The Underground River in Palawan, being the second longest navigable underground river in the world, makes it one of the 7 Wonders of Nature. Anyone who visits here probably feels a huge fulfillment having explored one of the world-famous parts of history. It was also part of our itinerary but, unfortunately, it seems we weren’t destined to take part of this wonderful life achievement just yet.
We arrived in Puerto Princesa at 10 PM, right in front of Jeamco Royal Hotel where we’d be checked in until 12 PM the next day. Surprisingly, when we got in our room, it was kind of a mess. Obviously somebody just checked out from there. I assumed they didn’t expect us to arrive this early since we left El Nido at 4 PM when we were originally scheduled for the 6 PM trip. Anyway, the staff took care of it immediately and we just moved to a different room. We went to sleep quickly since we were exhausted from that six-hour trip.
Bad News and Good News
Since we were expected to have a tour at 7 AM, our free breakfast was served as early as 5 AM. This time, we were served with the meals that we chose last night when we checked in at the front desk. I picked Danggit (small salted dry fish) and fried chicken for Shiela(as far as I remember), both paired with eggs, rice, and coffee. Soon, more people came to the pantry for their breakfast.
I overheard one of the visitors’ phone conversation which got my attention since she mentioned Underground River. It didn’t take me too long to figure out that she was being informed that their tour is cancelled since the weather, though the sun had already shown, still wasn’t stable. Shortly after, Shiela received a call confirming it. Thankfully, unlike in El Nido, we wouldn’t have to find a tour on our own since we were offered the Honda Bay Tour as an alternative.
Sta. Lourdes Wharf
The shuttle van arrived at around 7:30 AM and we were picked up by our perky tour guide, Alvin, and then we went to pick the other tourists from different hotels and lodges. We stopped at a rental shack to get swimming gears before arriving in Sta. Lourdes Wharf. We didn’t do much here aside from wearing our swimming gears and then waited for our boat to arrive.
It rained down a bit while we waited. I thought it was gonna ruin our tour again but, fortunately, it only lasted a few minutes and that was the last rain of the day which also stopped as we got on the boat. There were a lot of tourists that day and part of the reason was because of the cancellation of the Underground Tour. All tours were changed to island hopping at Honda Bay.
Honda Bay has several islands which you can see while on your way to your island destinations. One of which, and closest to Sta. Lourdes Wharf, is Bat Island. According to Alvin, who tried his best to speak up despite the boat motor engine noise, it is home to thousands of fruit bats, hence, the name. The island also doesn’t have edible fruit-bearing trees so the bats would fly from Bat Island to the main island for food, which happens at around 5:00-6:00 in the afternoon and is quite a sight for lucky tourists to see.
Luli Island’s name was derived from the words Lulubog-Lilitaw, which means to disappear and to appear. It refers to the sandbars appearing and disappearing depending on the tides. We were on the Lilitaw(Low tide) part of it when we arrived here, and were able to walk around the sandbars to see more of the island.
Just behind this part of the island(pictured above) are the deeper waters where you can go snorkeling and feed the fish with bread provided by your tour guide. You’d have your life vests from the boat, too, so don’t worry if you can’t swim. I got a bit overconfident and almost drowned because I didn’t use one. I was able to swim away from the deep water, but not from the embarrassment after a life guard saw me struggling(probably in a bit of a panic) while swimming as fast as I can to get back in the shallow area and advised me to wear my life vest. I just nodded at him, walked out of there, and never came back.
There are also cottages here where you can buy snacks, souvenirs, as well as enjoy some cocktails. We stayed here for an hour before moving on to the next destination.
Sorry, but I wasn’t able to take a single photo of our second destination. We only spent about 30 minutes here and I used it all up snorkeling. I kinda felt lazy to take out the phone from our dry bag. I don’t wanna use photos I don’t own but you can find a lot of them on the web.
Pambato Reef is a floating platform and is just a short distance from Luli Island. The term Pambato means “contender” or “bet”. It got the name since Pambato Reef is Palawan’s best bet for the most beautiful reefs. It’s amazing how they made the floating platforms and cottages because it allows people to explore the reefs in a part where they can’t to go on foot. I don’t know if it was just because of the weather that day, but the snorkeling area was kind of very limited and I couldn’t see the reefs very clearly because it was dark underwater. Though they said it’s because most of the restricted areas are very shallow that people might hit the reefs while snorkeling. Well, I’ve also enjoyed my short stay here, anyhow. After this, we moved on to our last destination where we had our lunch.
