Beauty of Sitio Sabang, Palawan: The Gateway to Underground River

It’s time to visit another UNESCO World Heritage Site! The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park or commonly known as Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) is continually drawing attention due to the fact that it is also proclaimed as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature in 2012. Well, it’s now 2017 but it is never too late to visit such a beauty! Let me tour you to PPUR using our Semi-DIY (Do It Yourself) experience.

This post is a part of  Puerto Princesa, Palawan: A Walk-through to the City of Living God article. Go back to the main article to see more of Puerto Princesa.

The Story

“Why not just visit El Nido instead of Puerto Princesa? There is much more to see in El Nido than Puerto Princesa. ” This is the most common statement you’ll gonna hear from people when you are talking about Palawan, whether you are planning for the trip or talking about your experiences during the time.

Well, I’m yet to see El Nido to rate its “beautifulness” but I did not consider this place when we are drafting our itinerary for Palawan. Why? That is because, I wanted to stay in Puerto Princesa longer, to visit the Puerto Princesa Underground River and spend longer time in Sitio Sabang. Unfamiliar place? Sitio Sabang is the gateway to Underground River. This is the drop-off place wherein you will take the boat going to the UNESCO Heritage Site. Many people say that Sabang is not worthy of your time and you should rather spend it somewhere. Ohh! You’re hurting Sheridan Beach Resort there! The 5 star hotel you can find in Puerto Princesa that sits right in front of Sabang Beach. That is something right? Well, let me tell you that Sitio Sabang is indeed worthy of your time.

Frontage of Sheridan Beach Resort.

A Semi-DIY Underground River Tour

This tour was done as semi-DIY (Do it Yourself) as we did travel to Sitio Sabang ourselves, then got a prearranged tour for the underground river. This is unconventional compared to the usual packaged tours that will fetch you early morning in the city proper and drop you back to your hotel before twilight.

Signage near Sabang Port.

If you are reading this blog for some time now, you may find out that we are booked for Sitio Sabang right after our Honda Bay DIY Island Hopping Tour. That might sound impossible to some but hey, we did it, including the side trip to Butterfly Garden and Palawan Crocodile farm the same day. We found ourselves riding the Lexxus Shuttle by 4pm. Haha! Thank you to Kuya Russian (our friendly tricycle driver) that made this possible! Check out our itinerary here.

Going to Sitio Sabang

Sitio Sabang is about 1 hour and 30 minutes to 2-hour ride from Puerto Princesa proper.  The easiest way to go here by commute is to book a ride with Lexxus Shuttle van from San Jose Terminal. Since I wanted it to be hassle free as possible, I made the reservation online through http://biyaheroes.ph and paid the tickets in advance. (Other travel options given at the end section of this article)

The way to Sabang is a bumpy ride and you may just want to sleep instead of having the tendency to vomit during the ride. Nonetheless, if you can, keep your eyes open to enjoy the beautiful scenery going to the place. Tip: take some bonamine before this trip if you tend to suffer from motion sickness. 😀

Entering the chapel in Sitio Sabang.

Sabang Beach

We arrived a quarter of an hour before 6pm in Sabang. We first checked-in to Cafe Sabang, where we will stay for the night. After that, we left no wasted time and went to the beach front. The first thing I had notice here is that the waves are strong! It is like it is meant for surfing like the Sabang Beach in Aurora. Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Is that a coincidence that this beach is named as Sabang too?

Can you see those waves?

Nightlife at Sabang Beach

As Sonny say, the setup is like Boracay Island style without the nightlife.  Can’t verify this myself since I am yet to go to Boracay Island.  Yes, there are few things you can do at Sabang Beach at night. The best thing you can do here is to eat your dinner while feeling the waves of the sea. That might sound lonely but you may find some inner peace in you here. (Not to master Kung Fu or something)

Setup in a beachfront hotel.

 

Sonny while waiting for our dinner on the beachfront.

