I've been to Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro for a quite number of times, let's say, to a point that I got bored of the place. Visiting Puerto Galera's white beach once or twice a year for the past five years, every trip is not as exciting as the previous one. My recent trip, however, was unlikely similar to the past ones. I got a little surprised by our newly discovered attraction, the underwater cave, which we all experienced for the first time.
Puerto Galera is considered as one of the popular Philippine travel destinations because of its White Beach. It has become an alternative for Boracay, most especially for tourists and travelers that are based in Metro Manila and nearby provinces in Luzon. Only about 4 hours from Manila, Puerto Galera is very much accessible -- and cheaper -- for beach lovers who are looking for that quick weekend getaway fix. And if you don't mind a crowded beach, that is.
For the nth time, I had the opportunity to visit Puerto Galera again. No, I didn't plan for this trip but got invited by a group of friends (like how I would end up to this place for the past years). Of course, a travel freak as I am, it was always my pleasure to go with them. :P It's my first out-of-town trip this year.
If you've been to Puerto Galera, chances are you've already tried some of the water activities like banana boat ride, jet ski or island hopping. In each of my visit, snorkeling is the only water activity that I rarely miss. I have to admit that I love Puerto Galera because of its rich marine life (apart from mindoro sling). I don't dive but am impressed by the coral garden which blew me away the first time I saw it. To be honest, Puerto Galera is better than Boracay when it comes to snorkeling experience.
Island hopping in Puerto Galera normally costs P2,000 for a group of 6 people, if I'm not mistaken. It takes about half day and includes snorkeling. It does not include the fee for smaller boats though where tourists cling on while being dragged during snorkeling. Big boats cannot go near the shallow area of the coral garden so you need to shell out another P200 for this.
As soon as you finish snorkeling, the boatmen would offer a side trip to the underwater cave. For the past snorkeling activities that I had, I was never interested with this. Aside from the boatmen not being convincing enough for me to try this, it means an additional expense of P200 for this activity.
This time, yet again, our boatmen asked if we were interested to see the underwater cave. However, I was shocked that they were offering this trip for P600 per head! Just a year ago, the rate was only P200. Basically, everyone did not agree. I felt like they were trying to con us. The boat guides were persistent so they lowered it to P500... until P200 (so yeah, first time visitors should beware about this). After a few minutes, everyone decided to give it a go.
As soon as we reached the beach cove, which was jam-packed by other boats by the way, we got off and headed to the entrance of the cave. We took the normal path using the entrance at the foot of the cliff where the cave is, went down inside the cave, climbed up the makeshift stairway leading to the opening on top, and went down on the sharp and rocky trail. Some tourists would go the other way around depending on the number of people in front of them.
The cave is not literally found under the water but half-submerged with ocean water so you can get in with your camera and other gadgets. It could get very slippery though at the opening where you need to crawl to get inside. The cave has an opening towards the sea where the water was coming in. You just have to be careful because one can get push back and forth by the waves inside. One of our companions accidentally submerged her digital camera after she lost her balance due to the strong movement of water.
On top there is a big hole where you can see the bottom or inside of the cave. Interestingly, the top offers a sweeping view of the beach, emerald green water and various rock formations nearby.
While being on top and taking the trail going down, we understood why our guides made us bring our slippers with us. You won't get out unscathed, in case you walk on foot, due to the very sharp edges and pointed rocks that you would even feel if you're just wearing a thin pair of slippers.
If you have been to some of the best caves in the country, you will not find the underwater cave in Puerto Galera as maginificent as them. It's small, and maybe surreal for some, but it's worth a visit if you come here for the first time.