Iwahig Firefly Watching Tour: An enchanting experience

One of the many things you can do in Puerto Princesa aside from visiting the Underground River is to go on a firefly watching tour on the Iwahig River.

justine palawan hat
Photo credit: Gabriel Binette

Our tour was arranged by the staff of Marina de Bay Palawan where we stayed for two nights. A van picked us up at the hotel and then headed off to pick up some of our other tour mates who were staying in a different hotel. When the tour group was complete, our tour guide took us to Tanglaw restaurant for us to have our buffet dinner first before heading to the Iwahig River. The dinner was included in our tour package.


After dinner, we got dropped off at the Iwahig Firefly Watching Ecotourism and Wildlife Park. We waited for about 15 to 20 minutes before getting on our bangka or boat. Our bangkero or boat driver also served as our tour guide.

There were only three people in our boat, our boat driver, Gabriel, and me. Our tour guide paddled us along the very still Iwahig River. He then points out to the mangrove trees to show us where the fireflies were. He said that only 10 per cent of the firefly population is visible that night we were there. According to him, it was because of the windy night we had that night which resulted to only a few fireflies showing up. However, he was able to catch a firefly before our tour and he put it in a plastic bag for us to see closely. Looking at the firefly closely, I was able to see that the light comes from its lower abdomen.

firefly in a bag
Firefly in a bag!

He also told us to look at the water of the Iwahig River and we were surprised to see the water light up every time he paddles. He said this is because of the presence of planktons in the river. It was definitely a magical sight to see!

The Iwahig River is actually made up of both fresh and salt water or also known as brackish water. I was so worried that crocodiles or alligators may attack us during the tour, but our tour guide reassured us that these creatures cannot live in brackish waters. Thank god!

me as a firefly
Justine the firefly šŸ˜› Photo credit: Gabriel Binette

Our tour guide also mentioned that the Iwahig River leads to the Iwahig prison. A fun fact about the Iwahig prison is that this prison has no walls yet the escape rate is low!

Although the river is about seven kilometres long, our tour guide turned back around after a kilometre, saying tourists are only permitted to go that far. The boat tour lasted for about 30 to 40 minutes.

gabe and mamang bangkero
Our boat driver/tour guide with Gabriel after a magical firefly-watching tour!

After the tour, we were given a bit of time to check out their souvenir and gift shop. Some items from the shop were actually made by the prisoners at the Iwahig prison. After shopping for some pasalubongs (souvenirs or gifts) for family and friends, our van took us back to our hotel.

Expenses: Php900 (CAD$22.50) per person inclusive of tour guide, van rental, boat rental fees, and entrance fees.

Looking at other things to do in Palawan? Island hopping is a popular one or if you need eight more awesome reasons to visit Palawan, click here.


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  1. Cool šŸ™‚
    I’ll be in Philippines next month

  2. So cool! Fireflies remind me of being home in Tennessee. It would be such a cool experience to witness them elsewhere in the world. Great story and advice!

  3. I have Phillipines on my list for my upcoming SE Asia trip, so this is coming really handy šŸ˜€ Thanks for sharing! And how is that prison even working without walls? I couldn’t imagine that here in Croatia šŸ˜›

  4. Never heard of it before but it seems super interesting to see. Loved it!

  5. Sounds cool! It’s always nice to experience something different.
    Maja | Mexatia recently posted…36 Hours in Istria: Our Short Guide to Croatia’s Most Visited RegionMy Profile

  6. There’s something magical about fireflies… Thanks for the suggestion, something I certainly would not have thought even existed!

    • jusztravel
    • January 13, 2016

    Based on research, šŸ™‚ “This may be due to the fact that the inmates are allowed to govern and police themselves to a large extent, but also because many of the inmateā€™s familyā€™s choose to live at the prison too; giving up jobs and houses and moving the entire family to be near their loved one.

    As well as the relative freedom of this open prison, inmates are given the opportunity to retrain and can opt to learn a trade within the colony. From farming and fishing, through to forestry, and carpentry. This allows the government to recoup the money spent on the prisonerā€™s upkeep. Once the government has deducted the monies owed to it, the remaining money goes back to the inmate and their family.”

  7. I never would have thought there would be a firefly tour. How fun and magical. I will look this up if I head that way.

    • jusztravel
    • January 13, 2016

    I didn’t know about this either! My friend who owns the resort/hotel we stayed at mentioned it to me šŸ™‚

  8. A firefly watching tour sounds so romantic! Never heard of something like that before, it’s not exactly part of the typical wildlife tour range…
    Svenja recently posted…My Personal Top Five Reasons To Love CaliforniaMy Profile

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