Palawan Series Underground River

The Underground River Tour - A Scary and Overwhelming Experience

Saturday, July 07, 2012Ryan Mach

Paranoia sets in as the small outrigger boat winds its way inside the dark tunnel of the Underground River. It's not the depth of the water that scares me, it's the silly thought that in case an earthquake occurs, we'll be completely goners, buried under massive limestone rocks, forever irretrievable. I'm overreacting, of course, because you see, Palawan doesn't have fault lines so the probability of an earthquake happening is quite slim. I should be comforted by this fact and yet, I can't seem to brush away such grim thoughts.   
Our tour guide
Anybody who is claustrophobic will find the Underground River a creepy place. As darkness engulfs and sucks away the sunlight from the cave's entrance, I find myself tightly gripping my camera bag, dreadful and excited at the same time. The tour will last for 45 minutes, the tour guide who's seated at the rear part of the boat tells us. His voice reverberates, overpowering the shrill squeaks of myriad bats, flying swiftly and restlessly. I duck quizzically, laughing at my own reaction. When I look back at the cave walls, I realize that my fear is gone, so are the bats.

There's a reason bats don't go further inside but I no longer remember what it is. I'm drawn, overwhelmed and mesmerized with the wonderful formations of stalactites and stalagmites - shooting, growing, sprouting into various shapes and sizes - that I hardly pick up some bits of information that our tour guide shares. He tells us interesting stuff about the Underground River, who discovers it, who manages it, all that jazz, although he fails to answer some of our questions - has there been an accident here, why does the bat dung smell so repulsive . I'm about to ask how deep the water is below when my friend shushes me. She doesn't know how to swim and she'll have a heart attack if she finds out the truth. 

It turns out that the inner part of the Underground River isn't so deep. It's something that tourists need not to worry about. 'What you should watch out for are those that fall from the cave's ceiling,' the tour guide warns us. 'We have two types of water here - the holy water and the holy sh*t.' We all laugh nervously and quit looking up.  The boat makes a turn midway, prompting me to ask what lies further ahead. Our tour guide luckily hears me this time says that entry to that part of the cave requires a special permit. 'It's a four hour trek and caving inside. You need to bring extra battery, food and oxygen mask.'  
 I can't describe how amazing it is inside without being mushy. You have to be there and experience it yourself before you can understand what I'm babbling about. If I were to describe the feeling, I'd say it's tantamount to seeing a grandiose fireworks display. You utter a big 'wow,' almost in disbelief, hardly believing that such a work of nature exists inside a dark cave. 
The gang. Person in front is in charge of holding the flash light
It's no wonder why it's chosen as one of the 7 new wonders of nature. They say it's overrated and too kitschy but a tour inside is worth your time and dime. I guess the reason I got completely blown away by it is I had a half-heart agreeing to the tour. I'm just glad I didn't miss out the opportunity to see the wonderful world of the Underground River. 
Photo taken on our way out

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