Puerto Princesa tour can never be boring if you always try something new. You can modify existing package tours, or be brave enough to set foot on places unsure if they will open the door for you.
The Roads of Puerto Princesa Palawan
The destination is San Carlos, about 22 kilometres from the Puerto Princesa International Airport, situated under Barangay Bacungan. This special Puerto Princesa tour made with one thing on mind: to explore new sites.
As we started this tour, I had a pleasant experience having to see this national road of Palawan – cemented and wide. There are sections for a 6-lane capacity. Road engineers and the local government had indeed exerted effort to make Palawan a real tourist-friendly island. You see how they prioritize their infrastructures.
We turned right on San Carlos sign, leaving the main road. It was good to see the inner side of Puerto Princesa.
Now, here, the cemented pavement abruptly ended. And rough road extended many kilometers more. Few houses are standing until we arrived at our destination, San Carlos River Cruise.
The place is simple. It seems an old film of our ancestors living a slow life.
We met an 11-year old boy. We asked a bit of the River Cruise. Surprisingly, he answered intelligently and remarkably clear. It seemed he is handling the whole place.
He told us how much the cruising the river per person and lots of more information until Mama Sol came and introduced herself as admin of the river cruise.
San Carlos River Cruise
San Carlos River Cruise is not a famous destination here in Puerto Princesa City. I did not see any arranged or packaged Puerto Princesa tours that this river cruise may be listed.
The river cruise had schedules during the day. That would take 1 ½ hour of travel.
The lunch buffet is P550 per person minimum of 10 persons. The set meal placed in the center of the raft made it called a floating restaurant. The amount includes cruising.
Days before coming here, I tried contacting them through their numbers posted on their FB page, but to no avail. This cruise was supposed to be with a welcome dance, a lunch buffet, and a travel guide with visual aids.
But since their number was not working, we tried our luck visiting the place. That’s the reason they had no prepared lunch for us. And they did not know that the phone number posted was not yet changed to the new one. Now, they analyze that it is a significant reason why don’t they have guests nowadays.
As a traveler, and trying to reach new places, communication between the guest and the owner/admin is essential. It is hard to take the risk of going to places unknown. You don’t know if it still exists or can accommodate a guest.
For us, we took the risk, and the reward is fantastic. Though I had missed eating crabs from a sumptuous dreamful lunch, at least, we were welcomed and had enjoyed much.
As for now, the admin updated their contacts on their social media pages.
Honda Bay of Puerto Princesa Tour
The 2-kilometer cruise will take you up to Honda Bay with the boundaries from Sta. Cruz up to Sta. Lourdes.
Our raft was smooth sailing powered by a motorized banca at the back. This motorized one guided and gently pushed this raft to sail on the water. The only near noise heard is the sound of this motorized vessel behind us.
What are Mangroves
Mangroves are a group of trees and shrubs that live in the coastal saline water.
Mangrove forests grew at tropical places near the equator, like our country, because mangroves cannot survive on freezing temperatures. The reason why they are visible here in Palawan, Philippines.
As seen here in this river cruise, mangroves stand with their roots above the water. And that they are all tangled that you cannot distinguished whose tree belonged those roots. This entangling allows the trees to handle the rise and fall of tides, slow the movement of tidal waves like tsunami, and making deposits out on the water that builds up muddy bottom. Now, we know why the river’s water is not clear.
The whole riverbank has continuous mangroves totaling to 375 hectares. This mangrove continually to grow on its own. But some areas are not as thick or maybe a little barren. The situation needs human hands. Mama Sol and the community would then plant these areas with seedlings of mangrove.
So, now, as we had traveled, you can’t see any space with this dense mangrove. All because of the endless effort of each individual who was very much concerned to continue preserving the mangrove.
As we sail, we feel these mangroves embrace us. They are not suffocating us for being dense but giving protection. They seem soldiers align to protect us and the river.
Bits and Pieces of San Carlos River
Organizations are offering to start fishponds in selected areas. But Mama Sol denied all the offers thinking it would not benefit the whole community.
There are areas where it is best to look for crabs, as in big crabs.
