Friday, May 30, 2014

Iwahig Firefly watching

I have always loved going to the Iwahig firefly tour, this is my fourth time. But last night was just the perfect combination of good temperature, clear sky and firefly sightings! Last night was truly magical. The stars spread across, almost from horizon to horizon, the river water so still, you could see the stars reflected in it. There is just enough ambient light from the distant city that the mangrove treeline was silhouetted against the black sky, to give the whole scene depth and dimension.  The night we were there, there was bio-luminescent plankton in the water, so when you put your hand in, the water glowed! The water is brackish because the river runs into the sea and mixes with the fresh water. But it is cool and clean. I never get tired of this tour. We live only about 15 minutes away too!

Iwahig Firefly Watching is an ecotourism project between ABS-CBN Foundation and the city government of Puerto Princesa under Mayor Edward Hagedorn.

Check out reviews on TripAdvisor.
If you go there without a travel agency booking, you might not be able to go on the tour, it has become that popular. We didn't make one, as the number I had to book had changed, but fortunately some people did not show up for their allotted time and we were able to get on, but only after waiting for the last boats. Try to get their earlier than your time slot to give you time to pay and find a spot to sit in the waiting area. You will be given a laminated number which you will turn in when your number is called. There are only 3 people to a boat, so if you have an odd number, you can still hire a boat for the one or have the odd person out share a boat with the other tourists.
The hut in the middle is where you sign up and pay, the right hut is the new buffet "turo-turo" restaurant. The hut lit up far right, is where you buy the photo they take of you on the bancas before heading up the river to see the fireflies.
Try to go during the dark side of the moon. During full moon nights, it's difficult to see the fireflies in the moonlight. December is the best time to watch because that is when the mangroves bloom and it attracts more of the fireflies. But any evening that it isn't raining is still well worth it. It's so peaceful and still on the wide river and if there are no clouds seeing the stars seen from there is amazing.

The tour guides know the constellations in the dark night sky and use a strong laser light to point to them. It's very educational, as they guides tell of the importance of the mangroves and when docking, they tell the story of how two of the ancient acacia trees that are on the shoreline, have adapted to the brackish water and are over 70 years old, with one being over 100.

They are very organized there is no crunch to get on your boat. You are called, 3 at a time by number, you then don a life vest, and go down to a barge before the returning tourists are disembarking. They take a photo of you and you can buy, or not, a print as you leave.  You should make reservations and I have included the information below. The tour lasts 35 to 40 minutes.

They have 10 boats and only 3 people per boat. They have a nice waiting area with lots of benches to sit in. I was surprised how many visitors there are now.

To the waiting area. Amazing how many people go there. It really is a very enchanting and mild adventure. Even without the fireflies I would have enjoyed the river boat tour because the vast expanse of stars and their reflections on the river were magical enough.
Part of my group waiting to get on the Iwahig Firefly tour!
They take a photo of you before you board the banca to see the fireflys.  You can buy a print afterwards. We didn't get ours as we didn't want to wait.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Princesa Garden Island Resort and Spa

When I visited this resort, it had barely anything open and few guests. I think it wasn't really fully opened. But here are the shots of the areas I was shown by the friendly staff. I love the open lobby and the natural bamboo touches spread across the resort.

I also ate lunch there at Rice restaurant with a friend and the Greek salad was good, but a bit skimpy on the cucumbers and portion.  I went back a few weeks later to have lunch at the Rice restaurant, but due to lack of guests I suppose, the aircon wasn't on and it was too hot to eat in there. So we left and went elsewhere. Hopefully they won't repeat this.

Ceiling light made of bamboo in the main lobby.

Reception desk at the Princesa Garden Island Resort

The bamboo Teepee is now a gift shot and populated with native gifts. 
This is the lobby bar and restaurant. Very open feeling. I have to say I had the best chocolate cake there baked by their own in house baker. They have a chiller with lots of other deserts now I am told.
Lobby café and bar. The chocolate cake is really exquisite. At least it was the day I went there when they first had a soft opening.
This is the breezeway to their Rice restaurant.

What you see when you enter Rice restaurant at the resort. It features Filipino and International cuisines. There is a huge buffet section but it was not yet open when I visited.
Inside Rice restaurant at Princesa Garden Island resort.
This is one of the garden suites. I has a huge jacuzzi tub and a rainfall shower. Access to one of the 6 swimming pools is just a few steps away from the glass sliding door.  Their featured rooms house lanais, and are furnished with all the essentials, plus more. All rooms feature their own 40-inch LED TVs, 8-inch rainfall showers, vanity area with 8 inch magnified mirror, lush pocket gardens and sun loungers.
Luxurious bathroom of one of the garden suites.
I haven't stayed there, but they do give local rates to Palawan residents. Not sure if it's worth the stay. I will have to try it out one of these days.

Princesa Garden Island Resort and Spa

Brgy. Bancao-Bancao Canuigaran St. Puerto Princesa Palawan, Philippines
Reservation Tel: +63 2 744 7979