The Wonderous Underground River

I didn't see it. But not for lack of trying. The Underground River is one of the "New Seven Wonders of the World!" I don't know how many seven wonders there are, but at least 49. This wonder is located near Sabang Beach on the island of Palawan in the Philippines. It is an extensive cave system that is navigable for miles and miles into the limestone mountain. This is the reason most people go to Sabang Beach. I went there to climb Mount Bloomfield, which I found out upon arrive was "closed".

 Sabang Beach

Sabang Beach

So when I was on top of the "closed" mountain I saw all the boats leaving Sabang Beach and the route they were taking to the entrance of the Underground River. It wasn't too far at all. I thought I should go see the cave entrance. I mean I had seen it on postcards all over the place, and I was SO close. One of the Forty Nine Wonders, right?! 

 Top of Mount Bloomfield

Top of Mount Bloomfield

The most common method of seeing the Underground River is by booking a tour. Tours leave every 25 seconds from Sabang Beach. There are hundreds of colorful little boats to take up to eight people at a time. It's hard to walk too far in Sabang without someone asking you if you want to book a tour, unless you are actually trying to get some information on something. Then no one is around. Maybe my siesta time and their siesta time just did not line up. Anyway, the tours are pretty expensive as you might expect from a Wonder of the World. It seemed a little pricey for me for a tour that is mostly in the dark. So I let that one go by. Strike 1 - looking.

 Busy Downtown Sabang

Busy Downtown Sabang

I still wanted to go see the cave entrance, but I didn't want to pay for the tour. Simple, walk along the coast until I reach the cave. It was a good plan, and I might have succeeded, but I'll never know. I hiked for about 45 minutes past the beach along the jagged, rocky coastline. It was raining a little bit, but that never bothered me anyway. Things were going okay. A little scrambling. A little climbing. When I was trying to get around a big crevasse, I saw a monkey looking down at me. Probably thinking about what a tail-less idiot I looked like. 

Eventually it started raining really hard. I reached a spot where there was no other way than a short three foot jump from one rock to another rock with nothing but the sea below. I thought about it. On a bright sunny day I would have done it, but in a downpour with no one else around... Not worth it. Plus who knows if there was an impassable cliff just around the corner of the next rock. Or maybe that was the last obstacle before the Underground River cave entrance. I'll never know, but I gave it my best shot. Strike 2 - swing and a miss.

On my final day in Sabang I woke up early to hike the Jungle Trail. This is a simple three mile trail that leads directly to the entrance of the Underground River. There is a small fee to hike the trail, but since I failed the previous day I felt like I needed to get to that cave. The trail was nice. It passed some cool rock formations and caves. The last bit of the trail is a boardwalk and staircase through a karst forest. The rocks are really cool here. I was admiring all the vines and rocks and daydreaming about what I would have for lunch when I passed a sign that said I was only 500 meters from the Underground River. Hell yea! I was practically there. Then I saw a monkey.

 Caves on the Jungle Trail

Caves on the Jungle Trail

 It was a Long Tailed Macaque. It was a mother, though I did not know that yet. She was sitting on the railing to the stairway that is the only way down to the cave. We saw each other at the same time, I was walking toward her so she began walking towards me. Not in a playful and curious kind of way, but not in an attacking rage either. Still facing her I backed my way up the stairs a little bit. She returned to her post on the stair railing.

 Casual grooming

Casual grooming

I was trying to figure out how to pass her. Actually I was just hoping she would go climb a tree or do monkey things somewhere. Then I saw her baby climbing up the railing. Truthfully it wasn't a baby monkey. More like her teenage kid monkey. She started grooming him. I was still waiting. I crept in closer to take pictures; she would look at me every once in a while.

 I eventually got close enough that I saw the father monkey. My mistake. The papa saw me and started charging me with that attacking rage look in his eye. There was no backing away slowly this time. I turned my ass and ran. I peaked backed. The monkey was way faster than me. I yelled "Hey! Hey!" in a probably very embarrassing way although I can't really remember. I kept running. I peaked back again. The monkey was stopped five feet behind me, making some terribly frightening noise with his canines out. Yea, dude. Point made. Strike 3 - I'm out of there.