Psychedelic Firefly Watching in Puerto Princesa

“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. 

Iwahig River Firefly Watching Tour
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 ceviche is 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!

9 Replies to “Psychedelic Firefly Watching in Puerto Princesa”

  1. Rome Diwa says:

    I always wanted to try this when I was livin in the city. Maybe sa next uwi ko. Thanks for sharing the info.

  2. Yes, firefly watching in Iwahig is a must-experience. A good eco-tourism project to support. Thanks for reading! Merry Christmas =)

  3. Myx says:

    The biggest surprise of my Puerto Princesa trip last July. Kala ko napuntahan ko na lahat ng pwedeng puntahan sa PP. Medyo romantic din siya especially when they showed us the constellation of the stars. Pwede rin siyang proposal location tapos kapag nag-no yung girl, itulak mo na lang siya LOL =))

  4. I loved the firefly tour! It was one of my favorite experiences in Puerto Princesa. I learned a lot about fireflies. Nakakatuwa ang mga bangkero dun kasi inaral daw talaga nila ang tungkol sa mga alitaptap para may masabi silang informative during the tour.

    @Myx Sabi ng bangkero namin marami-rami na rin daw ang nagpo-propose dun. Wala pa naman daw nag-no. 😛

  5. bertN says:

    A firefly tour must really be something. What time of the year is best to do this?

  6. @Myx: Haha thanks for the proposal idea! Dapat sa whaleshark watching yan para mas exciting haha

    @nagbabasang: Yes, nice to see that the boatmen are knowledgeable of the fireflies…

    @bertN: I believe the fireflies are there all year round!

  7. hi EAZY,
    may i quote this blog entry in a souvenir program i’m doing for mayor hagedorn? will fully attribute you, of course.
    hope this is ok with you.

    thanks much,
    regina abuyuan

  8. @Regina: Sure! Just don’t forget to include a link to this blog =)

  9. Catherine says:

    Thanks for the infos Ed! Was looking for more information about this activity! See you soon! IMY!!!x

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