Caving in the Philippines – #2 Lobo Cave 12 January 2017

Joni has put up a number of FB posts highlighting the trips we did and titled them “Veteran Caver from Australia”, I thought he was talking about Jim, being that Jim’s had quite a bit of experience.  But no, wasn’t Jim he was talking about, turns out it was me, because I’m the oldest woman that he’s had on one of his trips.  Not sure whether I’m flattered or insulted about being called a “veteran”.  Makes me feel I should have fought in some sort of war somewhere! 

Lobo Cave is a one day trip starting around 8am from Joni’s house and getting back to the house at 4.30pm.  The cave is very beautiful and is comprised of two main branches, a lower river level and an upper level.  Unfortunately, as we’d arrived in the middle of the rainy season and it had been raining steadily for a week, we couldn’t go past the waterfall in the lower level, but we did take a look at it.  Lobo is quite a sporty cave with some climbs and lots of swims.  Because this is a commercial trip, Joni had us wear life jackets for the river section, was sort of nice just floating along and not having to work to stay afloat (the river is very deep), plus he set up a belay for us to drop down in the diamond passage.  The whole day was incredibly organised, transportation appeared out of no-where when it was needed, it appears that except for being underground we weren’t ever far from mobile phone coverage.

Permits are needed for caves in the Philippines, and a “permit” is also needed from the head of the village that the cave is near. For Lobo cave though, Joni is the only person that goes into this cave anyone that just turned up at the village to do the cave would be turned away, and referred to Joni. The cave shows no evidence of people going through it, no wear marks and no fixed ropes, it makes you feel as though you are actually discovering it yourself.


We had a briefing at the house before setting off, and whilst Joni laid out what we were going to do during the day, we were still taken by surprise (in a nice way), when things like the boat at the end of the day just appeared out of no-where.

We set off from the house by foot, although a tricycle took the heavy packs to the Jeepney stop.

We picked up the Jeepney just down the road from Joni’s and then after about half an hour, stopped by the side of the road and met up with our two porters who carried the heavy packs for the rest of the day.

From the highway we walked up this road that led to the village where the two porters came from. Most of the time the porters are farmers in this area (pineapples, root crops, bananas), but when needed they earn extra money from Joni by either guiding (Filipino groups) or being our porters. They understood English but didn’t like to speak it all that much.

The view from the track on a ridge that we eventually got to.

We dropped off the side of the ridge and down a fairly steep muddy track to the headwaters of a river.

Once we arrived at the river (which was in flood), we walked upstream for a couple of hundred metres.

We then came to a clearing which is where we changed into overalls, and the entrance of the cave.  We were soaking wet by the time we got to the cave, either from sweating (it was very hot), or because it started raining.

One of the first formations that we came to was the “angel’s wings”, this really did look like an angel, most of the formations were stark white, just like this one.

A lot of the formations, like this one, had water running over them (due in part to the heavy rain that they’d had over the last week)

Eventually we came to the “diamond” passage and one of our porters climbed down to the bottom, it was an easy down-climb, but Joni set up a belay for us anyway (he’s very safety conscious)

Jim going down the diamond passage

Once down the bottom, there were heaps more formations and eventually we came to the underground river. There was a waterfall here, and when the water isn’t too high (or swift), you can go past the waterfall upstream, today though, there was too much water so we turned around and went back.

Lovely rim pools

These were under the water (which was high), but ordinarily, they’d sit up like goblets

more rim pools

lovely ceiling formation

Again, water flowing over these formations.

Jim going back up the climb of the “diamond passage”

Whilst we were down the diamond passage, the other porter had set up lunch for us, lots of rice, chicken adobe and dried fish.

After lunch we donned life jackets and climbed up a formation with the use of a handline (that the porter had put in while we were having lunch), you didn’t really need it but someone who wasn’t used to scrambling would have found it handy

The formation at the top of the climb

After the climb, we walked along in the river for a short way, formations all around us.

Oh, yes, it was around about here that we went through a narrow section and had to step over some water-filled holes in the rock, minding not to disturb the snakes curled up in the holes.  I wasn’t all that happy about this (those of you who know my snake phobia will understand) but the snakes seemed to be quite content not to move when I stepped over them.  Sadly, we had to come back the same way so I had to go through the process all over again!

In one of the pools we found this white crab, there were a lot of these in the pools both on this trip and the next one. The caves seem to have more wildlife in them than caves in Oz

Eventually the river became quite deep and you were forced to swim.

Formation coming almost all the way down to the water in this passage

This formation was amazing, it went quite a way (almost a metre) out over the river/water

More strange formations, and quite a few stalagmites, which weren’t as plentiful as the stalactites.

As you can see this formation was huge

Beautiful shawls

Jim and me in the river, it was actually quite nice just floating with the life vest, not as much work as without one!

Eventually at the end of the river, we climbed up to an exit.  This exit/entry point isn’t used as it’s a long way to get to it.

Back in the river heading back to the lunch spot

Another strange formation

The tree of us (Joni in the middle) at the exit of the cave.

We then walked downstream to where we had entered the creek, continued past that point and headed down the river to where it was navigable. It was hard going over the rocks but easier on the bank than in the river.

There are caves everywhere, most of them unexplored. Here is an exit of an underground river.

The river became much deeper, but still not navigable.

Finally we turned a corner and there was a boat that was just big enough for the five of us plus the boat owner.

We only just fitted in it. This was a big tree that had been hollowed out.

From the boat, the view downstream, all limestone rock either side and some cave openings (unexplored I believe)

After a half hour or so, the river opened up and was quite wide. Here was a “bridge” across it, very rickety looking!

We had driven over the bridge (on the left in the distance) the day before (on the bus), and I’d wondered what these teepee looking structures were. Turned out they were for green lipped mussels to grow on. Where we docked (just near the bridge), there were a few farmers sorting and cooking mussels that they’d harvested that morning.

Once we got off the boat it was 10m to the road and we just had to wait for a jeepney to take us back to Catbalogan.  There was a woman selling cooked banana-que (bananas rolled in brown sugar and then either fried or grilled, not sure which), on sticks, so Joni bought us some, they were absolutely delicious and I was hooked on them for the rest of my stay in the Philippines, none tasted better though than those that I had after the caving!  The jeepney pulled over by the side of the road for the porters to get out at the road to their village.  We would have new ones the next day because the next cave was nearer to Tacloban than Catbalogan.

We got on the jeepney soaking wet and got back to Joni’s for a shower and then Monique arrived!

This was a really great trip, I’d do it again it was so good!

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9 Responses to Caving in the Philippines – #2 Lobo Cave 12 January 2017

  1. Jenny Hughes says:

    WOW ! What a amazing trip! The caves were so beautiful.
    Disappointed with no snake pictures though! 🙂
    Having porters must have been a fabulous luxury!

    • marilyn says:

      Yes, caves were pretty speccy, very big, the caves we have in NSW are all small-ish, probably due to lack of rain here. Porters were great, they were so sure footed and did all the caving in thongs, or bare feet and were incredibly helpful!

  2. Jeff says:

    Very nice looks like a great trip shame its underground.

  3. brad says:

    wow what a trip formations amazing . one more off the list /

  4. Dirk says:

    The rigging of the belay rope through the Fig 8 and then the crab seems a bit odd.
    Why not just rig the rope into the Fig 8 as per the usual method?

    • marilyn says:

      Neither Jim nor I took that much notice at the time as I was planning on just down-climbing anyway, so not sure why he did it that way, will take a closer look at it!

  5. Simply amazing! We had the same adventure with Joni. Lobo Cave is simply amazing. We plan to explore more caves with Joni in the coming months.

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