The environmental health of Palawan is what the island boasts of. With the strict environmental ordinance implementation throughout decades and strong public support, the teeming flora and fauna of Palawan are of strong evidence. One indicator of a healthy environment is the presence of fireflies in multitudes. When visiting Puerto Princesa City, one must not miss this experience – the Iwahig Firefly Watching Tour.
An hour drive west of Puerto Princesa downtown, you would locate the Iwahig Penal Colony, keep driving past it and you would see the hard-to-miss sign of the Iwahig Firefly watching site.
The park also has its dinner buffet set up you should you wish to fill your hungry bellies after the enchanting tour around the dark Iwahig River. Please note that there could be a number of biting insects like mosquitoes so have your insect repellant lotion ready.
Before the start of the tour, the usual orientation will be provided with the guests, stressing the rules and regulations, safety guidelines and of course, cracking “hugot” jokes. We are oriented by Sir Aristotle, amazed by his quick wit and an instant entertainment to the group. You would be assigned a boat number limited to three maximum passengers and are spaced apart so as not to overpopulate a certain area and disturb the fireflies.
In the pitch black of the night, while paddling the calm brackish waters near the mouth of the Iwahig River rimmed by thick and healthy mangrove forest, you would witness yourself numerous fireflies naturally decorating the trees. They are dubbed as “wireless christmas lights”. As a local in an urban area, witnessing this rare show of nature is certainly awesome and enchanting. I am lucky that time since a stray firefly, what they call as “spotter” flew near us and landed on my elbow. You can catch them between your cupped palms to see them up close but strongly advised not to hurt them or bring them back. In my lifetime, it was my second time to see a number of fireflies this grand, but this time, up close.
As we calmly paddled on the few kilometers the tourists are allowed to, our tour guides explained the importance of the fireflies’ presence in an area. Included in the guided tour is a “Constellation 101” on the spot lesson. Our paddle boat guide, Sir Edwin, use laser light to pinpoint the location of the known constellations like the Big Dipper and Small Dipper and the Northern Star. It was the first time in my life to have really seen them and knowing their exact location – another unforgettable moment.