The Sumaguing Cave Survival Guide, Sagada, Mountain Province

The Sumaguing Cave Survival Guide, Sagada, Mountain Province

Sumaguing, in a word, is awesome.

I’ve been to the underground river in Palawan before and the experience wasn’t as memorable as this, at least not for me. I’m not saying that to be disrespectful or to talk it down either. The underground river is amazing in its own way, but it wasn’t nearly as much fun as Sumaguing. With its demand for physicality and potential for real danger, Sumaguing Cave can make you feel like a wuss when you’re there and a badass right after.

It’s funny, I’ve done the short caving course several times and it seems like I’m left with an indelible memory each time.

When I went there with my sister and her then-boyfriend David, I watched a grown man take a crap at a bus stop. No joke. Just minutes into the cave, David felt number two coming along. He had little choice but to hold it at this point, so he did, for over an hour. Later, we were making our way back up to the surface when he took off on his own, bolting up those million steps like it was nobody’s business. I’m not kidding, he ran up so fast it was like he grew wings or something. When I finally reached the top, I couldn’t see him but I knew exactly where he was — behind the bus stop/shed. Out in the open like this, it was the only place he could be. My suspicions were confirmed when a passing dog stopped at that very spot just past the shed to stare at something (or someone). David must have been done at that point because he shot out almost instantly to shoo away the dog. Relieved, he said he wiped his ass with an old newspaper that he found lying next to the shed.

Another time, I took Ren to Sumaguing when we were still dating. One part of the cave requires you to jump from one rock to another. Ren did just that, but not without slamming into our guide Ivan and knocking out his gas lamp. We had to sit in pitch blackness for about half an hour while we waited for Ivan to get a replacement from town. Both scary and cool, I can still remember the sound of icy mountain water dripping melodically all around us.

And during this last trip, I fooled my buddy Pat into thinking that we had to swim through a donut hole at some point in the cave. I told him that we had to hold our breath for about 15-20 seconds to safely make it through. With a look of genuine panic on his face, he stuttered: “But…but…but…what if I can’t hold my breath that long?!” An understandable fear, considering he can’t swim. I let him off the hook shortly after. 😆

These are fun memories, but if you’re under the impression that Sumaguing Cave can be taken lightly, think again. On this same trip, I asked our guide if anyone had ever died in the cave, and he said: “yes, not too long ago during habagat (monsoon) season”. A tourist had apparently gone in unassisted when the rains started coming down hard and flooding the cave. He never made it out, and his body has yet to be recovered.

Equal parts breathtaking and precarious, Sumaguing Cave is fun but you do have to proceed with caution. Here are a few things to keep in mind to (safely) make the most of your Sumaguing experience.

All hail from the King’s Curtain, one of many stunning rock formations in Sumaguing.

THINGS TO REMEMBER

1. Register, Get a Guide, and Bring your Receipt

Sumaguing Cave’s cardinal rule: Register at the tourism office and get a guide. I don’t care how experienced a spelunker you think you are. This cave is dangerous on your own so don’t even think about it. Aside from keeping you safe, guides add value by telling you stories and sharing little tidbits of information.

When you register at the tourism office and pay the environmental fee (PHP 35), they’ll give you a receipt which you should carry with you at all times. A “passport” of sorts, you may be asked to present it before entering sites like Sumaguing Cave.

2. Wear Flip-Flops and Shorts

You’ll be asked to remove any footwear at a certain point so it’s best that you wear flip-flops. Plus, you’ll be wading through pools of water (sometimes up to your chest) so be prepared to get wet. Be sure to wear appropriate clothing. Getting through the cave will require some measure of limberness as well so you don’t want to wear anything that’s too tight or restrictive.

3. Keep your Valuables in a Ziploc Bag

As described above, you’ll definitely get wet in the cave so you need to store any valuables in waterproof Ziploc bags. If they don’t fit in your pockets, then be sure to carry them in a backpack. The cave is very slippery in parts so you’ll need both hands free in case you need to catch yourself.

4. Bring a Waterproof Camera

As much as I wanted to bring my DSLR with me, it would have been risky to do so. The chances of it getting wet or smashed are high, so it would be best to bring a small, waterproof point-and-shoot instead.

5. Leave the Kids at Home

Simply put, Sumaguing Cave isn’t for young kids. It’s too dangerous so be sure to leave the wee ones in your hotel room.

6. Be Back before Nightfall

You don’t want to be stuck in the cave come nightfall so be sure to start early. They’ll advise you of this at the tourism office anyway. For the short course, the latest time you can start is 4PM. For the longer Lumiang-Sumaguing cave connection, I believe it’s 1PM.

I had a GoPro strapped to my forehead and this is the video that came of it. If you like dark, out-of-focus, and incredibly shaky videos, then you’ll love this one. Enjoy!

How to Get There

Sumaguing Cave is about an hour’s walk from the town hall. Just walk towards Yoghurt House and keep walking until you get there. But before you do that, be sure that you register and get a guide first from the tourism office first. As already described, Sumaguing Cave is dangerous and shouldn’t be attempted on your own.

