I Recommend a Mangrove (Bakawan Tree) Paddle Tour in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines

river surrounded by mangrove forest
river surrounded by mangrove forest

“No, I am not interested in doing a mangrove tour” - I told our tour guide. I even told her (with a bit of pride in my voice) that, “my hometown is near a river so I have seen all the mangroves I need to see in my lifetime”. Little did I know that I will have to eat humble pie, an hour later.

What made me decide to take the tour? Well we were told by our guide that our schedule to the Underground River in Puerto Princesa was still at 3pm. At that time it was only 10:30am. So I thought, I might as well go because I did not want to just wait under a tree for 4 ½ hours! Besides, our guide told us that the site of the tour is being maintained by the natives of the place.

Well, if I can help the local people by joining the tour, I am all for it. I justified to myself.

So there I was, a reluctant mangrove tourist. I did not even bother to take photos of the entrance to the site because I knew I was there just to pass the time away.

However, I must admit that after the tour, I have been raving about it ever since.

No, I have not seen anything like this mangrove before! It’s totally different from the mangroves of my childhood. And I highly recommend that you take the Mangrove (Bakawan) Paddle Tour of Puerto Princesa before or after your Underground River tour.

Below is the link to my hub on this.

I-Recommend-a-Visit-to-the-Underground-River-of-Puerto-Princesa-Philippines

A Bit of Background about Mangroves

Mangroves or "bakawan" abound where salt and freshwater meet so they are found along mouths of rivers and harbour both land and sea species.

The diverse species of plants and animals in mangroves are well-adapted to the daily fluctuations in salinity and water level in these areas. Thus, these various species, especially the plants, exhibit interesting structures for survival.

The first thing that you will notice in mangrove plants is the root system. Since the plants are either submerged during high tide or exposed during low tide, their root system is quite distinct. They have to be strong to withstand constant erosion. At the same time, the roots need protection from being water logged.

Just like other living things, plants also need to breath. But how does one breathe underwater?

People have solved this underwater breathing problem by using snorkels and/or underwater gear. But what about the plants, how do they breathe when submerged in water and mud?

Well, mangrove plants have structures called aerial roots. Their root systems are designed in such a way that these roots stick out above water and have little holes called lenticels where air passes through.

Pneumatophores of mangrove
Pneumatophores of mangrove

There are however two major designs to these aerial roots. The first design is what I would call as a “snorkel-like” design. The bigger roots of a mangrove tree like Avicennia , extend out from the trunk like underground cables. From these major roots, smaller roots emerge and stick out from above the water much like snorkels.

These snorkel like structures are called pneumatophores. Mangrove trees with pneumatophores are the ones that are common in my hometown.

Trees of this kind are small - medium size, usually only about 40 feet tall, and have extensive pneumatophores.

Rhizophora showing prop roots
Rhizophora showing prop roots
Close up of prop roots of Rhizopora
Close up of prop roots of Rhizopora

Mangrove trees or "bakawan" that line the riverbanks in the Mangrove Paddle Tour of Puerto Princesa are however of a different kind. Their root system does not have “snorkels” or pneumatophores. Instead, they have prop roots that extend from the trunk as well as high up from the branches.

So their root breathing system is more like stand-up fans of varying height. The prop roots are covered all over by lenticels.

These trees with prop roots are very tall extending to heights of 90 feet or more. Examples are several species of Rhizopora or “bakawan”. Our boatman mentioned that the trees in that site are already centuries old, so they are not only tall but also huge.

So imagine a river tour with tall, huge trees all around.   And with prop roots that are hanging from branches.

On to the Mangrove Paddle Tour of Puerto Princesa

About 6-8 people including a boatman make part of one boating team.

As you paddle along the river, the boatman engages you with a running commentary about the mangrove trees.

For example, he mentioned that the Rhizopora or “bakawan” has a male and female tree. The sex can be differentiated through their leaves. Male trees have slim and pointed leaves while female trees have wider and blunt leaves.

Our boatman also mentioned that there are several species of Rhizopora down the river but it was rather hard to see the difference from where we were.

We could not get close to the trees because there were prop roots all over. You have to evade them or you might get caught among the dense roots.

Prop roots hanging from branches
Prop roots hanging from branches

The trees are not that tall near the mouth of the river. However, deeper into the mangrove forest and river, the scene changes. The site is darker and cooler and looks like one of the scenes from “Lord of the Rings”. The trees are so tall and their prop roots are long and massive. Only a fog and weird sounds are missing to complete the surreal scene.

I half expected to see some supernatural creatures come out from among the trees but the only beings we saw were several birds and some snakes hanging from the branches. They were too far away though because of the height of the trees, so I could not get any clear shot even with my 200mm zoom lens.

