Note: I originally wrote this travel story for the Pacific Daily News. (part 3 of 3)
Puerto Princesa, Palawan
Roughly 1,780 islands and islets make up the whole of Palawan, and some of the small islands, such as Cowrie Island, are privately owned day resorts that offer the standard menu of beach resort activities such as snorkeling, kayaking and paddling.
It’s not easy to market a tropical resort destination to someone who lives in a tropical resort destination. There are few places that can hold a candle to Guam’s beaches and sunsets.
That said, Palawan offers unique experiences that are simply impossible to match in Guam – one of them being the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, also known as the Puerto Princesa Underground River.
Named one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature, the Puerto Princesa Underground River winds through a limestone mountain cave that contains enormous chambers, major stalactite and stalagmite formations and a variety of natural inhabitants including thousands of bats. The five-mile river is navigable and can be explored through a guided tour on a paddleboat.
Your guide on the world’s longest underground river also serves as boat captain, light crew and stand-up comic. He is all too eager to share interesting facts and answer any questions about the cave, the park, and its ecosystem. Get ready for loads of cave jokes and puns.
There are lots of great laugh-out-loud moments, but with thousands of bats (some estimate as many as 40,000) flying and looming above, it’s recommended that you try your best to laugh from behind zipped lips.
Outside of the cave, monkeys roam free in the park and are known to pilfer belongings from unaware tourists. Look also for the giant iguanas — some are over six feet long and all roam free.
The underground river is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Palawan government is working to protect this natural wonder, including limiting the number of tourists allowed to visit the cave.
Palawan is also home to the largest micro-grid solar power plant in the Philippines, and with businesses actively generating clean renewable energy through the sun, Puerto Princesa has built up a reputation as a city that is living and growing within its pristine and natural environment.