress - at a somewhat slow pace because of the rainy conditions.

 

We get to the parks headquarter where we have to wait for the boat to transport us to the river opening. And while we wait it is time to enjoy the whether once again. It is quite impressive - we never ever have this much rain in Denmark - I begin to believe there has been about the same amount of rain this morning like we will have on average in Denmark for all of June.

What a beautifull sunny day in paradise. I hated the rain at this stage.

 

The boat to the river is a small banka - or outrigger boat which is the standard local boat all over the Philippines. It is a nice little boat but it will not provide much protection against the rain - so you better prepare to get wet if it rains. And it starts to rain just the minute we get on board - and once again it is not a slow and quite rain - it is a downpour of proportions almost unknown to me. There is not much wind but there are huge waves when we sail along so when the rain is not getting us wet the sea will do the trick. The banka is pretty stable but on a few occasions I start to think if we just may capsize. But we make it to the end - and then of to the starting point for the small canoes which will take us in the underground river.

 

In the waiting area it is all about trying to hide from the elements and regain some heat after the cold and wet sailing trip across the ocean.

Looking out at the ocean

 

I started chatting to one of the other on the day trip - a young nurse from Manila. And I guess I pretty quickly changed my perspective on a few things.

 

Two month before I had not heard about this underground river - or the Palawan island group for that matter - I just choose the Philippines as a destination more or less by accident and then started to figure out where to go and what to do while I was in the Philippines. I had not given this much thought and just taken it as granted that I could travel where ever I wanted in the world when I wanted to.

 

She on the other hand had been dreaming about going on this trip for years. And had saved money for 2-3 years to be able to go from Manila to Palawan for a couple of days to go here and to Honda Bay close to Puerto Princessa. I was chocked by the wage a nurse in Manila got - only 135 USD a month. I kinda knew that people without education and people working in the rice fields would earn next to nothing - but I had thought people with a decree would make a lot more than this a month I thought back on the Danish nurses who a few weeks before had been on strike because they wanted a higher wage - and considering how much higher their wage was compared to a nurse in Manila.

 

Her story left my a bit embarrassed felling like I had not worked hard enough to get here and thinking about the inequalities on the globe which you can not do too much about except hoping that economic growth will finally come to the Philippines so the wages in this country will go up significantly in the future - they got a good basis with a very well educated labour force.

 

Well after a bit of a wait it is our turn to go in the canoe and go in to the river - the part of the river you can sail on is 4.8 kilometres but we will only go in about 1½ because it will take too long otherwise.

 

The trip into the river begins and now we will be dry for sure? No the river seems to be leaking and there is lots of water coming down from the sealing of the river so we will keep being wet for the rest of the trip.

This is not the underground river - it is not really a river at all. It is the main road to Sabang.
The river is basically running inside a cave of a sort and in there bats and birds fly around you which give it all a bit of a special effect. In the river area there is some different formations of rock like you see in caves around and it is all pretty interesting. But considering the hype of the locals trying to make it a wonder of the world I think it is lacking somewhat - it is not really on par with the Grand Canyon, Victoria Falls or the Great Barrier Reef which are some of the other candidates.

 

After the river it is time for a lunch at the beach at Sabang. In principal it is also time to enjoy beach life but the whether is so bad that nobody really would like to spend too much time lying on the beach so it is only a short look down there and then in under the shelter to protect against the rain when it is around. The meal is really good. But it is Pilipino style meaning supposed to be eaten with the hands - and not with a knife and fork.

The bankas ready to take of
The concept of eating with my fingers is something my parent got me to stop with when I was about 3 - but when in Rome do as the Romans I guess so I give it a go.

 

After the lunch we head back to town. The road is once again going along the road/river through the landscape where there is rice paddies spread all around. I have seen a few in the south of France several years back but this is the first time I get to see the majority of the farming being rice paddies all over. There is also a bit of grass along the road and the cow is taking advantage of the green grass. On the way back our driver stops suddenly - a cow which is tied down on one side of the road has decided the grass is greener on the other side of the road - and it has decided to go over there with its rope blocking the road. As far as I can tell the grass is equally green on both side of the road - which means very very green with all that damn rain falling all the time.

Cannoes going to the river

 

I get back to the pension I stay at - and there I meet some other guest who has been out island hopping around Honda Bay during the day. They have not all enjoyed it that much since they too felt the rain and some of them complained about freezing half to death on the boat in the rain. I start to wonder - I have a trip to Honda Bay planned for the next day how bad can it be?

 

It is getting time to go to dinner - and I want to leave this place for dinner tonight. But it is raining - again. And I really don't want to go out and get wet in the rain again. So once again I end up eating at the place I stay.

 

People start telling me, that this whether is not the usual whether this time of the year.

Looking at the outflow from the underground river
But we are experiencing the tail end of a typhoon. But people are not telling me the truth. Typhoon is a Chinese word meaning giant wind or something like that. And there is no wind to speak off - hence this can not be a typhoon it is just the rainy season. So I can look forward to this for another 5 weeks. I am beginning to have second thought about ever travelling to Asia - I start to consider getting a plane ticket to Australia and getting out of here to a place with a more pleasant climate.

 

A bit after dinner there is actually a bit of a break in the rain and I venture out to the main square around the regional parliament building where there are a lot of activities going on because there is a local festival going on in the area for this time of year. Walking around the market is quite ok for a while and listening to the live music at the square is fine as well.

The entrance to the river
Then the rains reappear and it is time to search for refuge in a tricycle and go back into the dry conditions.

Koralifix says:
Felicitous writing!
Posted on: May 17, 2009
jilltrekker says:
You've got some good photos! When I went through this underground river, I hardly got a decent shot with my camera. Too bad about the weather. Monsoon season really makes any trip a wet blanket. Haha.
Posted on: Jul 30, 2008
planisphere says:
i agree with you on the vote for this place on the new 7 natural wonders... and besides, i don't like the idea of creating this list, like a futile beauty peagant... i still trust the UNESCO list anyway.
Posted on: Jul 29, 2008
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First look at rice paddies on this…
First look at rice paddies on thi…
First look at rice paddies on this…
First look at rice paddies on thi…
What a beautifull sunny day in par…
What a beautifull sunny day in pa…
Looking out at the ocean
Looking out at the ocean
This is not the underground river …
This is not the underground river…
The bankas ready to take of
The bankas ready to take of
Cannoes going to the river
Cannoes going to the river
Looking at the outflow from the un…
Looking at the outflow from the u…
The entrance to the river
The entrance to the river
Early stages of the river
Early stages of the river
Early stages of the river
Early stages of the river
Birds flying everywhere in the tun…
Birds flying everywhere in the tu…
Rock formation in the cave area
Rock formation in the cave area
Going out from the river
Going out from the river
The entrace as we leave
The entrace as we leave
The entrace as we leave
The entrace as we leave
The entrace as we leave
The entrace as we leave
Nice beach - but could use some su…
Nice beach - but could use some s…
Nice beach - but could use some su…
Nice beach - but could use some s…
Nice beach - but could use some su…
Nice beach - but could use some s…
Sabang Sights & Attractions review
Underground river
The underground river at Sabang is one of the two longest underground rivers in the world if it is not actually the longest. It is about 4.8 kilometre… read entire review
Sabang
photo by: kremheild