The entrance to Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, the world’s second largest river cave
The island of Palawan in the far southwest of the Philippines is one of the most worthwhile areas of the country. It is mainly home to the town of El Nido and its nearby Bacuit Archipelago, which is filled with paradise islands. Most people fly from Manila to Puerto Princesa and then make their way north by bus to El Nido. A very worthwhile stop along the way is Sabang, a tiny village along the west coast.
I was really struck by the beautiful nature in Sabang. There is a small bay where most of the beachside huts and buildings are, ringed by limestone karst mountains covered in jungle. As you walk along the beach, crabs of different sizes and colors scatter into their holes in the sand, and seaside rocks are covered with little mud-kickers which collectively leap into the sea as you pass.
I stayed in one of these huts along the beach
My travel buddies on Palawan
With a paddle boat you can go into the nearby mangrove forests and see black and yellow spotted snakes hanging from the trees and tropical birds flying around. We also saw multiple giant monitor lizards and wild monkeys in some of the surrounding forests.
But Sabang is best known for being the entry point to Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, a world heritage site. It was once thought to be the longest river cave in the world, though a cave system in Mexico’s Yucatan has since taken that crown. The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River is advertised as one of the “7 new wonders of the world”, though this is mostly a marketing gimmick and you shouldn’t let expectations go too high as you will probably be disappointed.
Approaches by monitor lizards near the cave entrance.
You can go into the cave with an organized tour. You’ll see a ton of bats hanging from the ceilings inside. Other than that, the guide will make some cheesy remarks about what the different rock formations look like (e.g. celebrities or, umm, phallic suggestions). While a fun afternoon, it was actually Sabang itself that I enjoyed seeing the most here.
It’s a very quiet and small town, home to just a few restaurants and places of accommodation. The beachside is peaceful and if you walk around the area you are nearly guaranteed to see all sorts of wildlife.
If you are going to El Nido, I would definitely recommend stopping at Sabang along the way.
Found this fella sleeping on the beach in Sabang town