Thursday, August 4, 2011

DIY Iwahig Firefly Tour

The nicest thing about Palawan is the uniqueness of its tour. Add to that the information and education one brings out of their tours. I have been an environment warrior so when I read about the Iwahig Firefly Tour, I was excited to try it out with my family.

The Iwahig Firefly Tour is managed by a cooperative of youth whose family member is a prisoner of the Iwahig Prison. Most of them are trained volunteers, knowledgeable about the river ecosystem, fireflies and mangroves as well as the constellations. They only not make a profit for their community, but they also protect their environment.

The Iwahig Firefly Tour is not as popular as the other tours like the Underground River, City Tour and the Honda Bay Tour. But I think it is one tour one should not miss when in Puerto Princesa.

Just before dinner we were picked up by Kuya Jomat, a tourguide and driver we met at the Underground River Booking Office, at our Bed and Breakfast, Casa Fuerte.


We paid Kuya Jomat Php 1500 for van rental which took us to Iwahig, 45 minutes away from the city hub. On the way to Iwahig, Kuya Jomat described the Iwahig Penal system where low security prisoners could roam outside bars, look after rice fields, and makes handicrafts for sale to tourists visiting the Iwahig Prison (it was included in the City Tour before but because of a recent riot, Tourism Department decided to delete it in the itinerary for the tourists’ safety).

We arrive at Iwahig river and was greeted by a small information booth where you pay Php 600 for banca. Good thing, Kuya Jomat made reservations already at their office, we were accommodated right away.


There are also small huts good for picnics while waiting for your turn in the river cruise.  We were early so we didn't have to wait that much.


We rented 2 paddle boats which accommodates 4 people including the tour guide. So it was mom, me and my brother, Rex in one boat while Mel and Miming in another boat.

We were provided with lifevest for safety purposes and Salakot which is optional. I required my family to use the salakot for photo ops. =)


Iwahig River is eerie quiet. You could hear the crickets sing while your tourguide will tell you about the fireflies.  While cruising the river, my mother was very concerned of a possible crocodile living in the area.  There are no crocs yet it is a protected area because of the mangroves that are abundant in the Iwahig River.  And these mangroves serve as dwelling places of the fireflies.  There are 2 species of fireflies at the Iwahig River.  That is only about 0.1% of the total species of fireflies in the world.  Fireflies are sensitive to pollution so having a firefly as abundant in the Iwahig River only tells that the river ecosystem is not polluted and alive.

My photography prowess is at a challenge while doing this tour.  As flash photography is not allowed during the tour and my camera not clicking at low light, what is left to me are memories of how facinating the experience was.

Imagine hundreds or even thousand of fireflies luminate a mangrove tree like a christmas tree in December. There was a point when the boatman flash a infrared light to a mangrove and  boom! all of the fireflies light up all together.  Our guide explained that it is actually their defense mechanism.  While I argue that they actually identify themselves to a predator, he said that it is power by numbers that protects fireflies.

Fireflies also emit light to attract for mating.  You could identify males from females by the intensity of light.  Males are brighter than females.  Iwahig River is the red light district of Puerto Princesa as glowing insects are waiting to be picked up by an interested glowing parter for a night of companionship.

But kidding aside, this tour should really be on top of your list.  Do yourself a favor.  If it is not included in your package, you can request with your agency for one.  The tour costs Php 1500 per person.  If you are in a big group, hire a van at Php 1500 and go straight to Iwahig, rent a banca for Php 600 (good for 3 pax) and you'll have a grand time with the glowing insects

Iwahig Firefly Watching Tour
Iwahig River
Puerto Princesa
For bookings kindly contact Nelia David: 09106001686

Van Rentals:
Jomat - 09185725598


  1. Awesome post! Looking forward to checking this out next week, before heading to El Nido.

  2. hi edgar!

    It was really a great experience. Try it out and be amazed!

  3. What time does the river cruise start?? coz I'm planning my itinerary.. Thanks!!

  4. I'm not really sure, maybe around come early so you won't queue for your turn...our van driver, Kuya Jomat, made the reservations because this was not in our initial plan. He even brought us to Kinabuch right after with no additional charge. Have a grand time at PP.


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