St. Paul Karst Mountain Range in the background, said to be twenty million years old. Our resort is hidden behind those coconut trees on the right
I promise this is my final (delayed) post covering our trip to the Philippines, then I’ll get back to reality here in southern Texas. To view my previous Philippines stories, check out:
After being amazed and fascinated by what we saw during our exploration of the Subterranean River Tour, we turned our interests above ground. Just down the island from our resort were two natural attractions; the Jungle Trekking Tour and the Mangrove Forest Paddle Tour.
At first we weren’t really interested in doing the Mangrove Paddle Tour, since I grew up with mangrove trees behind my house, and we had already kayaked through mangroves in Florida. We also discovered that we would have to pay an entrance fee and hire a guide to see this one. But it was a beautiful day and we had nothing else to do – why not?
Getting underway, we learned from our guide that these activities are community-based, sustainable eco-tourism projects managed by the area government. Local guides on these tours were former fishermen or farmers who are now employed to help generate income for the community. Just the thought of helping the local economy encouraged us to do both activities.
MANGROVE FOREST TOUR
I immediately became a translator for Steve, as our guide could only describe the tour in Tagalog. It was a quiet and relaxing ride as he slowly paddled us deep into the forest while following the river path. I was impressed as he explained many details of the mangrove forest and why they are protecting it – and more importantly why they are proud to have it in Sabang. The untouched old-growth mangrove trees, especially within an island forest, can rarely be seen these days, so the community is devoted to protecting them.
Old-growth mangrove forest
Just another day in mangrove paradise!
Since we took the first tour of the day, wild exotic birds could be heard and seen flying overhead, and we were able to spot several snakes sleeping on branches overhanging the river. I recoiled when I saw them, but our guide assured me that they sleep during daytime hours and there was no danger of me being attacked or eaten.
Deeper into the forest, the mangroves stood very high above the forest floor. But what excited me most on this short paddle tour were the colorful little crabs. There were red, blue, white and orange crabs all along the shore. It was just too bad that in my excitement I was unable to focus on these tiny critters.
Mangrove Snake taking a nap over the river. When he wakes up he simply drops into the water!
A blue crab…
…and a red one too!
After the tour, our guide dropped us off at the Jungle Trail trailhead, where a new guide took over. I berated myself halfway through the hike, since I had become one of those people I usually criticize – folks who wear flip-flops while hiking. However, I somehow survived the fairly difficult 6-mile round trip over mountainous terrain.
Our guide leading…
OK, the feet are getting a little sore now…
The trail passed through a lowland forest in the shadow of Mt. St. Paul, and ended where the Underground River tour began.
Some of the tree roots here are more like walls!
Our guide pointed out some amazing works of nature as the hike progressed. Tarzan and Jane would have been very happy here among the hundreds of vines that hung all around us.
Do you see the knot in that vine?
Close up of the knot
The trail was quite challenging, and we trekked through several different forest environments. We enjoyed new bird sounds we had never heard. Halfway through the hike we came into a rugged Karst Forest, formed from soil erosion. We noticed some plants that had adapted to the thin and poor soil there, and they seemed to be hanging on for dear life.
This huge tree had grown from inside a hole at the base of the rock
Striking limestone cliffs
Another huge limestone formation containing several caves
There were hundreds of wooden steps through and over the rock formations
We also saw several varieties of cactus on this hike
Finally, we came upon a swampy ecosystem described as a major provider of several ecological functions. These plants and trees improve water quality as they absorb nutrients and toxins, providing habitat for a variety of animal species.
At the end of the trail we noticed a gathering of people. As we got closer we were happy to find that several Monitor Lizards and monkeys endemic to the park were entertaining the visitors. Of course, they work for food!
Monkeys and lizards were on display
Is he giving me the eye?
It was a jungle out there, and it took us about 4 hours to take it all in. The diversity of flora and fauna amazed us as we trudged along, and it was unlike any other trail we had followed before.
Time for a little nap on the beach after an arduous hike
During our early morning walks, the clear pristine beaches beckoned us to stop in wonderment at the works of art created in the sand overnight by the nocturnal critters.
Steve thought this resembled his walking path after too many glasses of wine!
A community of sand crabs
These little “balls” are created by sand crabs – they form them with their saliva so the sand won’t fall back into their hole. Is that amazing or what?
Beach crabs were also fun to watch as they scampered away when we walked by.
There’s one of those elusive little sand crabs!
And that concludes our awesome vacation in the Philippines. In closing, lets enjoy a local San Miguel beer, which is actually quite good. Cheers!
Next Up: Party time at Port Aransas, Texas!