In 2011, the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) was declared one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. Since then, thousands of tourists had flocked the province of Palawan to explore this piece of paradise. Just this April, our family skipped our usual trip to Camarines Sur and opted to go to Palawan, instead. The plan was to take the PPUR tour, go island hopping at Honda Bay and go around the city.
No Permit, No Tour. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to cruise along the famous subterranean river. Permits had to be secured at least a month or two before your scheduled trip. Yes, we didn’t have them.
This policy is strictly applied. The PPUR Office is located along Rizal Ave. in Brgy. Bancao-bancao, Puerto Princesa. They also have an office in Sabang (port), but they don’t issue permits there. If you don’t have them, forget the tour. Just promise yourself you’ll come back next time.
Good news: PPUR Tour will soon issue permits online! For more information and announcements, check out their website here.
Almost every attraction in Palawan has to have permits issued. Of course, I’m not complaining. Actually, I’m for it. This kind of policy ensures better travel experience in terms of security and safety. I just wish we knew this before our trip. Sigh. Anyway, at least now we know.
We arrived at the port (in the town of Santa Lourdes) at around 10:30am. The port was bout 45 minutes away from the city. To get your permit for the island hopping tour, you had to enlist your group first, wait for your number to be called, and then pay. On normal days, when there are fewer tourists, you may rent a boat exclusively for your group for P1600 (If I’m not mistaken), good until 5pm. Since a bunch of tourists arrived that day, we had to share the boat with two more groups. The payment would then be per person.
The number of passengers allowed for each boat is also indicated. The coast guard would not allow any boat to leave if it exceeds its passenger capacity. That’s tough, strict government control right there. I like it.
Honday Bay Tour consists of visits to the following islands: Starfish, Snake, Lu-Li and Pandan. Pandan Island is where most tourists stay for long hours. It’s great for families because cottages and huts may be rented, or you may choose to rent tables and chairs and lounge under a coconut tree. The island is also great for picnics. You can bring packed lunch or some food to grill. We paid PhP1,000.00 for our packed lunch, good for five persons, courtesy of our van driver. It was great – the food. I think all van drivers offer this extra service to arrange everything – from securing permits to preparing your food. Good service, indeed.
Snake, Starfish, Lu-Li
The Snake Island was closed for “improvement”. We just passed by the Starfish Island. Now here comes the disadvantage of touring with other groups. The majority decides whether you’d stay or just pass by an island. Sad. Anyway, here’s a photo of Lu-Li (short for Lulubog-Lilitaw). During high tides, part of this island would be under water.
Pambato Reef Snorkeling
We ended the tour in this snorkeling site which is also a part of Honda Bay. I think the last time I snorkeled was twelve years ago so this activity felt new to me. I had to learn again to breathe through my mouth, which was difficult. Though I probably gulped down some saltwater, the beautiful sight underwater was worth it.
Before the sun finally set, we headed back to the port and to the hotel. The day was not over yet. To cap the night off, we went to the town of Iwahig where our next activity awaited us – firefly watching.