More than 7,500 islands compose the Philippines. Apart from the lush flora that remains untouched by modernization, the country is home to stunning waterfalls and many of the best beaches in the world. The spectacular tourist destinations in the Philippines are plenty, and caves in the country are fast becoming rising stars of its tourism.
Rich in history, legends, and even myths, these caves are mystical as they are beautiful. However, tourists and illegal excavators, who could possibly damage the caves, are a great worry for preservationists.
In 2012, the country placed 158 caves under the protection of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. This ensures the protection of these caves from vandals, looters, and even treasure hunters. Only experienced spelunkers, researchers, and scientists are granted access to 118 of the caves, while the rest are open for ordinary visitors.
The following caves are open to the public and considered the best for tourism.
1. Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park
This subterranean river is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature. People believe that the snaking underwater river is the longest in the world, while the cave also has 8.2 kilometres of the navigable river that flows right out of the South China Sea. You’ll see a limestone karst mountain landscape as you traverse through the cave. Given its size, the locals have yet to discover its cavernous parts.
2. Tabon Caves, Palawan
This group of caves is named after the local bird, Tabon Scrubfowl. The cave was also unofficially dubbed as the Philippine’s Cradle of Civilization when the oldest human bones were found by explorers.
The skullcap of a Tabon Man, who is approximately 24,000 years old, was found in this cave. Items that were excavated were burial jars, earthenware, and jade ornaments to name a few. You will find approximately 215 caves are in this area, but only 29 have been explored. Seven of these are open to the general public. The fact that the modern man is able to step into one of the oldest “homes” in the country makes it more alluring to adventurers.
3. Hinagdanan Cave, Bohol
Many caves are dark and dank with bats as main inhabitants but Bohol’s Hinagdanan Cave is different. Sunlight filters through from the holes in its ceiling, giving the cave a mystic glow, and birds, which are the cave’s main inhabitants sleep in the small holes found on the ceiling.
The area’s owner accidentally discovered the cave. He saw a hole and threw a rock to check it. Thereafter, a water lagoon was discovered, along with its beautiful stalagmites that add to the cave’s charm.
Swimming is discouraged in the lagoon due to a high level of limestone pollutants. However, some visitors still attempt to jump into its waters.
4. Calbiga Caves, Samar
The Langun-Gobingob Cave found in Calbiga is the largest cave system in the country. Known to be the most beautiful cave in the country, it will take you eight to nine hours to explore this cave. Langun-Gobingob Cave’s karst formation is also considered to be one of the top three largest in the world. The other two can be found in the Nullarbor Plain in Australia and the Shaanxi Province in China.
Hanging from the cave’s ceiling are several limestone stalagmites and stalactites. The cave’s unique traits include several rock hills and mountains you can climb. On the other hand, wildlife includes bats, crabs, and hypogean blind fish.
5. Sulpan Cave, Samar
You can find the Sulpan Cave in San Jorge, Samar. It has an underground river connected to the Blanca River. On its mouth is the Pinipisakan Falls, making the cave entrance as beautiful as its interiors. Stalactites and stalagmites are a welcome sight inside the five-kilometre long cave chambers.
6. Monfort Bat Sanctuary, Samal Island
In the heart of the Island Garden City of Samal are 70 beautiful caves. These caves are home to approximately 1.8 million Geoffrey Rousette Fruit bats, a Guinness world record. The bats may make you shudder, but it will pass when you explore the cave. In addition, the sanctuary has different tours for your exploration, such as the Day Tour, the Bat Cave Day viewing, and the Bat Emergence Night Tour.
7. Kabayan Caves, Benguet
A chilling yet culturally enriching experience is what the Kabayan Cave can offer. This cave is the home of the Kabayan Mummies, the smoked remains of the local tribes. The mummies, which are also known as Fire Mummies, are preserved through a lengthy dehydration and smoking process. The caves attract many tourists for their sheer uniqueness and cultural importance. Even researchers gain more insight on the Ibaloi Tribe from their unique mummification process.
Caving has its unique flair, and people have different motivations behind their own cave adventures, but one thing is for sure – the thirst for the unknown is very hard to resist.