Kayaking Abatan River
Why do we kayak?
- It’s a great form of exercise
- For the adventure
- For the accomplishment
- To see nature first hand
But why would anyone want to do it for 4 hours with the last hour in total darkness?
For the same reason as above, just a degree higher in all aspects.
This is the story of my 4 hour kayak adventure.
Abatan River isn’t well known to most people, even travel guides. I ran across a video of a group of kayakers who kayaked throughout the Philippines and one of the locations was Abatan River. This river caught my adventurous imagination with its mangrove tunnel and Nipa mangroves, palms trees that grow in water therefore adapted to mangrove biome. These trees are known for its palms which are formed to create Nipa roofs and huts. This river is lined with them and a whole ecosystem is built around them providing local fisherman with a bounty of fish and shell-fish such as river crabs. As a tourist spot, the river is known for its thousands of fireflies that congregate on the mangrove trees after dark. These are adult fireflies with only one mission in life, even forgoing eating, and that is to mate. The mangroves give off a scent which attracts these adult fireflies in their last stage in life before they pass on. They often congregate on two or three trees, hundreds of them lighting up these trees as if they were Christmas trees lined with electric lights. The river isn’t over-run with tourists, which suits me, or wildlife. Unfortunately, the locals have hunted most of the wildlife out of existence in the area.
It turned out I was the only fool willing to kayak for four hours and it didn’t help that we were paddling upstream against the current. My kayaking trip also got complicated with a typhoon still lingering in the area threatening to come down hard with never-ending rain and gale force winds. The ride started out as I expected, the current would be a major influence but my experienced guide, Sherwin, would keep me on the path of least resistance and read the flow of the river expertly. Then the heavens opened up with large raindrops pummeling the river, fortunately we were in the mangrove tunnel (trees crisscross overhead to form a tunnel like feel) during majority of this down poor with the trees blocking majority of the rain. As we exited the tunnel, we still experienced another half hour of this heavy rain. We reached the 4 mile mark of our journey and dusk had crept in on the river and we started our way back down the river to hopefully view the fireflies. Just 15 minutes into paddling in the darkness we see our first congregation of fireflies hovering around a mangrove tree. It’s an amazing sight to see, hundreds of flickering bioluminescent insects overhead. Here is where we joined with another group from Australia who signed up for the firefly tour only. Another group of Koreans were also supposed to join us but were frightened off by the heavy rains and cancelled their tour.
I only wish I had taken my GoPro off my head and aimed it personally with my hand. I raised my head to hopefully capture these insects on video but all I captured was the darkness of night. As we paddled further down river, we saw two more glowing trees like this. And then the strong winds picked-up making it almost impossible to paddle against it but Sherwin once again picked the correct routes back to the tour headquarters. The Australian group had to stop and seek shelter during the heavy winds as their kayaks were the wider version and had a hard time traveling against the wind. They, also, may not have been in the same shape as Sherwin and I. We must have paddled passed them, along the opposite bank, in the darkness.
I want to thank the tour company Kayak Asia in Bohol who conduct themselves and their tours with an eye on the ecosystem along the Abatan River. Unlike tours on the Loboc River, they don’t use motorized boats that adversely affect the fireflies and accounts for their diminishing numbers. The motorized boats brings in more tourist but these insects may not be around long if this continues on the Loboc River.
It was an amazing adventure and accomplishment and I’m glad I didn’t let the weather bother me while I was on the river. I had never once thought to myself I should head back out of the weather.
I put this video together with hopes it captures the adventure it was and I hope you enjoy it.
(originally posted July 29, 2015)