PUERTO PRINCESA CITY — Gone are the days that Puerto Princesa is only about beaches and beautiful islands. These past few years, this city opened its doors to several other activities, including hiking, making it a magnet to mountaineers as well.
No, we still want you lying on the beach to get your summer tan lines or enjoy swimming or snorkeling or maybe diving. But if you are into mountains, feel free to spend another day or two. In Sabang, you can both enjoy the beach and hike or camp at the summit of the mountains within 24 hours. Take Mt. Bloomfield for example.
This mountain, which peak is at 787 meters above sea level lords over the beautiful Sabang Beach in Cabayugan village. Conquering it was a nice feat for this writer.
Sabang is commonly known as the take off point to the famous Underground River, which is part of the New 7 Wonders of Nature and is one of the top tourist destinations in the Philippines. The small community is 76 kilometers drive away from downtown Puerto Princesa, and could be reached by either private cars or public transport: shuttle van, local Filipino jeepney, and by bus. Unlike some 10 to 15 years ago, the road to Sabang is now concrete making land travel comfortable.
Hiking permit to the mountain could be obtained from the information desk of the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (PPSRNP) upon arrival either at the Sabang Beach or at the wharf.
Mt. Bloomfield is part of the ancestral domain of the local ethnic group, Tagbanua, many of whom are residing here. At the foot of the mountain lies their agricultural lands where the three to four-hour hiking starts.
As the trail ascends, it becomes rocky then turning into ultramafic slopes up to the peak — giving mountaineers more fun and adventure.
The hike is quite difficult for beginners but the scenic view all through the top is comforting enough. As amateur hikers put it, hiking Mt. Bloomfield is the most tiring yet the most satisfying.
Hiking Palawan forests provides a different experience for most mountaineers. Aside from the magnificent view of the beach and the neighboring mountains, you will be treated with views of the pygmy forest, especially at Mt. Bloomfield.
Also, various species of flora and fauna are seen on the way up, especially that of the endangered species, the carnivorous pitcher plants found mostly in Palawan mountains.
This is also called “monkey cups” referring to the fact that monkeys have been observed drinking rainwater from these plants.
Small Openings, Beautiful Views
In several occasions, you will be left in awe even before hitting the summit as small openings provide beautiful views of the West Philippines Sea whenever the trails are not totally covered by the huge trees.
By the time you reach the Eagle Ridge, an excellent viewpoint before the summit, the rewarding view of the long stretch of the Sabang Beach below would make you feel relieved, refreshed in an instant. Then be ready to fall in love with the view of Cabayugan situation on the right.
A few steps further, you will hit the summit that offers the panoramic view of Mt. St. Paul where the world-renowned Underground River lies underneath. Asking nothing from anyone, it freely gives itself for everyone’s admiration.
Wonder like a kid seeing the Karst Mountains of Cabayugan, and the peak of Mt. Cleopatra up here. Plus, a view of the distant town of San Vicente in the north is also within your sight.
A hike to Mt. Bloomfield is the best reason to stay overnight in Sabang, after the trip to the Underground River. A day’s hike is best capped by swimming in the waters of Sabang Beach for free unless you find yourself holding a bottle of beer or champaign on one hand. Who would dare not to join you for it anyway?
Should you decide to stay overnight at the summit, you can do so pending advise of your local guide. Camping space up there however is limited to just a few tents so better make the necessary arrangements.
Budget is around P400-600 (US$8-12) for day hike including transportation from the city proper and back, or around P1,500-2,000 ($30-40) for an overnight stay including Underground River tour and basic hotel stay in Sabang. Note that you have to secure necessary permit for the Underground River tour.