Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Challenging San Carlos Cave

Exploring San Carlos Cave is one of the best parts of our “wrong turn” adventure in Tuguegarao. Since we do not really have an idea of what things/places to explore in this place, located north of the Philippines, we relied on the brochure we got when our plane landed in Tuguegarao airport terminal.

It is obvious from the brochures and flyers that caves are the primary attraction of Cagayan Province being Callao Cave as the most prominent. On the day that we visited Callao Cave, I wore my usual ‘outdoor outfit’ (rash guard, trekking shoes, leggings) expecting that I will get wet and dirty because I will do a lot of crawling. I was wrong. Callao is the easiest and friendliest cave I explored so far.  I was disappointed because somehow I expected for some kind of adventure, but happy nonetheless because I was able to witness the magnificence of the province renowned cave.

For some reason our guide might have felt the air of disappointment I exuded, and after discovering Callao and its neighboring caves he asked if we want to explore a more technical cave. Of course my eyes glowed and without hesitation and second thoughts, off we went to San Carlos cave!

Left: trekking to San Carlos Cave  ♥  Right: entrance facade of the cave
Located in Penablanca, Cagayan Valley, we trekked for almost half an hour and found San Carlos Cave situated in the Sierra Madre mountain range. True indeed, San Carlos Cave is highly technical. Its narrow passages entail a great deal of crawling; wading in cold subterranean stream is fun and trekking the knee-deep mud is challenging! It is probably one of the most difficult caves our country could offer. For those who want to experience spelunking in San Carlos, caving techniques together with the right equipments will help a lot.

formed by the sands of time
life-sized stalactites of San Carlos cave
Bad example. Spelunking without hard hat is not advisable

the art of crawling
Kuya Willy our guide in his crawling moment
dirty and happy
documented entrance and exit
 Due to its technical difficulty, we failed to complete the challenge of exploring the cave. It takes one whole day for the exploration and we don’t have enough time left (we entered the cave just before 2PM and went out quarter before 5PM); our guide did not also allow us to continue into the deep since the only thing we got is one liter of water (for three people) and headlamps. 

To feed my curiosity of what we missed I researched the details of San Carlos and found out more exciting and challenging details such as:

1.       More than half of its area is underwater thus San Carlos cave is classified to be a Philippine river and a karst cave (which means that it is a limestone cave that was formed over the years through the dissolution of the limestone by water with carbon dioxide).

2.       Underground waterfalls can be found within the depths of the cave.

3.       Its most distinguishing feature is the Ice Cream Parlor and John the Baptist Chamber

·          Ice Cream Parlor  - the name was derived from the cluster of white stalagmites that are akin to large scoops of ice cream

·         John the Baptist Chamber - is said to be the most challenging part of the cave. The chamber’s rough and uneven wall may cause cuts and scratches and since it is a pit filled with water, it requires swimming skill to reach the other side of the chamber.

I found the adventure I wanted, but failed to take it. I will sure go back to you San Carlos Cave!

Get the feel of San Carlos cave by watching this video:



  1. thanks for sharing your trip. This is one of the best adventure i saw!


    ~ Pinaybyaheras

    1. I am glad you liked it. Continue exploring. Cheers! :D

  2. do you have a contact info for the guide? how much did you spent?

  3. Hi Dingdong, we gave Php800 to our guide. Unfortunately he doesn't have a mobile phone then. I suggest you go first to Callao Cave as there are guides available there. Look for one that can bring and guide you to San Carlos cave (yes, not everyone has the ability to go through this technical cave) so you must ask them first if they can. :)

  4. never been to Cagayan province, but this surely is a good reference. thanks for sharing your adventure and some info.. :)


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