There is no fix power supply in the Sitio, as evident by a little of night life (those bar style like beach side) existence.  Cellular phone signals are great though and I have a fast Globe LTE connection around the Sitio.

We ended the night early and get a comfy sleep for tomorrow’s adventure.

Underground River Tour

The local government of Puerto Princesa recently imposed a policy to allow only a maximum of 900 tourists per day going to Underground River. This is an initiative not to put the wildlife and the underground river itself to a greater risk. You know, higher number of tourists coming in means a greater disturbance to nature (a fact that is hard to ignore). Saying so, you need to directly secure a permit in the City Coliseum wherein the Booking Office of PPUR is located. Secure your permits as early as possible before your tour to avoid inconvenience (or just do what we did)!

After taking our great breakfast at Cafe Sabang, a guy fetched us and we walked to the registration office for the tour. This is already pre-arranged by Cafe Sabang and we ride the boat almost instantly after arriving in the area. That’s what we call hassle free, huh.

Our delicious breakfast at Cafe Sabang. Sorry for the legs 😛

Way to Underground River

The way to the Underground river is somewhat again a wavy bumpy ride. We took the early 8am ride and the waters is a bit calmer during this time. Prepare to get wet when you have your tour scheduled mid-day.

On our way to Underground River.

There are some rock formations you can see throughout the  20-minute ride that will simply amaze you on how nature works.

Some other angle.

Start of the Exploration

After arrival, your tour guide will assist you to the registration desk. You need to register your group. In this case, I am the one who registered for the whole boat. Get your gadget (the audio device), hard hat and life vest. The officers will then brief you about the do’s and don’ts of the tour. This is basically how you should behave. 😛 Listen carefully.

I am feeling it, I am very near the underground river!

Then, there is a short trek going to the entry of the underground river. It is said that there are monkeys that will try to grab your belongings in this area. Well, there is none during our time. Maybe we are too early and the monkeys are still sleeping. Heh.

A mini-trek to paddle boat area.

After riding the paddle boat, your audio devices will be set to play synchronize for the tour. This alone will help you learn and understand the underground river as well as the stalactite and stalagmite great resembling formations. The tour also tackles about the early explorations done in the river as well as its history.  The boatman/guide will point his flashlight for you to see the formations in the pitch-black cave.

Are our hard hats intact?

45-Minutes of Enjoyable Darkness

It’s time to go inside this majestic cave!

The whole underground river tour will take about 45 minutes as you explore the navigable 4km stretch of the cave. During the tour, keep your mouth close if you don’t want unknown liquids to flow inside your throat. Haha. Who may know if that’s a bat’s pee or something that is toxic like fluids coming from the stalactites. Try to be quiet as possible so as not to further disturb the wildlife living inside the cave.

The best shot I took inside the cave. Haha.
On our way back.

After the tour, have your pictures taken in the Underground River signage. Then, happily ride the boat going back to Sabang port.

Welcome to Underground River!
Hello there, cave.
There are still no monkeys. Wondering where they are.
Be friendly to other tourists too. A picture taken with our friends from Poland.

Going Back to Sabang Port

We arrived at Sabang port around 11am and there is enough time for Mangrove Paddle Boat Tour and some exploration of the Sabang Beach! Check out our exprience in the part 2 of this post. 😀

Things to do at Sabang

It isn’t true that only Underground River tour is the only thing you can do here! You can try the Mangrove Paddle Boat Tour and be educated on how the mangroves act on the balance of nature. You can also try the Sabang Zipline to unleash your inner adventurous side. Or even take a challenging trek going to the Underground River or do some physical activity at Ugong Rock Formation. Also, don’t forget the Sabang Waterfall! Got no extra money for these? No problem! Just walk around the beach and appreciate the beautiful formations on its far right side. Feeling tired? Then just breath the fresh air of the Sitio. 🙂

Sabang Beach.
Explore the beach! Oh. This seems like not a beach anymore.

