The Puerto Princesa Underground River. Rated as one of the new 7 wonders of Nature and also an UNESCO world heritage site. What´s nice to know is, that the locals very much appreciate this magnificent site, too! According to our tourguide approx. 60% of all visitors are Filipinos! But first you need to get there. We opted for the convenience package: Van transfer with aircon (2h one way from PP), lunch including 1 bottle of coke, boat transfer to the entry point, boat tour into the cave with tourguide and VAT all inclusive for 1.500PHP/person (approx. 30€). The cave itself is surrounded by pristine tropical rainforest and the wildlife that goes with it. Sharing a boat with 8 people, we ventured into the spectacular cave, which is a complete ecosystem in itself. Bats, snakes, crabs, insects, etc. in a “spectatular limestone karst landscape” (UNESCO). And tons of stone formations, on which you can go wild with your creativity to come up with what these might look like. On some of the walls we discovered crosses, which early explorers had drawn for their protection as they believed demons to live in the cave. We also saw an inscription dating back to 1937 made by two American officers during an expedition.
Just 20 minutes from the Kiwis, the next highlight is waiting: The Waitomo Glowworm Caves. And it seems that we somehow keep ending up on underground rivers. This time with the added benefit of thousands of glowworms (arachnocampa luminosa) being there to create an unique ambiance. They create their source of light in an entirely different way than fireflies, but are by no means less fascinating creatures. Examined during bright light conditions, they are maybe not love at first sight, but switch the lights off, and…wow!
Approx. 120.000 visitors come to the Cook Islands, approx. 25.000 fly on to Aitutaki during their stay, yet only 1.200 visitors a year make it to Atiu. That´s a little more than 20 people on a weekly basis. Want something truly off the beaten track? Go to Atiu! A geological adventure place, a bird haven and local coffee are three good reasons to visit!
Anatakitaki caves is a must see, when you are on Atiu. Embedded in tropical rainforest, this limestone cave with spectacular stalactites and stalagmites is untouched by any human infrastructure or safety measures. It also contains an underground pool, in which you can take a candlelit swim and is home to an absolutely unique bird (please go to the next blog entry).
Unique to Atiu, unique in its features: the Kopeka (Atiu swiftlet). This little bird, not weighing more than 13 grams, has some serious technical features. While it´s got perfect sight to find its way when there is light, it also is equipped with sonar. It lives in the Anatakitaki cave – where it is mostly dark – and navigates by issuing click-sounds, which reflect of the cave walls and structures. And please remember, we are talking about a bird here, not a bat!