Paglugaban Cave

By Analynne Sison

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Located in El Nido, Palawan, Paglugaban cave is a limestone cave with 2 main chambers and a few more smaller chambers that branch out from the second chamber. The entrance to the cave is at sea level, and can be entered through a small hole on the side of Paglugaban Island. The entrance is challenging to get into, as you have to time your entry with the tides and hang on to craggy rocks while the tide ebbs out of the cave, then let go and fin as the tide flows. Diving is prohibited inside the cave unless a special permit is obtained from the local government office in El Nido town. Definitely, do not go into this cave if you’re not a trained cave diver.

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After entering the cave, we are in the first chamber which is a shallow chamber about 5 metres going down to ~10 metres at the other end. The water here is salty, on account of the tide coming in, with some marine life like shrimp and a few fish. Done with our light checks, we proceed to the other end and fin our way from the coral rubble at the entrance, to powdery white sand that reflects our torches and gives the scene a serene blue glow. The bottom gives way down to 22 metres of the same white sand where mushroom looking rock formations stand proud and add to the awe factor of the cave. Going down into a pit with a rock that looks like a cow pie, there’s a small nook where you will find a diver’s bootie. Turn back around and a few metres away, you will find a pink dive torch left here when some recreational divers back in the 80’s decided to go in, five of the seven never came out alive whereas the remaining two survivors luckily found themselves in the second chamber, where we are headed, and managed to survive for two days before the Philippine Navy rescued them.

Ascending from this pit, we continue on our journey and go into the second chamber, where we ascend and take in the sight of sparkly stalagmites and stalactites. Here you will also find a statue of the Virgin Mary and a cross in memoriam to those unlucky divers. Inside this chamber, the water is sweet and fresh, the rainwater from outside having been filtered through the limestone and ending up here, Below the surface, the water is crystal clear with only the haloclines (the mixing of salt and freshwater) giving you sudden blurred vision. This is the biggest chamber with air in it, and we make use of this chamber to go over our dive plan to go deeper into the cave. We descend, and lay a gap line from the main line to take into the third, fourth, and fifth chambers. These chambers are tighter, with no air spaces, so we have to be careful that all our equipment is in order and our buoyancy and trim are all perfect. The bottom is made of clay, and any silt out would be dangerous. The water being still, with nowhere to go, a silt out would take days to clear, and panic is not an option.

Heading back out, we make notes of where the line is located in case of a lights out scenario (which in this case is hard since there are around 8 of us), all the while since the beginning of the dive, constantly checking our air gauges. First one to hit turn around pressure (2/3rds of beginning pressure) needs to notify the team that we need to go back out. Thankfully, since we’re all quite experienced, we all have similar air consumption rates

Back outside, into the open ocean, the pleasant warmness of the water greets us like a comforting wool blanket with a cup of hot chocolate.

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Ocean Geographic Explorer (OGX) is a diving adventure resource with a special focus on marine photography and ocean conservation. Our content is divided up into six primary categories: Travel, Sea Science,  Equipment, Photography &Video, Conservation, and Lifestyle. We endeavor be a portal for people with all levels of interest in the marine environment  to learn about and become part of a community of like-minded ocean lovers who enjoy sharing their knowledge of and experiences in our fascinating ocean world.

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