NATURE’S WONDER: PUERTO PRINCESA UNDERGROUND RIVER MADE THE LIST

The global competition to decide the New7Wonders of Nature has announced the “provisional” list of winners. The list of sites include Puerto Princesa Underground River the main attraction at Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park in the Philippines. Other sites that made the list include: South America’s Amazon Rainforest Vietnam’s Halong Bay Argentina’s Iguaza Falls South Korea’s Jeju Island Indonesia’s Komodo National Park South Africa’s Table Mountain Although being included in a list of finalists, released earlier this week, Lebanon’s Jeita Grotto did not make it on today’s list. The current results are based on the first count of votes completed since voting ended at 11:11 GMT this morning. The votes must now be checked, validated and verified to confirm their validity. Once the process is completed, in early 2012, the confirmed winners will be announced.

“We congratulate each of these participants on achieving their provisional New7Wonders of Nature status, and look forward to completing the confirmation process to celebrate each one in their own Official Inauguration ceremony early in 2012,” – Bernard Weber, Founder-President of New7Wonders

MANILA, NOVEMBER 13, 2011 (BULLETIN) By JIMS VINCENT T. CAPUNO – One of the top natural attractions in the Philippines. An excellent scenic spot to visit. A spectacular limestone karst landscape with its underground river. These are just some of the words used to describe the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR).

Actually, the amazing subterranean waterway is part of the larger Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, which was established in March 26, 1971. The National Committee on Geological Sciences declared the place as a National Geological Monument on December 11, 2003. Earlier, on December 4, 1999, the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated it a World Heritage Site.

“The focus of the area is a spectacular karst landscape which features both surface karst as well as an extensive underground river system,” said UNESCO in a statement. “A distinguishing feature of the river is the fact that it emerges directly into the sea, and that the lower portion of the river is brackish and subject to tidal influences.”

Until the discovery of an underground river in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula in 2007, the 8.2-kilometer long Puerto Princesa Subterranean River was reputed to be the world’s longest underground river.

The underground river is approximately two kilometers south-west of Mount Saint Paul at an altitude of 100 meters. The subterranean river is the park’s main calling card, and it passes through a mystical limestone cave before emptying out into the South China Sea.

No one knew who discovered the underground river first. However, it is believed that the island’s early inhabitants were the first to know of its existence, but their fear of spirits that they believe inhabit the caves prevented them from exploring the cave.

The earliest recorded mention of the underground river was done by Dean C. Worcester, Assistant Professor of Zoology at the University of Michigan who later became the Secretary of Interior. In 1887, he wrote while touring the island of Palawan that he heard of some accounts telling him “of a lake opening to the sea by a Subterranean River.”

The underground river is about 50 kilometers north of the city center of Puerto Princesa. But be warned: you will need to spend about two hours of bumpy ride to get to Sitio Sabang, the starting point.

From Sitio Sabang, you have to ride a boat that can accommodate six to 12 persons. All visitors are requested to wear a life jacket as the boat ride of about 15 to 20 minutes can be quite tumultuous. Entrance fee is 200 pesos for foreigners and 150 pesos for locals. Kids and senior citizens get a discount.

Be sure to listen to your bangkero as he explains the beautiful images of stalactites and stalagmites. In the massive cavern called the Cathedral, you get to see an image of the Virgin Mary and the Holy Family. There are several other images: corn, mushroom, carrot, jellyfish, umbrella, man’s head and parts of dinosaurs and ship. A battery-operated lamp beams on these various formations.

When admiring the limestone cave and different formations, keep your mouth closed. The cave is home to bats and swiftlets, in which case guano often falls from the upper reaches. Always wear your safety helmet because you’ll never know if it’s water or the pee of the bat that hits you.

On a busy day, the river receives about 800 visitors and about 600 visitors on lean days.

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