A river cruise on a bamboo raft along Buhatan River in Sorsogon is definitely one for the bucket list. The draw? Glasslike crystal clear waters, fresh air, the best seafood dinner, and the chance to see thousands of fireflies emitting different colored lights.
The bamboo raft for the cruise may be basic, but the ultimate luxe here is delivered by the unbeatable surroundings. The raft is made comfortable by cushioned seats and lots of throw pillows round a low bamboo table. As the raft sets sail, you will be offered fresh fruit juice and local treats of roasted pili nuts, pili polvoron or powdered pili nut, and deep-fried chili and cheese in spring roll wrapper.
In the growing dark, as the raft lulls you to sleep, the tour guide will start his spiel on Buhatan River. The river is 3.9km long, home to kingfishers, bluebirds, and white herons, and along its fringes are healthy and established mangroves, the oldest said to be 35 years. Its waters are shallow but rich in marine life — oysters, shrimps, crabs and fishes. Late afternoon is a good time to cruise for some bird watching. At night from 7pm until about 10pm, the river comes to life as thousands of fireflies light up the mangrove trees.
The cruise lasts for about one hour, and ends with dinner at a floating bamboo restaurant at the mouth of Sorsogon Bay from where you can feast on the day’s catch from the river — steamed mud crabs, grilled tilapia, steamed oysters, and shrimps. At the center of the restaurant is an enclosed pen where guests can catch wild shrimps for the restaurant to cook for them. Nothing getts any fresher than this.
After dinner, it’s back on the raft and as you cruise along the river, you'd find the mangroves will start lighting up like Christmas trees as resident fireflies come to life. Compared to those found in Palawan’s Iwahig River, the fireflies here are chunkier, and more bedazzling, emitting a varierty of colors – blue , green, yellow, and yes, red. An ultimate bucket-list experience.
The best time to go is from April to December. Book a Buhatan river tour with the Buhatan River Eco-Adventures Service Cooperative for P2,500 (about US$56) for 10 people, including snacks onboard. You can also pay P50 for oyster harvesting, P10 for shrimp catching, and P100 for two people for an hour of kayaking. For dinner, book at least a day in advance.
Originally published in InFlight Traveller March-May 2016. Updated May 2016