Mangrove Paddle Boat tour
Before heading for the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (PPSRNP), our group decided to stop by Barangay Cabayugan for the Mangrove Paddle Boat Tour (Php200). Since we already made it this far in Puerto Princesa City, everyone may have unanimously thought that this unexpected detour could be considered a bonus sidetrip to some extent.
This ‘interpretative project’ was initiated through the efforts of various local government agencies and international partners. A portion of the entrance fee goes to the local barangay which helps sustain this ecotourism venture. The tour usually lasts an hour or so. We were aboard an improvised fiber glass paddle boat and donned our lifesupport vests afterwards. The guide then gave a brief orientation on the role of mangroves on the larger scale of things.
The brackish river was eerily calm and looked deep as well that morning. It reminded me of a scene in LOTR-FOTR wherein Galadriel bade goodbye to the hobbits. Cate Blanchett was not around at that time though. It was just us (3 couples, myself, our paddler and a guide) paddling through the forest. A few minutes later, two guys suddenly showed up from nowhere and quickly crossed the narrow expanse. They were then hunting for tamilok (woodworms) at the other side of the mangrove forest.
We also spotted snakes, hermit crabs and a monitor lizard. In shallower areas, we also sawtalaba (oysters) perched on the rocks at the bottom.
During the later part of the tour, we were serenaded by our guide with a charming song, the melody of which was ripped off from a popular folk tune. The lyrics speak about the importance of the mangrove forests not only for the animals but also for their local village. She also got us a fresh tamilok from a chopped mangrove root. It was then washed and sliced when we were already at the shore. I fearlessly ate my share since I already had my taste of this unusual delicacy at Kinabuchs the night before.
The sad reality is that most of mangrove trees elsewhere are incessantly cut off and then turned into charcoal. It is said that mangrove wood gives more heat and lasts longer compared to other types. I appreciate the fact that tours like this are organized to show the other economical uses of the bakawan (mangrove) aside from ending up as just a common household utility.
The Mangrove Paddle Boat Tour may not be as popular as the PPSRNP tour, but it is worth a sidetrip nonetheless. You are not only shown how the residents at Barangay Cabayugan take care of their mangrove forests. By supporting this sustainable initiative, you also ensure that they get to do just that for a long, long time.