I woke up earlier than the ringing of my alarm clock. It’s a brand new day and I’m all psyched up and energized because, finally, my dream of going inside Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) has come true. I have been dreaming about this vacation even before PPUR made it to the New 7 Wonders of Nature.


I had everything prepared the night before, especially my camera, my handy-dandy Nikon D5100; it’s the most important thing to bring, aside, of course, from my wallet and iPhone. I definitely have to document this vacation because it’s a once in a lifetime trip!

I have been a shutterbug ever since I can remember. My dad introduced me to this small rectangular device that has a magic button that captures significant moments with just one click; and I’ve been addicted to it ever since. I believe there’s more to pictures than what meets the eye; I’d also like to think that there’s a precious story behind every picture.


these colorful bancas will transport you from the port of Sabang to the entrance of PP’s Underground River

It’s a winding 2-hour drive from Puerto Princesa City going to Sabang, we need to stop somewhere in the middle of the trip for a little pee-break. Sabang Port is where the colorful bancas (pump boats) that will take us to the entrance of the Underground River are located. When we arrived, there were dozens and dozens of people, young and old, who are all like me, waiting for their turn to go aboard the 10-seater paddle boat that would journey inside the heart of the cave.


orange helmets and life vests are a must before getting inside Puerto Princesa Underground River

When the final moment came, I had to calm my overexcited heart; the last thing I want is to have a heart attack inside the limestone cave and eventually drown in the dark river. I sat in the last row of the boat directly in front of the boatman. The boatman will navigate us through the underground river and will also serve as our comic tour guide.

I was clutching my handy-dandy camera ready to take aim while listening to our boatman for some quick FIYs. It was as though Mr. Sun decided to take a day off because once you enter the cave leading to the underground river, it’s a total darkness. But human eyes are really amazing because we can quickly adjust to be able to see better in the dark. And how I wish my camera was as quick as my eyes because when I tried taking a picture of the beautiful stalactite and stalagmite formation it, all of a sudden, it wouldn’t work.


I was beginning to get frantic because I’m already living my dream and suddenly my not-so-handy-dandy-anymore camera decided to take a break. I tried all the little tactics I know in order to revive it, but I was really getting frustrated. We were almost halfway through the maze and I couldn’t even appreciate all the beautiful formations the boatman was talking about. For 15 long minutes, I was sweating, big cold sweats. I wanted to cry and make the boatman stop for awhile for me to work on my camera, but unfortunately that couldn’t happen because I was with 9 other passengers who were now having the time of their lives.

As I was about to give up, a feeble idea hit me. The main reason that my camera won’t capture anything is because it’s too dark inside so I tried using the flashlight on my iPhone and positioned it near my lens so that the camera can capture light as much as possible. I’m hoping against all hopes for my weird plan to work, and boy, oh boy, it did work!


I captured pictures of different stalactite and stalagmite formations to my heart’s delight. I started appreciating all the amazing patterns coming from the precipitation of limestone and water that was made a thousand or more years ago.

the one big candle inside the cathedral of the Puerto Princesa Underground River

I was smiling like crazy while clicking and clicking my now-working camera; and I can’t explain the happiness I felt during the remaining 30 minutes of our ride.

the white lady inside the Puerto Princesa Underground River

Looking back, that grueling 15 minutes inside Puerto Princesa Underground River, made all the pictures I took more precious. The photos I captured maybe lovely but the memory and experience I had before I was able to take all those was what made the pictures more worthwhile.

the holy family inside the Puerto Princesa Underground River

the three kings on top of the big candle inside the cathedral of Puerto Princesa Underground River

13 replies
  1. Michael Falk
    Michael Falk says:

    OK, this post makes me think of Jenny’s post a while back called Photo Free Travel. The Dream is slipping away only because you can’t capture it in your camera but you still have your eyes, brains and memories…….right? :)

    OK, I get it, honestly I would have been the same way as I enjoy photography to a point I sometimes go somewhere for the sole purpose of taking pictures. I like it, I enjoy getting home and looking at my photos and see if they live up to the experience I had. I also enjoy watching how the scene changes as the light does…yup, bit of a dork here.

    Anyway, I’m glad you got your photos Wynna and some crafty thinking prevailed. My brother has a Nikon D5100 so I have a little experience with it. What settings were you shooting at, did you bump up the ISO?

  2. WYNNA
    WYNNA says:

    @mfalk75: yep I set the ISO to the highest possible ISO my cam has. I really dont know what happened to it; I’m not so so technical with my camera. I think I need to get some tips and tutorials from the best, and that’s you Mike! hahaha :D you should giv eme free tutorials! LOL

  3. Arianwen
    Arianwen says:

    I know this feeling! When I visited Costa Rica last year, my camera wouldn’t turn on for 2 days. It was right at the start of my trip and I was by a stunning volcano that often hid behind cloud but was on full view constantly! What made things worse was that my sister couldn’t understand why I cared. She doesn’t get a buzz from photography and we had to rely on her 10-year-old 3 megapixel camera as a back up! Luckily mine started up again when we left the area. Very odd!

  4. WYNNA
    WYNNA says:

    @arianwen: Ugh! that feeling that you have a once in a lifetime chance of seeing something magnificent and your camera decides to take a break. But then again, Mike’s right, we still have our eyes and memories to capture and witness everything.
    I’m glad your sissy still has that 10-year-old camera, though. :)

  5. Michael Falk
    Michael Falk says:

    3 megapixels! lol, funny how it changes so fast. I always wonder why they keep holding the megapixels back, you know they are going to find some more megapixels to add to next year’s batch of cameras….just give us the mega pixels now! ha

    Wynna, I’m surely not the best but I plan to entertain myself and try to make a post about photography and perhaps it will be useful :)

    Brock, thanks for stopping in with us, we all envy you but you are a great choice and congrats! For those of you don’t know check out brocks big announcement and follow along with him in his Viator Dream Travel Job :)

  6. Elmer Cruz
    Elmer Cruz says:

    Sometimes when your camera won’t work for some reason it means that there is something that you were not meant to capture….nothing, just being freaky…wahahahaha. But honestly, I’ve had some really freaky trips, even some really freaky photos….like begets like, I supposed! :)

  7. WYNNA
    WYNNA says:

    @Mike: have you started with that tutorial? I’m excited to read about it. :)
    I agree with you Mike, the camera companies like to take things slow. I guess, it’s for business purposes. haha :)

  8. Michael Falk
    Michael Falk says:

    Wynna, revisiting this post while working on a upcoming one I concluded that I bet your problem was the auto focus. It’s not so great at locking a focus in dark situations especially when the cave walls are so far away. So using your flash light was smart because it allowed your camera to focus ;)

  9. WYNNA
    WYNNA says:

    @mfalk75: i guess that was the main problem. I hate places with less light because I definitely would not know how to adjust my camera settings. even night mode won’t help especially if you’re in a cave. Nikon should make “cave settings” next time. LOL!


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