Along the river, the boy that I had told first on this article had related how to caught fish on this water using only the thread of a fishing rod – not the fishing rod itself, but only its thread. They would throw the thread, with bait, on the water, waiting for a fish to bite the bait. And, hola, you had a prize!
You can catch several kinds of fish on this river. They even salted and dried them for another type of viand. Indeed, the water is abundant with gifts, that continually saving it would give a great blessing for the next generation.
It is not only the mangrove that surrounds us but the green mountains of Palawan. On one second, you are looking to a vast one, and on the next second, you are marveling at another mound of earth. Just beautiful and relaxing to the eyes.
I had no chance to glimpse a bird, But this big cruise raft has a symbol of a bird’s head on it. This kind of bird is called Bato-Bato, which flourished in this area.
They come in pairs. That’s why there are two boats with bird’s head of Bato-Bato each, a symbol of the birds’ pairing. It is almost noon that made birds less visible. In the early morning, that’s when you expect to see them gliding here and there.
Mangroves have tall roots above seawater. The water level was about 3 meters deep, as an estimate to the long stick dip on this side of the water.
An article of mine about Lio Beach in El Nido, also in Palawan, had mangroves when we were passing a bridge, Tulay Suhai, going to Kalye Artisano. There you can see tall-rooted trees entangled on the bridge.
Storm days made the roots stay underwater, for the river rises. But since mangroves protect the environment on calamities such as flooding and tsunamis, it is a piece of good news to have them as a kind of shield.
Some parts of the river, on the other end, became shallow due to soil erosion. It is almost on the boundaries of San Carlos. But not under their protection, for it belongs to another site. San Carlos hoped the preservation of mangroves over that site would be corrected to prevent more significant destruction.
For the water, it is murky. There is no dirt floating, but the water is not clear.
It was a high-noon heat, think of dozing off and curving on one of the corners of this platform, though I stretched my body to a lengthy chair and aligned sideways and slowly close the lids of my eyes.
Since we own the whole vessel in the meantime, we can make a quick nap for no one can’t help to stay awake with the soft rush of the wind and a lullaby journey.
Boundaries of the River Cruise
The last area is the boundary of San Carlos and Honda Bay. Honda Bay is known for its island hopping. That’s why we can see islands from a little bit farther from here.
And from this vantage point, a significant rock formation came into view. A blurred picture for it’s too far from where we are. But that is the rock formation of the Underground River.
Isn’t that nice? A glimpse of different areas of Palawan. You cannot be thankful enough for this beautiful nature in front of us.
Before, they had a cottage in this area of Honda Bay, right in the middle of the water. This cottage had a cemented foundation. But it didn’t withstand the fury of a recent storm that the structure flew from where it was screwed, the whole cabin flew.
As we go back and trying to see if there are monkeys on the mangroves, I cannot spot any. Together with the birds, welcome dance, and lunch, these monkeys need an earlier heads-up that a guest would be visiting.
Bakawan is the Tagalog word for mangroves. And this is the longest bakawan I have ever seen.
I saw that there is a small opening leading to small communities. They stood on drylands. So, behind this mangrove are homes of folks and fishermen.
Another activity here is kayaking. The calmness of the water is perfect for this.
As dark follows, firefly watching is a must. The best time is about 6 pm. It is on the opposite end of the river where the cruise went by. A smaller banca can come nearer to the spectacular and mesmerizing scene.
We do not have the chance to do this activity, for we had other destinations set to be visited. But we intend to do some other time.
We disembark and climbed to the pier. It had cemented stairs, another good project. Several organizations are reaching out to improve this place.
Plans to cement the pavement and having additional vessels lined up. It may be slow but surely on its mark.
Walkway/footbridge is not yet through but would surely a delightful haven to watch birds and monkeys that we had missed on this journey. And insects on trunks producing different sounds.
The River Cruise, A Reflection
The cruise had made the time ticked slow, being so smooth and relaxing. I wished time here would retain its slowness to be able to live each second as in you were in a sweet dream.
Only a few kilometers away and life would be fast and different. This paradise would continue to exist and co-exist with its natural surroundings, still ticking and waiting for a guest to come and let them open their eyes that it is undoubtedly possible, a paradise-like this exists.