Mangrove trees effectively store carbon, control erosion and excess sedimentation, increase biodiversity, cycle nutrients and form new soil, give wildlife movement corridors, store and filter water, and control flood. They also provide an escape and a space for recreation to those wanting a little break away from the city. Healthy watersheds preserve a variety of ecosystems. Social, environmental, economic and personal ecosystems.
The Philippines have 39 of the 80 different mangrove species in the world. Rivers in Bohol which is among the central islands of the Philippines have some of the most diverse mangrove ecosystems in the country. Abatan River where we kayak daily have 32 of the 39 mangrove species that can be found in the country.
kayakasia Philippines’ Mangrove Tunnels Trail takes you to one of Bohol’s important watershed. Paddle with us and together appreciate the importance of these uniquely hidden ecosystems only accessible through water by our kayaks.
Please always refer to the latest government advice before booking travel and departing on any trip.
On the island of Bohol, ecotourism is transforming communities’ relationship with their river.
As darkness falls over Bohol’s Abatan River on a clear night, a host of dancing lights flicker in the tangled mangroves that fringe the water: fireflies. When the tide is high, the river itself begins to glisten as it laps around kayakers’ prows and paddles, a phenomenon known as bioluminescence which is caused by tiny marine organisms.
Ecotourism company KayakAsia Philippines is using kayaking to help preserve these precious ecosystems. Coastal mangroves form natural barriers that will become ever more important to the Philippines as climate change raises sea levels and increases the intensity of typhoons.
“I wasn’t a fan of mass tourism and I didn’t really see the positive aspects of it on communities or the environment,” says Rey Marcelo Donaire, a local kayak guide who partnered with a Singaporean company to create KayakAsia Philippines. “Perhaps the communities could be impacted positively financially, but at the expense of a degraded environment.”
Mangroves are protected under Philippine law, but the mangroves that line the Abatan River are still at risk. Their slow-burning wood is a valued source of timber and used for fencing fishponds, while local entrepreneurs are uprooting mangroves to turn wetlands into fish farms.
“When they convert this wetland into farms for prawns or farms for milkfish, the damage is not just deforestation but contamination of the water,” Donaire explains. Not only fish food and fish excrement but also antibiotics leach into the river.
KayakAsia Philippines helps protect the mangroves in three main ways: they actively plant new mangroves; they engage the local community in tourism, turning the ecosystem into an economic resource; and they provide a less damaging alternative to motorised tourism. (Besides the carbon cost of burning fuel, the wash from motorised boats erodes riverside soils, undercutting the roots of both mangroves and the nipa palm that grows among them)
William Torculas Jr, generally known as Jun, grew up within walking distance of the river, and joined KayakAsia Philippines soon after leaving high school aged 16 in 2015. He had never been in a kayak but, after rigorous training, he is now a certified kayak guide.
“Being a guide has had a big impact on me personally, and on the people around me, my family and my friends,” he says. “I learnt how to conserve nature and I see a different side of the river. Before, we only saw the river as a place to harvest nipa or collect some shellfish for food, but ecotourism changed our lives.”
Not only do the community engage in mangrove replanting, but they have also learnt how to sustainably harvest nipa palm, a traditional roofing material that’s still widely used in resorts. Moreover, Torculas says, they have largely stopped throwing garbage in the river.
The pandemic hit tourism hard, but Torculas’ earnings have helped him not only to support his family – he lives with his parents and three of his four siblings – but to save for the future. “I really want to finish my studies,” he says. “And I am planning to go to college. Even though my age is getting higher, that will not be a barrier for me to finish my studies.”
Yesterday kayakasia Philippines joined the whole world in celebrating the biggest day for the environment- World Environment Day 2022. Dozens of volunteers spent their Sunday morning giving some TLC to one of Bohol’s importantly diverse river. Our little community of kayak guides by the river brought along friends , families and their kids spending great time in giving special attention to their Abatan.
The Philippine Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases informs the public that beginning Monday, 30 May 2022, Filipinos and foreigners who have received their primary series COVID-19 vaccine and at least one COVID-19 booster shot will no longer be required to present a negative COVID-19 test in order to travel to the Philippines.
Unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, or individuals whose vaccination status cannot be independently validated, however, would still be required to present a negative RT-PCR test. Acceptable proof of COVID-19 vaccination are the following:
(1) World Health Organization International Certificate of Vaccination and Prophylaxis;
(3) National or state manual/digital vaccination certificate of the country/foreign government; and
(4) Other proof of vaccinated permitted by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases. Please click the following link below to read the full details of the latest IATF Resolution No. 168, series of 2022, dated 26 May 2022.
Revisit our flagship conservation kayaking trip! Kayakasia Philippines’ Mangrove Tunnels & Firefly Kayaking Trail is our most lauded in our 10 years existence in Abatan River. This trip shares adventure with an active & informative environmental stewardship model that deeply involves community participation. With all honesty we do not know until how long we will be running this guided night kayaking trail. We know how little our negative impact is when kayaking to view the magic in the congregating firefly’s realm but to be adding to the growing night river tourist traffic with other companies that run motorboat guided firefly watching tours is something we do not want to be apart of. Every time we venture out in this river trail, we see the stress all the motorized river traffic is causing to the estuarian ecosystem. Respect to the narrow river’s carrying capacity, and wake capacity is alien to most tour operators here. We are seriously considering changes to our river kayaking programs (night/day) – SOON!
We want to maintain our positive impact in this river ecosystem’s sustainability but we only can manage what we can control. We also want to leave a lasting positive impact to the community who we’ve adopted when we started taking seriously our kayaking business’ dreams and this is what’s making us hold on, for now. Will we still be in this river for long? Who knows… but for now that we are still here, we will do what we can to care and repair!
When in Bohol, come join us and sign up to our Mangrove Tunnels & Firefly Kayaking River Trail excursions! Perhaps you know a thing or two about conservation? River ecosystem’s regeneration? – we need your help to make this movement of move.
As of April 2022 the Philippines is now open to all fully vaccinated & unvaccinated travelers from all countries. This followed after relaxing its borders to countries with low COViD 19 transmissions from February to March. During which time we were able to organize our first multi day sea kayak trip with international paddlers. It was surreal to be able to enjoy sea kayaking in our islands with other ocean adventurers once again. We’ve all been waiting for this day to come!
We now have multiday sea kayaking trip schedules in the coming months. These trips will be in Palawan and Bohol and will be suitable for a wide variety of kayaking skill levels. Send us a message thru our contact pages or hit us up thru our socials to get updates should you want to sign up!.
THE PHILIPPINES IS OPEN! LET’S GO OUT TO SEA!
Here are some of the photos from that recent Palawan sea kayak expedition from the heart of the Calamianes Archipelago to Bacuit Bay.
One of the most urgent ecological issue today is that of mangroves. These “red forests” are under immense pressure yet studies had shown them to be effective natural barriers to rising sea waters caused by global warming and storm surges.
We set camp in an island home to a mangrove rehabilitation project organized by a local people’s organization. We spent some time the next morning learning more about mangroves from the locals and participated in a rehabilitation program. This mangrove forest is connected to the estuaries in one of Bohol’s most important mangrove river – we saw how it supported local communities in hunting, gathering, eco- tourism, shelters, etc.
This is one of the most diversely healthy river ecosystems in Bohol. Home to 32 out of the 70 mangrove species known worldwide. An endangered mangrove specie – Camptostemon philippinense can still be found here. We paddled with the late afternoon sun and we’re out on the water until dusk settled then another spectacle greeted us as we paddled along. Apparently, a synchronous firefly specie finds this river as their home too. They use the mangroves along the river banks as their display tree nightly. The mangroves looked like throbbing Christmas trees throughout the night. Pulsating.
We pitched our tents in a riverside camp and were met by the family that represented another community organization that manages the ecotourism program on this side of the river.
Bohol’s unique cultural, historical and natural richness definitely is best experienced by kayaks. Paddling a tranquil river and meeting the communities along gave a deeper insight why Bohol is one of the most charming islands in the Philippines.
Recently, a writer from The Culture Trip signed up in our Firefly Kayaking trip in Abatan River. We did not knew then that he was connected to one of the world’s fastest growing online community of creative and innovative travel content creators.
We’re happy that Ron (kayak guide) who guided Andrew (writer) shared a compelling story of what we do in one of Bohol’s most important river. Andrew reached us after a few weeks to get to know more of our advocacy and he couldn’t have wrote about it more sublimely.