Beautiful places in the Philippines
It was one of those nights. There were no visible stars – only a solitary beaming moon shining upon the still waters. Our boatman sailed through the sea down to the river by moonlight.
Further up the mouth of the river awaited another of nature's wonders. We didn't know what to expect, but trusted the boatman, as he had been too eager to show us what it was.
As we neared the mangrove forest in Donsol, Sorsogon, we spotted a faint twinkling around the trees. The sparkles intensified as we got closer, beckoning us to watch the tiny rotating lights dancing before our eyes. Oh, fireflies! Hundreds of fireflies twinkling once and together.
How they twinkled like a string of white Christmas lights was beyond our knowledge, until our boatman explained that each twinkles at a different frequency.
Mangroves and fireflies have a significant connection as these trees serve as host to these winged beetles. Mangroves also enrich the river and nearby waters, providing food and a healthy habitat to microorganisms like plankton.
In the Philippines, there are ecotourism destinations for firefly watching. These are usually sustained through continuous community efforts and support from the local government and private organizations.
Its still-healthy rivers serve as the habitat of fireflies, planktons and whale sharks. This is further enhanced with The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) – Philippines by planting 10, 000 mangroves seeding in the area in 2011.
Firefly watching in Donsol and Ogod River can be arranged with the Tourism Center, where registration for butanding encounter also takes place.
Ogod River is farther but is home to more fireflies than in Donsol. For P1250 to P1500, a group of 4 can go firefly watching inclusive of boat and tricycle rental, guide, and registration fee.
Fireflies at Ogod River. Photo by Gregg Yan
Once a project of ABS-CBN Foundation, the Iwahig Firefly Watching station eventually became a joint project with the local government of Puerto Princesa.
Like in visiting the Underground River, this tour is very organized. Only 3 persons are allowed for each boat, while others wait in one area with their numbers in hand. Making a reservation can be beneficial since walk-ins will have to give way to those with advance booking, unless they arrive late.
There are 10 boats that leave at a given interval and return after a 35-to-45-minute cruise. Either you or a tour operator can do the reservations through contacting these numbers 0916-780-9118 or 0929-616-5990.
Options for firefly watching in Bohol are more diverse. There is the usual group firefly watching tour by boat, fireflies kayaking and a floating restaurant.
Kayakers can go firefly watching along the Abatan River, while the tourists in a 10-seater boat can extend the tour inside the century-old Postan Forest. The 500-peso rate per person is inclusive of tour, entrance fee, and jacket and boat rental. For more than 10 guests, the rate per person is reduced to P400 each.
In Laoay, firefly watchers can dine on board while river cruising. Inquiries for night tours in Bohol can be made with the Municipal Eco-Heritage Tourism, Culture and Arts.
In Siquijor, firefly watching can also be arranged with a private beach resort and in Coron, Palawan with Kingfisher Park, the headquarters of Parrot International's Blue Racquet Tail Parrot/"Kilit" Project. A similar tour is offered in Romblon in Magdiwang, Sibuyan island, among others.
Mangrove forest in Coron, Palawan. Photo by Carol Caudilla
When firefly watching, the darker the surroundings, the easier the fireflies get detected. But river cruising is still worth it even during a starry night. It's also comforting to know that many locals no longer cut mangrove trees now that these sites can be a tourist attraction.
Have you ever been firefly-watching? How was the experience? Let us know in the comments below. – Rappler.com
Mavic Conde is a web content writer based in Bicol. She travels to tell stories about the joys of journeying, interesting cultures and places, and unique personalities. Recently, she joined Bicolandia magazine, a local publication that aims to promote tourism in Bicol.