Me giving that Robin Padilla stare on one of the beaches we came across with during our trek.
I was with a colleague from our local office in Puerto Princesa then, and after a three-hour bumpy jeepney ride (now the roads are all concrete), we found ourselves at Sabang Beach, the jump-off point. As to how to actually get to the Underground River, we were faced with two options: first, by a very easy, no-sweat 20-minute boat ride; or second, via an approximately 2-hour arduous trek. Thinking of how pointless our 3-hour trip would be if we just took a boat, we went with the latter option.
There were actually two paths to take: the Monkey Trail and the Jungle Trail, the latter supposedly being more advanced. Afraid we would't make it back in time for the last trip back to the city, we took the former.
Our trek started on the lovely Sabang Beach, a long stretch of foot-friendly, cream-colored sand. At the end of the beach, our trek took us through an impressive mangrove forest, to elevated ground, then down again, up again, and down again. We would find ourselves panting while struggling with the tailored steps and occasional pathways of wooden planks.
Apparently monkeys start walking on the beach.
Lush mangroves. Today mangrove tours are also available to tourists.
Lost yet, are we?
After about an hour, it was quite a relief to see the beach once more, replete with spectacular limestone cliff formations. The sand here had that same fine consistency and color as in the main Sabang Beach.
Dwarfed by huge limestone formations.
Me thinking what to do with these towering natural structures.
It's just marvelous how nature shapes things.
And then we were back on mountainous terrain, gargantuan trees, and lush foliage, taking extra caution as we tread on old wooden walkways and bridges. It was a bit creepy looking down on the hollows that the sun's rays have failed to light up.
Me monkey. This is a monkey trail, right?
Some trees were really huge. Like, huge huge.
It's wooden-plank walkways up and down here.
Almost there and sweating like a pig.
After two hours of trekking, we were finally staring at the mouth of the cave from across the river, the experience made much more sweeter because of all that hard work. To my disappointment, though, I haven't seen any monkeys at all.
Photo op: dog-tired after all that hiking. The sign was much cleaner then, unlike today's that look so cluttered.
Lovely view. There were also less boats then.
Souvenir shot: that's the cave entrance right behind us.
When I went back to Sabang last year (February 2012), I learned that the Monkey Trail was closed. Apparently, it hasn't been properly maintained, what with most visitors preferring the easy route aboard a boat.
But if ever the trail is reopened, I'd recommend taking it if you're visiting the Underground River. The actual river tour only lasts 30 to 45 minutes. Imagine coming all the way from Puerto Princesa for just that -- half an hour. Apart from being good exercise, it's a nice experience, allowing you to see the beauty of the forest, of the limestone cliffs, the hidden beaches that you wouldn't have otherwise seen if you're just on a boat. Don't rush. Stay at Sabang even for a night. Trust me, you'll cherish the time.