It was inside the Tabon Caves in 1962 that archeologists discovered a fragment of the skull dubbed “Tabon Man”, dating to 22,000 years ago, making it the oldest known human relic from the archipelago at the time. Crude tools and evidence of cooking fires going back some 50,000 years have been unearthed in the caves, along with fossils and a large quantity of Chinese pottery dating back to the fifth century BC. Most of these items have been transferred to the National Museum in Manila for preservation, though some artefacts are on display in the caves. It’s still intriguing to wander through the damp caverns and tunnels, which may have been a kind of Neolithic workshop for making stone tools; researchers are still working here and are happy to show visitors the latest finds.
A number of hotels and travel agents in Puerto Princesa organize day-trips to the Tabon Caves for around P1200 per person, which is definitely the easiest option if you are short of time. Alternatively, you can catch a bus to Quezon, a fishing village consisting mainly of wooden houses on stilts, around 150km from Puerto Princesa. At Quezon’s wharf, bangkas can be chartered for P1000 for the thirty-minute ride to the caves and back. Stop first at the National Museum near the wharf in Quezon for orientation and information. There are actually more than 200 caves in the area, but only 29 have been fully explored and of those only three are open to the public (same hours as museum). The best place to stay close to the caves is the Tabon Village Resort (t0910/239-8381; P499 and under) in the village of Tabon, which has simple cottage-style accommodation with fans and private bathrooms right on the water, plus a good restaurant.