PHILIPPINES: Iwahig River Firefly Watching in Palawan – immersion in nature

After four years, I managed to visit one of the most beautiful islands in the world — Palawan, again! Carl & I finally landed on the island after too much delay at Mactan Cebu International Airport. Philippine Airlines was, as usual, late and sent us an email about the delay a couple of hours before departure. Luckily, we had access to Mabuhay lounge, so waiting was not that bad. However, we were later told that one of the plane’s wheels needed to be replaced, and who would have guessed that it takes hours to do that?

Anyway, the important thing was we reached the island safely. 🙂

Puerto Princesa, Palawan from the sky

Unlike Bohol, we didn’t make much plans on what to do and see in Palawan. Well, the plan was to take it easy and go with the flow. We stayed in a B&B type of accommodation — the Blessie’s Bed and Breakfast located in the capital city. It has many good reviews on booking-com, and we really liked the idea of staying in nipa huts to get a feel of how it’s like to live in the Philippines. We weren’t actually disappointed. The manager himself, Kuya Boyet, picked us up from the airport and eventually offered to do the city tour for us the following day. He showed us interesting spots in the city, like the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm, which was not usually included in the regular city tour. Tours in Palawan are ideally centralized, such that the prices are controlled. So, you pay the same price no matter which tour agency you choose. And I think that was good! Anyway, more about the city tour in the next entries. 😉 (Check out Blessie’s B&B on facebook here.)

Blessie’s B&B

On our first day, we decided to do the firefly watching activity on Iwahig River. The same activity was being offered in Bohol, but the rainy weather didn’t allow us to do it there. For 1,100PHP per person, we experienced boating in the dark and getting a glimpse of the shy fireflies, or alitaptap  in Tagalog! The tour includes free pickup and drop off, dinner buffet, boat transfer and guide.

Iwahig Firefly watching station

We were picked up at around 5:30PM, and after driving along dark and bumpy roads for about 40 minutes, we reached the banks of the river. Seriously, those roads needed some lighting! We were ushered to the waiting area, given life vests and oriented about the do’s and don’t’s during the tour. Basically, we were told not to rock the boat and to take photos with flash photography.


Getting into the little paddle boat
Getting into the little paddle boat

Our boatman used to be an inmate at the Iwahig Prison. It was very admirable that he chose to turn a leaf over in his life, and decided to go for a better living. Inmates at Iwahig Prison are given opportunities for rehabilitation and to earn income by doing farming and handicrafts. More about it in the next entries. 😉

He knew a lot about the cosmos, and of course, about fireflies. He actually sounded like a very well-educated man. For about 40-45 minutes, he guided us along the dark river, occasionally flashing red light to attract the fireflies and coordinate them. Fireflies lit their abdomen to attract mates and to serve as defense mechanism.

Firefly watching
Firefly watching

So, those two photos above were the only shots I took from the whole tour. We were astounded by nature, the mixed silence and strange bug sounds, the bright moonlight, the still river, and of course, the beautiful fireflies. It was a very romantic experience. ❤

The local government of Palawan are exerting effort to protect the river sanctuary by trying to keep it clean and preventing the inhabitants from building their houses along the river. Paddleboats are also preferred for the tours so as not to disturb the organisms in the river.

After the tour, we were led to the buffet table, where sea foods and local cuisine was served. We were not very hungry that time, so we just took a little bite, grab some drinks and waited for the other members of the tour before heading back to the city proper.

The buffet restaurant
Dinner buffet
Souvenir shop

The whole firefly watching experience was like an immersion in nature, and we highly recommend it. Don’t forget to put mosquito repellant though. 😉

This is all for now! Until next time. 😉 Cheers!


Iwahig Firefly watching station

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