SUMAGUING SHORT COURSE
Estimated Time Needed: 1 – 1.5 hrs
Fitness Level: Moderate
Guide Fee: PHP 500 (up to 4 pax) / PHP 600 (up to 5 pax) / PHP 1,000 (2 guides, 6-9 pax) / PHP 1,200 (2 guides, 10 pax) / PHP 1,500 (3 guides, 11-12 pax)

LUMIANG-SUMAGUING CAVE CONNECTION
Estimated Time Needed: 4-5 hrs
Fitness Level: High
Guide Fee: PHP 800 (up to 2 pax, +PHP 400 for each additional person)

For more Sagada travel tips, check out our First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

 The First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines

JB Macatulad

JB Macatulad

JB is one half of Will Fly for Food and its chief itinerary maker.  He's the one to blame for all the crappy photos and verbal diarrhea on this blog.  Don't listen to him.
JB Macatulad


There are 17 comments for this article
  1. Sofia at 10:31 am

    I love this cave! I had the chance to visit and experience the Sumaguing Cave in Sagada, and I totally agree with what you said.. I never had an experience in caving, so I was really scared when we entered the cave (I was with my friends), but our confidence boosted up when we got out! That was so amazing, we will never forget that unbelievable experience.
    The bats were pretty scary though, but very welcoming.. I no idea I would touch shit in my life.. actually, we had to grab on it. Very awesome adventure!

  2. dannis at 5:32 am

    hello..your blog helps a lot..i just want to ask if which spots needs a mandatory tour guide??thankyou

  3. Edwin at 4:18 pm

    Why not wear some sandals? Going into a slippery cave with flipflops is perfect if you want to slip and slide maybe… Watershoes or sandals are best in wet caves!

  4. JB Macatulad at 4:26 pm

    Hi Edwin, barefoot is still best. A couple of Japanese friends of mine went with fancy “cave” sandals but they wound up taking them off and going barefoot anyway. Our guide explained that cave sandals are good for a certain type of surface but not Sumaguing’s. Your guide will ask you to remove any footwear at a certain point for your own safety. 🙂

  5. nenita at 5:59 pm

    hello JB,

    I am curious, the cave is mostly made of limestone right? Would you say they are pretty slippery with the water running on them?

    Also, I noticed you guys are not carrying any food or water. Did you not need any water because it was not rigorous enough? Or you just didn’t have a way of carrying it and of course you needed both hand free?

    Lastly, is it allowed to bring headlamps?

    Thank you for answering my questions.

  6. JB Macatulad at 8:16 pm

    Hi Nenita, yes that’s correct. Once you get deeper in the cave the surface is made of limestone so it has good traction even if it’s wet. The slippery part is at the beginning. The rock is smoother (like marble) and slick from moisture and bat guano so it can be pretty slippery. This is why the guide will ask you to remove your shoes and go barefoot for maximum traction. You can carry things like food and water but it’s best to keep both hands free in case you need to catch yourself. For that reason, I suggest bringing a backpack. And yes, you can wear headlamps. Your guide will also be carrying a kerosene lamp. Hope that helps. 🙂

  7. ann at 4:39 am

    went there last September 2015,it was the very first thing we did as soon we arrived in Sagada, I’ve gone caving before and I must say this is one if not the best so far. I had an asthma attack on my way back up(one for the books) it was an awesome experience and definitely worth going and trying.

  8. JB Macatulad at 9:13 am

    Thanks for sharing your experience Ann! Hopefully the asthma attack wasn’t too bad. I can relate, I have asthma too. 🙂

  9. Nenita at 1:19 pm

    That sucks Ann that you had an attack but on the bright side, you were pretty much done. It is possibly from the humidity and temperature changes. I have the same issue, my asthma is triggered by humidity changes.

    Thank you JB for answering my questions. I forgot to ask, I tried looking for this question from previous posts and pardon me if it’s a repeat but I wanted to know, how did you keep your valuables, i.e. passport, dslr, etc. Do they provide a safe in the rooms you stayed at? Cuz obviously you can’t be lugging your stuff around. Did you ever have any issues with theft or concern with safety?

  10. JB Macatulad at 4:09 pm

    Hi Nenita, I had one of these WATERPROOF BAGS with me. I had it strapped to my neck to free up my hands so it was a little cumbersome. If you can get one with a shoulder sling, then that would be ideal.

  11. vanissa at 11:47 am

    hello, we have plan going to sumaguing-lumiang cave this holy week , and i really want to ask regarding time limitation or is there a limited time going to the cave? like, we will arrive to sagada straight from our trip here from cebu and we (along with my co-workers) estimated , that we could get to the location around 1:00 pm. Is it still okay for us to go there?? any recommendation? thank u

  12. JB Macatulad at 2:27 pm

    Hi Vanissa, no worries. You should be fine. It doesn’t get dark until around 6PM so you have plenty of time. 🙂

  13. Janel at 1:27 pm

    Hi. I’m planning to go in mid January next year to sagada, do you think the weather would be okay to go to the cave? Thanks

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