Discover UNESCO’s World Heritage sites: Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park

This week we are featuring some of our favourite UNESCO Heritage sites from around the world. To start off this week we are featuring a natural site located straight out of Asia from the UNESCO’S World Heritage List! 80 kilometres north of the Puerto Princesa city center on the island of Palawan, Philippines, lies a breathtaking natural site. The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is one of the six UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Philippines and was designated in 1999.

 

The National Park is home to a vast area of virgin forests and is one of the most important forests in Asia as it represents a full ecosystem that leads from a mountain directly into the sea. Its ecosystem houses eight forest formations which makes it a significant site of biodiversity worldwide.

 

Mangrove Forest at Low Tide | credits to Dan Lundberg

 

An outstanding feature of this park, however, is its Underground River. A short distance away from the town of Sabang via boat or hike, this river is renowned for its magnificent landscape and biodiversity. Recently, given the honor of a doodle on Google’s homepage, it is a site of true natural wonder.

 

 

Emerald green waters of the ocean paves the way to an unassuming entrance into a cave. The way in is partially submerged by a saltwater lake which leads into the ocean. As you illuminate the space with your torchlight, bask in the magic of this underground river. It is home to impressive crystal formations, small waterfalls and hosts unique species of plants and animals.

 

 

 

Entrance of the cave | credits to Shankar S

 

While boats can navigate to about 4.3 kilometres into the cave, the underground river is 8.2 kilometres long. Much of it still left unexplored because of safety concerns. Moulded by natural forces over thousands of years, polished rock formations stop short from dripping onto the river’s surface with small drops of water hanging from their edges. Duck your head as you enter areas of the cave that are lower than a doorway and watch out for the bats flocking from one stalagmite to another.

 

Underground River Puerto Princessa Palawan | credits to Ray in Manila

 

 

The entirety of the National Park is an ideal location for nature lovers who are looking to explore one of the world’s most well-preserved natural sites. However, it is not without its problems. These include pollution on the upper ends of the ecosystem in populated regions and rising tourist numbers. Authorities are challenged to preserve the site while maintaining tourist numbers. Efforts have been made through implementing management plans to continue preservation efforts in this National Park. From equipping rangers with relevant skills to limiting monthly tourist numbers, no stones being left unturned in ensuring that future is bright for Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park.

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