Time Travel Turtle’s Michael Turtle finds out there is really only one way to get to Tabon Caves. By boat.
As the small wooden fishing vessel pushes off from the dock, I look out at the water ahead of us.
It’s a deep blue with just a small bit of choppiness from the wind around us. Ahead is what looks like an island covered in green forest for the caves are. It turns out that this bit of land is actually attached to the mainland but by mangroves that are too hard to pass through – hence the boat. I’m not complaining, though, because it’s a beautiful sunny day and this seems like the best way to arrive!
The Tabon Caves are quite famous here on the island of Palawan in the Philippines. It’s partly for their natural aesthetics because the limestone formations make for some great exploring and some stunning views. But it’s also because of the history. Part of the skull of a human was found here in one of the caves and scientists say it is about 22,000 years old. Archaeologists have also found pottery, jewellery and tools that are up to 47,000 years old. This is the oldest evidence of humans found in the Philippines and suggests people lived here a very long time ago!
It’s hard not to think about that as I go into the caves, torch in hand, and try to imagine people sleeping and eating here tens of thousands of years ago. It’s important to have the torch because some of these caves are really big and you lose the sunlight pretty quickly. One that I walk in to is as large as a concert hall – and almost as loud with the screeching of the bats that fly around me. Another one is more like a tunnel and I have to duck down and weave my way through the stalactites and stalagmites until I reach an exit at the other end.
There are almost 30 caves that have been properly and explored and mapped but only seven are open to the public. It only takes an hour to see them all but that feels like enough because you have to walk up and down steep steps to reach each of them.
With the humid air of the Philippines outside, the caves are nice and cool. So is the water back down by the coast that I walk through as a shortcut back to the boat at the end of my tour here.
It’s a nice mixture of nature and history here at the caves and there’s even a bit of adventure thrown into the mix – although it’s nothing too difficult. The only downside about that, though, is my embarrassment when the kids laughed at me squealing in the dark at the bats!
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Find out more about the work of Habitat for Humanity in the Philippines.