12 days 21 hours and 08 minutes
That is the amount of time left to vote for the Puerto Princesa Underground River, one of the many natural beauties in the Philippines. The competition for the New 7 Wonders of Nature has been steep and the final 28 finalists are vying for your vote. Who will represent these new hidden gems of the natural world? I can tell you where my vote is going.
The New 7 Wonders of Nature competition is related to the New7Wonders movement to increase awareness, education, and tourism by recognizing seven unique places on earth. The founder, Bernard Weber, has written a charter and frequently updates his blog on the activity of the movement. Physical candidates from across the globe were studied by a team of experts and 28 finalists including the Bay of Fundy in Canada, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Dead Sea in Jordan are among the incredible locations chosen. Ultimately, only seven will be crowned New Wonders of Nature.
Vote here for the Puerto Princesa Underground River!
The city of Puerto Princesa was my last trip in the Philippines before returning back to the states. The mayor, Edward Hagedorn, has turned the city into a source of pride for the region of Palawan and the country at large. The city is considered carbon neutral and boasts almost 90% forest cover. Investments in ecotourism, elimination of mining projects, and annual tree-planting on Valentine’s Day makes Puerto Princesa lives up to the nickname City in the Forest. Clink Hagedorn, the son of the mayor, briefly greeted me at the airport before showing me to my tour guide for the duration of my three-day trip. Each day was packed with incredible snorkeling expeditions, zip lines, and of course, the Puerto Princesa Underground River.
In order to get to the river, tourists must take a small motorized boat to the park’s entrance. The owners of the boats are local fishermen who received economic profit from the visitor activity in this remote area. The mouth of the cave is surrounded by tropical forest cover and giant monitor lizards. Families from the Philippines and around the world flock to the neon orange life vests and line up for their turn through the underground river. When it was my turn, my guide gently pushed me to the front of the tour boat; I would be holding the lamp to direct the boat through the cave.
As the guide pushed us into the darkness, I flipped on the battery and illuminated thousands of bats flapping overhead. Water dripped down the sheer rock walls and off the ceilings into the river below. Our boat traveling along the 8 km vein of the earth, deep into the heart of biodiversity, giant caverns and stalagmites. I swung my lamp according to the guide’s directions, left toward a mushroom rock formation and up to the cavern edge 60m above our heads. The entire tour took about an hour and I reemerged from the cave blinking as much from from the sudden wash of sunlight as sheer disbelief.
The Puerto Princesa UR is a wonder of nature whether it wins the contest or not. The title as a New 7 Wonders of Nature, however, would generate more tourism and revenue to a country still labeled as economically developing. Increasing revenue and prosperity in the Palawan area will fund sustainability efforts and showcase the incredible natural wonders of the Philippine archipelago.
The act of voting only takes a minute but the implications will last for decades. Vote for the Puerto Princesa Underground River!!