Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, the Philippines

The dramatic limestone landscape of Puerto Princesa hides one of the world’s longest underground rivers, which flows for over 8km through an impressive cave system with dozens of striking rock formations. The river tunnels are lit only by natural light that creeps in from cave openings, and by your guide’s torchbeam as it sweeps across the thousands of bats that roost here. It’s not a long or gruelling experience, but no less impressive for that, and an ideal way to experience the hidden nature of the Philippines while you’re staying on Palawan.

What to expect in Puerto Princesa...

The Puerto Princesa subterranean river might be hidden, but it’s not exactly a secret, so we send you there straight after breakfast to avoid the queues! The entrance to the cave is a short boat ride from Sawang, where you’ll stay the night before.

You’ll disembark and walk a short way through the forest towards the river entrance, where the waters turn a vibrant shade of green. Here you’ll climb into an open canoe (paddled by your guides, not by you) before heading underground.

One of our favourite features of the trip inside is that it’s conducted in complete silence. Nobody talks, and you’ll wear an audio guide to inform you about key features. Between snippets the caves are incredibly peaceful - Kate’s guide told her that some people come out feeling like they’ve had some sort of spiritual experience.

You’ll be underground for about half an hour, and you’ll learn about the history of the river and see distinctive rock formations that look like various vegetables, and even the Last Supper and the Virgin Mary!

You’ll slide silently under the dangling bats - the smell of guano is quite strong, and Danielle was astonished by how many bats were packed into the cave ceilings.

If you’d like to add a little more light adventure to your experience, you can hike back through the jungle to Sabang instead of taking the boat. It takes a couple of hours and there’s a chance you’ll spot monkeys as you walk.

Location: Palawan

Duration: A couple of hours

Accommodation: Your choice of Palawan accommodation

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Kate says...

'I came out feeling very relaxed, like I’d been doing some meditation - it has an almost other worldly feel to it...'

Good to know...

You don’t get really close to the bats, but it’s still pretty close, so if you have a phobia of bats, the dark, caves - or being underground in the dark surrounded by bats - this is not the experience for you. Unless your name happens to be Bruce Wayne, in which case it might turn out to be a career-changing experience...

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