Mouth of Sumaguing Cave

SUMAGUING CAVE: My Spelunking Debut in Sagada, Philippines

The worry in my head started to grow bigger as we moved deeper into Sumaguing Cave. It wasn’t because it was difficult to climb down — it is, actually — but because it was beginning to dawn on me how tremendously tougher it would be to climb back up. You see, the way out of this cave if you’re doing the standard Sumaguing Cave Spelunking Tour is the same as the entry point. It didn’t help that as our trail became steeper and steeper as we went along, it also got more slippery. But it was the most fun I had had in a long while!

Mouth of Sumaguing Cave

There are over 60 caves discovered underneath the town of Sagada. Of all of these underworlds, Sumaguing Cave has the biggest chamber, earning its nickname “The Big Cave.” Inside are countless rock formations slowly shaped by nature over thousands of years. These rock formations mimicking familiar shapes are the highlight of this spelunking adventure. Some of these formations include the bear, elephants, turtle head, chocolate cake, and pregnant woman. It is perhaps these shapes (and the overall experience) that tourists keep coming back to Sagada for. Sumaguing Cave is probably the most popular of all tourist attractions in town.

There is a man-made staircase from the roadside that leads into the mouth of Sumaguing Cave. It was very easy to walk down these steps. (But again, the going down is not really the most tiring part of the trek.) The stairs slowly transform into rocks as you walk farther. The more you look ahead and look down, the more it becomes clear how challenging an experience it will be especially to first-time spelunkers.

The trail is divided into three stages.

  • Stage 1 is what I usually call “The Descent” because this is the part where your only goal is to reach the bottom of that steep, bat-poop covered cliff. 
  • Stage 2 is the easy and happy part. You’ll get to see most rock formations here. (This is the part where they will ask you to remove your shoes or slippers.)
  • Stage 3 is what the guides call The Tunnel. Time to get wet! This is where you’ll squeeze yourself into narrow openings and soak in cold water, and be guided by ropes as you traverse the cave.

Sumaguing Cave Spelunking Tour Tips

I won’t tell you the way around the cave because I can’t. That’s the role of the guides who will be with you at all times inside the cave. Besides, I barely remember anything. All that lingers now is how immensely I enjoyed being inside the cave and how I want to do it again and again. (A year after I first did this, I returned to Sagada and joined this tour again.)

But let me share with you some tips that I hope would be helpful should you go on this adventure, too!

  1. Wear a sturdy pair of sandals with a good grip. While shoes make perfect sense in many trekking tours, a pair of sandals with straps around the ankles and feet will work best (I think). You will be asked to leave your footwear when you reach the rock formations because from this point forward. If it’s okay with you to wet your shoes and have them covered in mud, go for it. Although many visitors who wear flip-flops scratch-free, I do not recommend this to everyone because it tends to slide everywhere especially on wet areas of the cave. There are slippery parts so make sure your footwear has good grip.
  2. Bring a flashlight. Get the type that you can strap around your head. Your guide will bring a powerful lamp (sounds magical, huh?) but it pays to have a light source that you can control so you can see more and focus on a specific rock formation longer.
  3. Wear light clothes. You WILL get wet and dirty. There are pools (and they are really cold) inside and you will have to dip in them in the course of the tour. There are shower rooms at the store near the entrance to the cave. Should you wish to take a shower, you may use them for a minimal fee.
  4. Bring a waterproof camera. You can still use an ordinary camera and let one of the guides hold it for you, though. They really have this balance-thing going in about them that they seem to not slide or fall or whatever. But to be on the safe side, just bring a water-proof camera.
  5. Implement a buddy system especially if you’re a big group. The guides always check if the group is complete. You can make it easier for them if you do a buddy system.
  6. Listen to your tour guide. They go in, around, and out of this cave more often than you can imagine and they know what they’re talking about. Listen to them. It’s for your own safety and pleasure.

I’ll think of more tips and add to this list. In the mean time, here are some photos from our trip.

My friends! Ready for adventure!
Stage 1: The Descent!
My friend Tonet posing for the camera inside the cave. Still sane!
Stage 2: Time to remove footwear
This is the part where you'll have to step on your guide's legs. We were worried for him, haha. That's my friend Tonet, totally shocked that she had to step on the guide to go down.
Bear rock formation. See the bear?
That's our helpful guide right there!
Hold that rope, Ces!
Finally, sunlight again!

Sumaguing Cave Tour Rates

These are the rates when we did this tour. I have not checked yet if these have been updated. But just to give you an idea, allow me to share it with ya.

1-5 persons (1 guide) – PhP 500
6-9 persons (2 guides) –  PhP 800

Note that these are group rates. Meaning, you will divide the cost by how many you are in the group. Is that cheap or what?

 

The whole spelunking adventure takes 3-4 hours. It probably sounds scary as you’re reading this post. It will probably look scary when you’re at the mouth of the cave about to begin spelunking. But it is relatively easy and safe. It is something that you will remember even years after you’ve done it and treasure forever. (I swear.) It is also something that I’m pretty sure you will be really, really proud of. And before we forget, it is FUN.


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Yoshke Dimen

Captain Dreamer at PhilippineBeaches.org
Yoshke is a part-time digital marketing consultant, part-time travel blogger, and full-time dreamer. He has three passions in life: social media, travel, and --- wait for it --- world peace. Yoshke has won 3 Philippine Blog Awards and received 9 nominations. Learn more about his personal journeys at Yoshke.com.

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