Mang Untoy doing the performance of his life
Mang Untoy doing the performance of his life
Our boatman doing a duet with Mg Untoy
Our boatman doing a duet with Mg Untoy
Playing a "musical instrument"
Playing a "musical instrument"

Performance by Mang Untoy

Halfway back to the docking point, we spotted a boat that looked like it was stranded. However, when we came closer, we were told that the group actually was waiting for us. Why?

Well, we learned that part of the tour was a performance by the boatmen. Since the boatman in the other boat was the lead performer and our own boatman was only a supporting actor, they waited for us so we could witness a complete performance.

Mang Untoy the star of the show, started singing complete with hand and feet movement while our boatman joined in the song.

They sang about the importance of the mangrove, the various species in it and the many benefits derived from it. They sang about taking care of the mangrove and maintaining its biodiversity. The song has both English as well as Pilipino versions.

It was quite a performance! Mang Untoy even “played” some musical instruments with just his hands. It was indeed a good ending to our mangrove tour.

Tamilok, an added Bonus to the Mangrove Tour

As we got off our boat, we were offered a taste of “tamilok”. This is a delicacy that is made from shipworm or Teredo (actually a mollusc that looks like a worm). This mollusc burrows into the wood of ships as well as dead mangrove trees. That’s why the name, shipworm.

The delicacy is prepared by removing the entrails, dipping the mollusc in vinegar and garnishing it with onions, ginger and chilli peppers.

I had to say "pass" to this part of the tour because I have tasted this in my hometown before. I guess it is a common delicacy where there are mangrove forests because mangrove is the home of this mollusc.

By the way, there is a story why the mollusc is called “tamilok”. The story says that the natives overheard an American telling his pal, “Tommy, look!,” as he pointed to the “worm” being eaten by the natives. So "tamilok" became the name.

I have no idea if this story is true or not. In all likelihood, it’s probably one of those stories created under the influence of liquor. “Tamilok” is a favourite “pulutan” (food eaten while drinking) during drinking parties.

Join the Mangrove Paddle Tour

So, if you have time before or after your Underground River Tour, I recommend you give the Mangrove Paddle Tour a try.

You will not regret it, I promise. And taste a "tamilok" at the end of your tour.

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Comments 35 comments

dohn121 profile image

dohn121 6 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

With many cultures, food is the indelible "stamp" that is a commonality and hold a tremendous amount of importance and uniqueness. The "Tamilok" reminds me very much of the clams that my culture has in which we each with much the SAME sauce! It's best with some cold beer! See? We're really not that different :)

I'd would've loved to have gone on this tour with you, Jill. Awesome stuff. The singing/performance caught me off guard and intrigued me!

Dohn


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 6 years ago

I thoroughly enjoyed your tour--lapped up every description, savor the interesting pictures, short of tasting "tomilok." I'll pass on that one too. To think that men are so ingenious, they make delicacies out of shipworms. I know in Thailand, they eat locusts and grasshoppers as snacks. In Singapore, they eat frog's legs but that's nothing compared to this. Rated it up and another good one in the bag.


samboiam profile image

samboiam 6 years ago from Texas

Thanks for the tour. The more I read about Puerto Princesa the more I want to visit.


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi Dohn - it's nice to see you! Thank you for being the first here! You get a bowl of "tamilok" as a prize! You can have it with your ice cold beer! Hahaha!

Your observation that -"food is the indelible "stamp" that is a commonality and hold a tremendous amount of importance and uniqueness", is so true! We do share so much in common especially when it comes to food.

If you do get a chance to visit, I certainly recommend this mangrove tour. Who knows, Mang Untoy might oblige with another wonderful performance.

Again, thanks very Dohn. See you around!

All the best!


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello anglnwu - I always look forward to your visit my friend. Your comment always makes me smile.

I'm happy that you enjoyed this tour with me. It is really something! It has turned me from a reluctant tourist to an enthusiastic advocate of the place.

You are right about that - that "men are so ingenious" especially when it comes to food. We can convert practically anything into food.

Thanks very much for the rate up.

God bless!


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi samboiam - it's nice to see you again! Thank you too!

Yes, do visit if you get a chance. I assure you it's worth it - do both the underground river and the mangrove tours!


katiem2 profile image

katiem2 6 years ago from I'm outta here

WOW what a beautiful hub, the facts, the visual tour is fascinating. I enjoyed the trip and felt as if I could have been there myself. Well done and much appreciated.

Thanks and Peace :)


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello katiem2 - great to see you here!

Thank you very much for your heart-warming comment!

I'm happy that you enjoyed the trip with me. I hope you could visit someday.

You are very welcome! My pleasure really.

God bless!


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England

jill, you always leave me with admiration for your style with which you publish your hubs. Always informative always with brilliant visual awareness thank you. I am glad you decided to do the tour or we would be less enriched.


