Palawan Series Sabang

En Route: Puerto Princesa to Sabang

Saturday, July 07, 2012Ryan Mach

In downtown Puerto Princesa, old acacia trees arch over streets like canopies and nestled inside vacant lots or sandwiched between low-rise buildings. They line along avenues with an air of both invitation and intimidation, like rows of giant smiling saleswomen, rustling and swaying gently in monsoon breeze. You see them everywhere, inside and outside the city - proud towering trees, live and tangible proofs that Puerto Princesa is indeed a sprawling metropolis inside a forest. And it’s the country’s cleanest urban jungle to boot.
For starters, Puerto Princesa is the capital of Palawan, Philippines’ largest province rated by National Geographic Traveler magazine as the best island destination in Southeast Asia region in 2007 for having incredibly beautiful natural seascapes and undulating landscapes.  It is also the most sparsely populated city in the country and the second largest next to Davao in terms of land area.
Coming here, I was too concerned about the weather, completely unaware about the fact that Palawan is geographically safe from storms because typhoons rarely hit the province. “We don't experience earthquakes or any weather disturbances. We’re pretty safe here,” our tour guide, Eco, a marine biologist moonlighting as tourist guide on weekends, confidently told us as we were traversing a long winding road outside Puerto Princesa. Our destination that day was Sabang, a small village outside the capital and home to Underground River, one of the new 7 wonders of nature.
The idyllic town of Sabang is surrounded by looming limestone cliffs and lush forested mountains, giving the whole place a jagged and intimidating appearance. It is approximately two hours from Puerto Princesa, pretty much accessible via vans and non-air-conditioned buses. Getting there is a treat in itself as you’re rewarded with panoramic views of rolling mountains and picturesque seascapes. It’s double adventure if you opt to travel by bus or jeepney fully laden with cargoes and locals.
We arrived at the Sabang sea side at around 10 in the morning. I had the faintest idea what to expect on the tour from only seeing the green vistas behind us and the vast Palawan sea ahead. Eco promised it's going to be a great experience unless you got pooped by bats inside the cave. We hopped off the van after it parked near the wharf. We then walked out into the morning sun to hear the gentle lapping of waves in the shore and the cacophony of excited voices of fellow tourists scattered around waiting for boats. Registration is done by tourist guides who are also responsible for getting a boat that will take the tourists to the Underground River, about 45-minute ride from the town's busy port.
Boat men at Sabang
The unique character of Sabang slowly emerged as our 6 seater boat inched its way toward the calm sea. The interesting contrast of green mountain range and milk-colored sky seen from a distance was something to behold. Few minutes later, we muttered a collective sigh of amazement as our boat passed by a gorgeous formation of karsk stone cliffs. We knew right there and then that Palawan would never fail to amaze us.

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