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FIREFLY WATCHING: Iwahig River Puerto Princesa

This is the DARK HORSE among the attraction one can find in Puerto Princesa, the FIREFLY WATCHING in Iwahig river. It's another activity I missed the first time, actually another unheard of in my case. I guess many tourists also miss this spot as it is a tour package separate from the rest, i.e, Honda Bay, Underground River, City tour which are the most popular tours visitors usually avail of. I find it similar to the Mangrove Forest boat paddling experience which is an additional feature you can add to you usual itinerary.

But unlike the Mangrove Forest which is near Sabang beach and one that you can easily access, the Iwahig River is around 45minutes away from city center so some find it inconvenient to go there. More so that you have to go here at night in order to see the fireflies glow in the dark. But this is one hell of an experience you should not miss when you decide to visit Puerto Prinsesa. For me, it became one of my most memorable part of the tour. Not only that it was my first time but because it's really educational.

We were taken here after our tour of Honda bay on the 1st day of our PPS familiarization tour courtsey of Airphil Express. Everybody was already exhausted. We showered and then went on with it after having dinner together in Marriane Home Inn.Despite the physical exhaustion and the lack of sleep.The bloggers and members of Airphil express were still full of energy. We came at around 9pm and the 1st thing that greeted us were small huts near the river which serves as the information center and waiting area where we stayed for a few minutes. The tour company already called them earlier for appointment. This is necessary because there are only a few boats and volunteers.
firefly watching
bloggers before riding the boat--syempre wala na naman ako (**bitter.hahaha)

Iwahig river is very quiet during the night. It was declared a protected area as it is heavily populated with mangroves. Mangroves are important to the fireflies. If I can recall well, out boatman/guide said that fireflies stay in mangroves. But they are very picky, they only stay in one specie of mangrove which apparently is present in Iwahig river. Of 2,000 species of fireflies, 2 could be found in Iwahig river.They are very sensitive to pollution and noise so the fact that they could still be found in this river means the river is still fresh and the surrounding area well preserved.

If you are planning to showcase your photographic skills here,forget about it. Flash from cameras are not allowed as fireflies are sensitive to bright lights and it is impossible to shoot under such conditions--very low light and moving boat. The only thing allowed are flashed of infrared light that the boatman brings with him. It's amazing because every time the boatman beams infrared into a tree, the fireflies respond instantly making the tree glow brightly as if its adorned with Christmas light. That's when you notice that there are so many of them huddled in a tree. They usually stay in big groups enough to really make the tree sparkle. To my delight. I have never seen fireflies that many in my life.

This reaction according to our guide is natural for them. As a defense mechanism and at the same time because when fireflies detect low frequency light, they deem it as another male trying to lure females so the males also respond by flashing their lights. We learned so many things from our guide. Info that I never heard of before which only shows the these volunteers are well knowledgeable of what they are doing. Yes, they are volunteers which means they only receive a minimal daily allowance for the thing they do.And they are family members who live in Iwahig Prison. They are not the jailed ones okay but are either immediate family or relatives.

The minimal allowance and the difficulty of paddling the boats (since motorized vehicles are not allowed in the river) means its hard to find volunteers. But there are signs that things are looking up according to our boatman as more and more tourists are coming and that means sustainable funds for this community based project. Those who stay he said only shows that they are dedicated in the project of sustaining the river and surrounding areas bio-diversity.I admire them for that. They are also thankful to ABS-CBN's Bayanijuan Foundation for helping them in the info-educational drive as well as promoting the tourist attraction.

And oh, each boatman also brings with him a laser light which he occasionally beams to the sky to show the constellations. Yes, the 45-minute boat ride is not just an educational journey about fireflies, mangroves and the river but of constellations as well. Our boatman literally marks the stars and draws the lines to connect the constellations just like drawing with a piece of paper, except this one  is more realistic. And I admit, he knows more on the topic than I do.lols   

If the Firefly Watching tour not included on the packages that you availed, you may rent a van for 1500php or even a tricycle at around 700php. They're gonna pick u up at the hotel, wait until the tour is done and drop you at the hotel afterwards. Boat rental is 600php for a maximum of 3pax. 

I highly recommend this activity. It's a life changing experience. I am dead serious about that.

This was part of our  tour of Puerto Prinsesa sponsored by AirPhil Express.

Full tour summary here :
AirPhil Express flies twice daily to Puerto Prinsesa Palawan.


  1. Sana august na! Hahaha! Lalo ako n-eexcite sa PP post mu! :D

  2. sayans at walang actual pic pero siguro nga mas magandang experience if you will be seing it personally. sana maisama to sa itenerary namin sa katapusan ng buwan na to

  3. Tina---go for it.basta, not to be missed to.mararamdaman mo xmas na.hahaha

  4. khanto--yung nga maganda at walang pictures akong nasama. feeling ko kasi minsan spoiler ang mga pics ko.lols

  5. ang saya naman never been to puerto princesa pa pro seeing your pics ganda talga

  6. sana may pics ka din ng mga firefly

  7. whahahaha excited makita yung mga pics.. heheheh :D
    sana makapunta na ko dito :D

  8. Phil Younghusband--napatumbling ako don--akala ko blogger narin si Phil Younghusband.hahaha

  9. event lover--imposible talaga.hahaha

  10. Axl--wala ngang pics--yan na yun. nakakahiya kasi photoblog diba? muntik ko nang di naisulat--buti me isang pic na nabuo.hahaha

  11. ang sosyal talaga ng mga trip mo anton! ikaw na!

  12. I like! Gusto ko rin mag firefly watching sa PP, first time ko makaexperience nito sa Subic Beach Matnog, meron dalawang puno na puno ng fireflies, ang saya kasi libre lang :)
    (Dahil merong Phil Younghusband dito dapat all-star :)

  13. beautiful post! although wala lang real pics...

  14. awtss kala ko me firefly pics :(

  15. This is quite interesting post about fireflies...bago sa akin yung information na they choose a certain mangrove specie for their habitat! Cool!

  16. Sayang walang picture mukhang exciting pa naman ang Firefly Watching tour sa Palawan. Anyway understandable naman, since Fireflies are sensitive. I know they are really good indicators of environment condition. Sana ma-try ko din yang itinerary na yan kung maka-visit ako ng Palawan... I find this an exceptional experience in Palawan.

  17. hey bro,
    again, thanks for the comment you left on my blog.

    did you know that i accidentally visited your blog (specifically this post) because i was googling abt 'firefly watching' in Palawan? my brother just came home frm his Palawan vacation and I was writing about it. He was asleep and I needed the correct spelling of Iwahig...

    you seem to be having sooo much fun. going around places and writing abt ur adventures. i guess you'll be one of the few people i'll look up to because you seem to be really good in what you're doing yet u remain humble and nice. (nax, papainom na yan)

    and so, i will put ur link on my 'blogs i look up to' part on my site. U dont need to return the favor.

    take care!

    Myke of Show Me Your Look Today


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