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello D.A.L. - thank you very much for your visit and nice words. They make me very happy.

You are most welcome. The pleasure is mine really.

Yes, I am glad too that I joined that tour. I not only enjoyed it but also learned from it.

See you around!

God bless!


talitz2550 profile image

talitz2550 6 years ago from Thailand

Nice Hub Jill. I love mangrove tours too. There's more that meets the eyes. It feels enchanting and I love that mangrove fruit...or flower coz they look like both. :)


coffeesnob 6 years ago

Another beautifully illustrated hub and very informative. You always make me want to go to these places you visit. And as far as the Teredo I think I would have passed too...

love what you do and who you are

CS


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi talitz - thanks for visiting and leaving a wonderful comment.

It's good to know that you also like mangrove tours. I really enjoyed this one.

Thanks again! See you around.


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello coffeesnob - it's great to see you again my friend. I always look forward to your visits because you always say the nicest things.

I'm happy if I am able to make you want to visit the places I write about. I really hope that someday you will be able to. Then we can maybe see each other too.

Love you too friend.

God bless.


Sage Williams profile image

Sage Williams 6 years ago

Very well written, I really enjoyed this tour. I love trees and found this to be really intriguing. Thanks for the tour it was great.

Sage


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi Sage - Thank you very much for your kind words! I'm happy that you enjoyed this tour.

You are welcome. My pleasure really.

Hope to see you again.

God bless!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

Your Hubs are always great. Not only are your photographs priceless, but you also are a fine writer that provides useful information. Thank you for sharing this journey with us.


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi James,

Your visits always give me a thrill because I highly value your comments. Thank you very much for your kind words.

You are most welcome. My pleasure really.

See you around!

God bless!


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

What a wonderful "fill in the space" timed tour that you took and enjoyed. We are all enriched by it. Mangroves do play an important part in maintaining biodiversity and hopefully the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will not adversely affect the ones in Florida. Thanks for your beautifully crafted hub.


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi Peggy,

It's nice to see you!

Yes, that tour was really something. I'm certainly happy I took it even just to "fill in the space" as you called it.

You are right about the importance of mangroves. I truly hope that that oil spill will be contained soon. It has already affected so much life.

Thanks very much for your visit and wonderful comment.

God bless!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

Too cool - thanks for the tour!


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hi habee,

It's good to see you!

Thanks very much! I'm happy that you enjoyed the tour!

See you around!

God bless!


SilverGenes 6 years ago

Thank you for the tour through these interesting trees. I'm glad you decided to go or we'd have missed a great hub! It must have been beautiful, floating on the water through the tall, cool forest of mangroves. One day, I would love to visit :)


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello SilverGenes,

Nice to see you here!

Yes, paddling in that river through the mangrove trees was really one cool experience. If you do get a chance, please come and visit.

Thank you for the visit and wonderful comment!

God bless!


Meg 6 years ago

I'd like to know... how mush per head and for how long is the tour?


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello Meg,

The tour is about 45 minutes and it's only P150.00(if I remember correctly).

Thanks for dropping by and for being interested in the trip.


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 5 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello billrobinson,

Thank you very much for appreciating my work. You have made me very happy.

God bless!


nielsande profile image

nielsande 4 years ago

Interesting destination for tourism i am glad i found that hub . Thank you


Marco 4 years ago

I love mangrove tours and Philippines is on my list of discovery.http://www.micoequipment.com.


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 4 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello Nielsande,

So sorry for this late reply. I have not visited HP lately.

I'm happy you found this interesting! However, nothing beats the actual experience, so you should try it if you have the time and resources.

Thanks very much for dropping by!

God bless!


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 4 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello Marco,

That's great to know! You should really try it!

Thanks for reading and leaving a comment!

God bless!


ranjanrahul profile image

ranjanrahul 4 years ago from Delhi

Its really an interesting information given in hub and this hub urging me to experience it as well. I heard lots of time about mangrove but really dont know what is it. I also heard that Sundarbans is a mangrove forest which is eastern Part of India. Can any one plz guide me what is mangrove forest and how is it different from other forests.


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 4 years ago from Philippines Author

Hello ranjanrahul,

Thanks so much for visiting and leaving an inspiring comment. I'm happy that you found this interesting.

Well, mangrove forests are usually found between marine and fresh water environment, what we call as brackish water. So these forests have very rich flora and fauna. The main plants that make up the forest are various species of mangrove trees that have specialized roots that make them adapted to this kind of environment. I mentioned some plant species above.

I hope my answer helps.

All the best!


violina 22 months ago

nice information


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 22 months ago from Philippines Author

Hello violina,

Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.

God bless!

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