For an interesting and educational tour in Palawan, try the Iwahig firefly watching ecotour near Puerto Princesa.
From Puerto Princesa one afternoon, my husband and I called our tricycle driver to tell him what we wanted to do that night. I say “our driver” because we managed to snag him (he snagged us?) for most of our trip to Palawan. He said his name was James Bond. Anyway, we wanted him to take us to the Iwahig firefly watching ecotour.
Iwahig firefly watching tour lets you see a part of the Philippines where many fireflies are still able to live. Their habitat is not disturbed, and you learn about the fireflies.
I had only seen a single firefly before in my whole life. It was in Okinawa on a smaller island. So I wanted to see hundreds and thousands of them lighting up the mangrove trees.
Sir James Bond picked us up in the late afternoon when it was soon to get dark. We had already established a bit of a rapport with him and trusted that he wasn’t going to scam or overcharge us. So, off we went for the hour long, bumpy ride out of the city in the dusk.
About halfway, we stopped in the middle of some lovely green fields.
Sir James Bond had a chat with another tricycle driver then came back to us. He said his headlights were broken, so he was going to follow close behind the other driver. Okay.
Eventually we arrived at the Iwahig firefly watching spot and piled out of the tricycle. It was not completely dark yet, so it was still possible to take photos.
Sir James Bond was kind enough to register a boat for us, since we hadn’t already. Most people come as part of a tour, which reserves a boat for them. After that we had a bit of time to wait around the side of the river until it was dark. Sir James Bond was kindly going to wait for us until we finished then drive us back into town. Otherwise, I don’t know how we would get back into town.
While my husband and I waited, we checked out some information signs, a souvenir shop, and tried to take cool photos. As it gets closer to your turn, there is a waiting area. I was constantly on the lookout for mosquitos landing on me. I’m always afraid of getting a mosquito disease.
Around this time, it was at that exact time of the day when the light starts to flatten out and everything begins to lose dimension. We had to wait until it was completely black before starting the tour though.
When your number is called, you will board your little boat.
The boats are small, seating only three passengers plus the driver. Like a lot of small boats in the Philippines, they are catamarans. Though these ones hardly seemed to be using the two outside floaty things. Instead, they were surrounded by empty PET bottles. I guess this would help keep them steady and prevent splashing.
In the dark, we got into our boat, and the tour began. The boat driver paddled the little boat carefully along the Iwahig River. It is an educational tour. The driver told us all about the fireflies, the river, even the sky.
For example, there used to be more fireflies around the Philippines, but they are very sensitive to polluted water. This was one of the few places left where the water is still clean enough for them to live in large numbers. He also told us to look at the water where he paddled because there is bioluminescent planktons (?) in the water. It was also the first time for me to see the water glow blue.
The fireflies are also very sensitive to the weather.
When we went, it was a tiny bit windy, so there were less fireflies than on calm nights. Luckily, I don’t remember there being a full moon, which would have also made it even more difficult to see.
Flash photography is prohibited during the tour. I am not skilled enough at night photography to have anything decent, especially from a moving boat. It was really very dark. So, sorry, no photos of fireflies.
But, I still saw many fireflies!
It was very cool to see them flashing and twinkling in the trees. They glow a green/yellow colour as their bum lights come on and off.
The driver paddled down the river for a while before turning around. The area is very quiet. It is a lovely place to experience nature. Though I admit, I am sometimes (often) afraid of the dark. Still, I’m very happy that I saw thousands of fireflies in the mangrove trees.
While I wish it had not been breezy, I’m still glad that I saw many fireflies. More than I had ever seen before. I recommend going when there is absolutely no wind.
Since the tour is during the dark, you will get back to Puerto Princesa around 10 PM or later. I think a boat rental is about 600 PHP. From town, the whole tour takes about 4 hours. A tricycle is slower, and more uncomfortable, than a van. But it’s also cheaper. I don’t remember how much we paid Sir James Bond to drive us to and from the tour.
The Iwahig firefly watching tour is a great natural experience. It is nice to get out of the noise and chaos of the city and see something quiet and beautiful. Not that Puerto Princesa is too hectic.
Have you seen fireflies before? Let me know in the comment section.
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