Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Ecotouring Puerto Princesa: Iwahig firefly (and nature) watching

At sunset, I joined another eco tour. This one was down Iwahig River, about 20 kilometers south of the city proper. It’s ran by the Iwahig Community Ecotourism Association, organized by Bayanijuan last year. More than a dozen youth, all children of the Iwahig Penal Colony’s employees, are now earning up to P1,000 a month in running the tours on rotation basis. 

A section of the riverbank near the Iwahig bridge has been cleared for the tour and there are stone pathways and grass huts as well as a pavilion for big tourist groups. As soon as it gets dark, tourists are asked to put on insect repellent, life vests and a salakot (native hat) before boarding the paddle boat. Our first stop was to view nilad, a favorite host plant of fireflies, along with nipa and tabigi, two other mangrove species, according to our boatman. Swarms of lightning bugs lit up Nilad, a wondrous sight to behold. Manila was named after this same plant which once thrived in its waters. I started to imagine what Manila Bay looked like when these mangrove trees still lined the coast. We spotted a few more isolated trees where the lightning bugs flashed on and off, the quiet swish of the oar in the water soothing the senses on a moonless night. Finally, we reached the high point of the tour – an island where hundreds of fireflies glittered in the trees. They twinkled like Christmas lights in the dark night, echoing the twinkling of the stars in the sky.The two-hour cruise costs P600 per boat, which is good for three people. Rice cake snacks are included, along with an interpretative tour of the mangroves. In the dark, however, it is difficult to appreciate the boatman’s spiel about the mangroves as you can hardly see anything. Guests may reserve buffet dinner in advance for P150 each. We were treated to a local delicacy called tamilok, a bivalve from rotten mangrove wood whose body resembles a worm. It’s supposed to taste like shellfish, but this time I passed. 

(This is part 3 of the cover feature, "The Green Dream," by Yasmin Arquiza for Seair Inflight Magazine, April-May 2009 issue. Art direction by Jocas See • Photography by Oggie Ramos)


Related Posts with Thumbnails