“Everyday is Christmas here,” our boatman muses, as he coaxes the fireflies with the red light from his cellophane-covered torch. The conspicuous insects respond, lighting up the mangrove just like a Christmas tree. It was late in the evening and we were the last to be toured, so we had the entire river to ourselves. My friends and I sat still in the bangka (outrigger canoe), steeping ourselves in the somewhat soothing pitch-black darkness and, occasionally, letting out irrepressible ooohs and aaaahs at nature’s light show.
Enjoy nature’s light show along the Iwahig River in Puerto Princesa, Palawan
The 45-minute Iwahig River Firefly Watching Tour takes visitors through 1.5 kilometers of the Iwahig River, also known as Balsahan River in Barangay Irawan, half an hour from the city center of Puerto Princesa in Palawan. Launched by the ABS-CBN Foundations and the government in October 2008, this award-winning eco-tourism project is now managed by the local community. This is one of the legacies of the late environmental activist Gerry Ortega, who was assassinated in January 2011 allegedly because of his anti-mining advocacy in Palawan.
Visitors wait for their turn to take the boat tour
The clusters of fireflies along the mangrove riverbanks are complemented by the omnipresence of bioluminescent plankton in the brackish water. They glow green when the water is disturbed, as our canoe slips into the eerie stillness of the river. Overhead, the night sky performs its own psychedelic light show, as constellations, planets and shooting stars convene for a bravado. If a chill night over San Miguel Beer and tamilok cevicheis your only picture of Puerto Princesa’s nightlife, think again.
HOW TO GET THERE: There are direct flights from Manila to Puerto Princesa. From the city, one can hire a tricycle to Iwahig River (30 to 45 mins, PHP 600 return, up to 4 pax).
The firefly watching operates from 6 to 10 pm daily. The 45-minute boat tour costs PHP 600 (3 persons per boat). Make reservations especially during holidays and weekends: +63 9185725598. Look for Nelia David. Flash photography is not permitted during the tour. Free-wifi available at the site entrance!
Welcome to my website! I’m travel writer, photographer and online influencer Edgar Alan Zeta-Yap from the Philippines. Join me as I hike, dive, fly, eat and do pretty much anything in between across 7,641 islands and beyond. Need to reach me? Please write me an email.