Saturday, May 14, 2011

Puerto Princesa Saint Paul Subterranean River National Park Philippines Tourism

Saint Paul Subterranean River National Park a UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring a spectacular limestone karst landscape alongside the longest traversable underground river in the world. Stretching 8 kilometers, this river leads into an underground cavern/lagoon commonly known as the “Cathedral”, because its huge dimensions. This Park covers the complete ecosystem of an underground river which runs beneath of limestone karst mountains directly into the sea, its lower reach being tidal. The area has one of the richest forest floras in Asia and is highly biodiverse, much of its flora and fauna being endemic or related to those of Borneo.

The site is on the north coast of Palawan Island in the far southwest of the Philippine archipelago, in the Saint Paul Mountain Range, 81 km northwest of the city of Puerto Princesa. The Park is bounded on the north by St Paul Bay and by the Babuyan River to the east. It is centred on 10°10'N by 118° 55'E.

Saint Paul Subterranean River National Park
Ownership and management of the core zone was transferred in 1992 from the National Department of Environment & Natural Resources (DENR) to the National Park Management Board (PAMB) of the City of Puerto Princesa. Ownership of the buffer zone is mixed, and includes considerable private ownership. Puerto Princesa Saint Paul Subterranean River National Park Large area 5,753 ha. This is the core land area of the National Park. There are a marine zone of 292 ha and a buffer zone of 16,157 ha.

The Subterranean River National Park centres around the Cabayugan river which runs underground for 8.2 kilometers through a massive cave, flowing directly into the sea at St. Paul’s Bay. It is tidal in its lower reaches. The Park comprises various landforms from flat plains and rolling hinterlands to hills and mountain peaks. The most impressive of these is the geologically young karst limestone mountain landscape of the St Paul Range which is part of a series of rounded limestone peaks aligned north-south along the western coast of Palawan. More than 90% of the Park is comprised of sharp karst limestone ridges around Mount St. Paul.

Saint Paul Subterranean River National Park

The river begins about 2 km southwest of the mountain where the river plunges underground to flow underground for almost its entire length to its mouth. The cathedral-like cave includes major formations of stalactites and stalagmites, and there are several large chambers up to 120m wide and 60m high. A small marine area is included within the Park’s boundary. Another feature is the Babuyan River, which flows along the eastern side of the Park (Nomination, 1998).


The mean annual rainfall averages between 2,000 and 3,000mm. The wet season is from May to October; the dry season from November to April. The average temperature is 27° C.


The rich flora of Palawan is radically different from that of the rest of the Philippines, preserving relics of the period when the island was connected by a land bridge with Borneo. There are 800 recorded plant species, 295 of them trees. Three forest formations are present: lowland rainforest, karst forest and limestone forest. The lowland forest is part of the Palawan Moist Forest, one of the WWF Global 200 Ecoregions, and is noted as having the richest tree flora in Asia. Its canopy trees grow to 35m high. Approximately two-thirds of the reserve’s vegetation is natural, dominated by Dipterocarpus grandiflora (apitong), Instia bijuga (ipil) and other hardwood species. Large specimens of Dracontomelon dao, Swintonia foxworthyi, Atuna racemosa, Pometia pinnata and Diospyros spp. are also found.

Thinly vegetated karst covers a third of the Park but karst forest with epiphytes and lithophytes is restricted to small pockets where soils have developed. Typical species in this kind of forest are of the genera Antidesma, Drypetes, Sterculia, and Pipturus, including the large liana species Stophantus, Marillana and Champersia. The palm Aranga brevipes has been found. The almaciga, Agathis philippensis, is a giant coniferous tree which is the source of a lacquer resin known as Manila copal. Coastal forest covers no more than four hectares. It is dominated by large specimens of Calophyllum inophylum, Pometia pinnata and Palaquium dubardii. Stands of large mangroves are a major feature of Ulugan Bay. Mossy forest and savannahs, sea-grass beds and coral reefs also exist (Nomination form, 1998).

Saint Paul Subterranean River National Park


The fauna is moderately rich, especially in invertebrates. There are 30 mammal, 18 reptile, 10 amphibian, 41 butterfly, 62 reef fish and 91 bird species. Endemic mammals include Palawan tree shrew Tupaia palawanensis (VU), Palawan porcupine Thecurus pumilis and Palawan stink badger Mydaus marchei (VU). Other mammals include crab eating macaque Maccaca fasicularis, Asian bearcat Arctictis binturong (binturong), anteater Manis javanicus, oriental small-clawed otter Amblonyx cinerea, palm civet Paradoxurus hermaphroditus, oriental civet Viverra tangalunga. Dugong Dugong dugon (VU), have been recorded in the marine section of the Park.

Birds include heron Egretta sacra, whitebreasted sea eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster, peacock pheasant Polyplectron emphanum (VU), scrub-hen Megapodius freycinet cumingii, blue-napped parrot Tanygnatus lucionensis, the threatened Palawan cockatoo Cacatua haemoturopygia (CR), Palawan hawk-owl Ninox palawanensis, collared scops owl Otus bakkamoena, stork-billed kingfisher Pelargopsis capensis, Palawan hornbill Asthracoccorus marchei, Palawan flycatcher Ficedula platenae (VU), white bellied swiftlet Collocalia esculenta and pygmy swiftlet C. troglodytes. Saltwater crocodiles Crocodylus porosus , water monitor lizard Varanus salvator and marine turtles are present. The tunnel and chambers of the river house abundant populations of swiftlets and eight species of bats.

St Paul Cave has been known to local people from ancient times, inhabited by a spirit that prevented them from entering the cave. The Park territory and surroundings are the ancestral lands of the negrito Batak people, of whom only 200-250 survive, and the Tagbanua communities who live around the boundaries, including the coast. The Tagbanuas unlike the Bataks are generally acculturated to the Christian culture


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