Spelunking in Sagada, Philippines

For those of you who don’t know spelunking is basically another name for caving. Before I began planning the first leg of a holiday to North Luzon, in the Philippines, I had never come across the term let alone given any real thought to doing it. Caving is not something I have ever been interested in and to be honest the idea of it puts me a little out of my comfort zone. Nevertheless, when researching North Luzon, spelunking in Sagada kept cropping up. My girlfriend was keen, my friends were keen; in spite of my doubts, it seemed inescapable, a new experience was going to be had.

Spelunking in Sagada: Rappelling
Rappelling

In Sagada

Sagada is a small, peaceful, hillside town in North Luzon, Philippines. Other than spelunking in Sagada, often referred to as the Sagada ‘Cave Connection’, there are also the famous hanging coffins of Sagada, some rice terraces and hillside treks, as well as some stunning sunrise/sunset tours to various viewpoints. Sagada is also a great place to relax and unwind. There are some lovely restaurants and really nice guesthouses, where you can kick back with a good book and a mug of mountain tea.

Let’s get spelunking in Sagada

What with spelunking in Sagada being a major highlight of the trip, there are of course tour guides all over the place. We booked our guide through the SAGGAS tour group in the centre of town.  There are various options for routes through the caves but, being novices, we went for the shorter trip, through just Sumaguing Cave. The longer route also takes you through Lumiang Cave and apparently takes about 4 to 5 hours. Our tour still took a few hours in total and we were pretty happy with our choice.

Spelunking in Sagada: Cook rock formations
Cook rock formations

Sumaguing Cave

The first half our spelunking in Sagada was fairly easy going and largely involved our guide taking photos of us and the various rock formations, which have mostly been likened to rude body parts by what must have been some fairly imaginative spelunkers. It’s not a great idea to take much in the way of valuables, as there are sections of deep water, but a light camera, perhaps in a waterproof bag, is a good thing to have. Our guide actually took charge of our cameras and got them through unscathed, although I was a little nervy about it at times. After the first couple of ‘stages’ things got a little more claustrophobic and there was plenty of clambering through small holes, wading through water, and climbing up rock faces. Although our guide didn’t speak much English he was very good at making sure we knew how to navigate the caves, often putting himself in rather precarious positions to help us through in one piece. At first we’d felt it might not be much of a challenge but by the end we certainly felt like we’d had an adventure and not just a stroll through a cave.

Is it worth spelunking in Sagada?

I was glad my friends had been so keen and had pushed me out of my comfort zone. Spelunking in Sagada was a great, new experience – the kind of opportunity you get while traveling but that, even though you’re being adventurous by being there in the first place, it’s still all too easy to pass-up on. Almost anyone can do it and it was a highlight of my trip to North Luzon.

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About James Gill

Born and raised in the UK, James got his first taste for travel on an inter rail trip, round Europe. Since completing his English Lit. degree, he has spent most of his time working and traveling in Asia. As well as the UK, James has lived in Thailand and southern China and is now trying his luck in Australia. He has backpacked throughout Southeast Asia and China and travelled in America, Australia and Europe. He is a keen reader and loves eating spicy food.

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