Get more of these at Exploring Sitio Sabang, Palawan: Mangrove Paddle Boat Tour

Guide Map

To give you a better picture, here is a map with pinned places around Sitio Sabang:

Itinerary

Below is our itinerary for Puerto Princesa Day 3. To view the complete 3D/2N itinerary, visit the main article here.

Day 3: Underground River/Sabang Beach/ City Tour
6:00 AM – Wake-up Call
7:00 AM – Breakfast
8:00 AM – Underground River Tour (up to 2-3 hrs)
11:00 AM – Mangrove Paddle Boat Tour
12:00 PM – Checkout, Cafe Sabang
12:30 PM – Lunch
2:00 PM – Departure, Sabang Terminal
3:30 PM – Arrval, San Jose Common Terminal
4:00 PM – Mitra Ranch (first stop)
4:30 PM – Baker’s Hill (Pasalubong Shopping)
5:30 PM – Baywalk, Dinner
6:30 PM – Back to Airport

View Sample Puerto Princesa 3D/2N Itinerary.

Budget Guide and Travel Tips

This section will talk about the possible options you can take based on our research (reading on other blogs too) and personal experience.

Do It Yourself (DIY)

Aside from booking a ride with Lexxus Shuttle that will cost you P200 per way, there are also other options like riding a jeepney/bus from San Jose Terminal going to Sabang. This is a little bit cheaper. But, I do not recommend this because while vans get crowded since the conductor will maximize the capacity, the case with jeepneys and buses are far worse than this. You’ll get squeeze together with bins of fresh fish, vegetables and other things (may be living too). I prefer to get squeeze but with good air conditioning. 😛

There are no midnight or evening trips going to Sabang. As I knew, the last trip of Lexxus is 5:30pm. You can ride a taxi going to Sabang but this is costly. So, I did not bother to know more about it. Rates are above P1,000, one way. This will be your last resort if you really want to go to Sabang ahead of your underground river tour.

Package/Arranged Tour

If you get a tour package for underground river, there is no need to think on how to go to Sabang. Tour packages already include van transfers, permits, fees, and buffet lunch. You will be picked up from your hotel early morning and drop you back after the tour. The usual time frame is 7am as pick-up time, 10am as start of the tour, and 4pm as drop-off at your hotel in the city proper. Packages ranges from P1,800 – P2,200 (as of this writing). Please do take note that there are agencies that have lower prices, because environmental and other fees are not yet included. Look at the fine print carefully.

The prices tend to get higher per year and relatively during peak season (April-May). There are also complete packages that also includes the accommodation with the quoted price, these packages usually have minimum pax required and have a 3D2N normal stay.

Package vs DIY Tours

If you prefer the most convenient one to have your Underground River tour, going with a tour agency is the best way. If you want to have a personal touch and a more adventurous tour, I suggest do it all by yourself. In our case, we made it a Semi-DIY to avoid the hassle of securing our permits on our own (this is out of our itinerary visiting the city coliseum to get one). So, we decided to have our accommodation do the tour arrangement for us.

Let us summarize the expenses incurred during our Semi-DIY Underground River experience (all prices quoted for sharing by two, hotel accommodation not included):

Lexxus Shuttle =  P800 (200 per one way ticket)
Underground River Tour* – P2,400 (P1,200 per person)
Lunch (of our choice) = P600

Total Cost = P3,800
Per person = P1,900

*The tour is inclusive of boat fee, environmental fee, permit, audio device fee, and tour guide.

In end, the expenses are just the same. Of course, what we like the most here is we are able to go to the tour as the first batch. Meaning, no lines on registration! 😀

Appreciate is the key.

Whether you choose a package or DIY, you will surely enjoy and appreciate the beauty of nature, the beauty of Sitio Sabang, the beauty of Palawan and the beauty of our home country, Philippines.

Proceed to Part 2 of our Sitio Sabang experience here: Exploring Sitio Sabang: Mangrove Paddle Boat Tour.

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