I’m just glad that the rain had finally stopped when we did this island hopping tour, otherwise, I don’t think I’d be able to enjoy the beauty of our last island destination. Cowrie Island is located not too far from Luli island and Pambato Reef, probably just ten minutes away or less on boat.
The coconut trees and the Nipa Cottages around really add up to the tropical vibe and the sea is just so blue wherever you look. All that snorkeling got me hungry, and I was glad to hear that our lunch was a buffet. This day was such a blessing that I started to understand why the Underground River Tour was cancelled. Maybe God wanted me to experience all that snorkeling(including the drowning a little part) and then have us relax here and have as much food as we can. Amen to that.
Since stopping at Cowrie Island was an opportunity to relax, I was able to walk around and take photos this time.
The Battle for Buttered Chicken
I got busy eating, so no food photo again on this part. Sorry.
The buffet was amazing. There was this seafood pesto pasta dish that I’ve tried for the first time, there was a Pinakbet(or something close), and the Grilled Tuna which I had the most of because it was so damn delicious. Then, there was also the Buttered Chicken, which I didn’t get a chance to get in my plate because everytime they’re served, they were gone in seconds. Tourists were just battling it out to get them as if they don’t exist somewhere else in the world. “Battling it out” may be an exaggeration, but they really were too fast that I don’t know how they’re able to do that when I was just behind the line waiting. I mean, I know buttered chicken is delicious, but they’re just buttered chicken that you can easily find in some restaurants. The Grilled Tuna was a lot more worth fighting for, but I’m glad only a few did so I got plenty.
Anyway, we’ve already had enough swim from the previous stops so this time we just walked around, sat on the sands, and enjoyed the views.
Cowrie Island was the last stop of the Honda Bay Tour for good reasons. Aside from the fulfilling buffet lunch, here you can finally take a moment to relax, sit down at the cottage and have fun conversations while you drink, if you have some energy left then swim some more or play kick volleyball, or just sit on the sand and enjoy the moment.
Your stay here might depend on how much time left you have on your tour, probably an hour or two. Just take the time to do whatever you want and enjoy this little paradise while you’re here. “Disconnecting” might still be a bit of a challenge here since there’s quite a good internet signal if you have data connection, surprisingly.
Well, after a couple hours of relaxation at Cowrie Island, it was finally time to leave. Again, I was so thankful that, even just on our final day in Palawan, the sun had shone and we were able to have this wonderful tour despite the cancelled itinerary.
I appreciate whoever Shiela contacted and booked us up for this trip, and our tour guide, Alvin, for an amazing job. And most of all, my girlfriend, Shiela herself for making all this possible. I’m always lazy when it comes to planning things even when I’m feeling excited about them, and having Shiela take care of it all so all I had to do was say yes to everything she says was quite the helper. 😜
Well, after going back to Sta. Lourdes Wharf, our shuttle van took us back to the hotel and we arrived at around 3:45 PM. Similar to our stay at Rodriguez Lodge, we were already checked out at 12 PM but they gave us a room so we can wash up quick and pack up our things before leaving. We took a tricycle going to MCA Market Pasalubong Center where we bought a few food and souvenir shirts. It’s just beside the airport but if you wanna take a tricycle going there from the market, expect the minimum fare to be P50. Don’t ask me why.
And there you have it! That concludes our whole Palawan Trip. I wish I’d written this story more interestingly with more photos and details about the places we’ve visited. A couple of things I learned after writing this:
1. I should’ve taken more photos every chance I get so I can share it here. But, well, if you wanna live in the moment, you’d kinda want to set your gadgets aside and just save the things you see in your memory. Just don’t totally forget about your gadgets and leave them after.
2. Take notes! If you plan to write about your adventure when you get home, you’d wanna have as much details for the readers as possible. Talk about the places you’ve stayed at, how to get there, and what the area looks like. Readers would be more interested if they can visualize what they’re reading. I did take some notes, but again, since I was enjoying the moment too much, I keep forgetting to put my phone out to update it every time.
Shouldn’t I have learned these from my previous posts already? Whatever.
Well, the thing is although I couldn’t write the stories properly, I did like the fact that I chose to enjoy myself out there instead of constantly thinking about what to do next. After all, that’s the whole purpose of going on a vacation, isn’t it?
Gotta retouch before getting on the plane to take a nap, yeah?