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Manila - Puerto Princesa (Firefly Watching)

View South East Asia Grand Tour 2023 on Grete Howard's travel map.


The Bayleaf Hotel in Manila has run out of eggs to fry this morning, but as they have plenty of pre-boiled eggs, I make myself a breakfast salad with eggs, ham, lettuce, and Thousand Island Dressing while David has toast and marmalade.


Today we are flying south, from Luzon Island to Palawan Island for the second part of our tour of the Philippines.

The traffic is really bad on the way to the airport, but thankfully we have plenty of time.

At check-in, I ask for an aisle seat on the right-hand side of the plane, as usual, and we are given what they call ‘front row’, which is in fact row 33, the first row after Economy Plus. My nail file is confiscated in security (one of two in my backpack, they don’t discover the other one which makes a mockery of the whole thing), but other than that, the boarding process runs smoothly.

The strange numbering on this Philippines Airlines flight: Economy Plus starts at 21, and Economy immediately follows, starting at row number 31.


Until we get to the seat, that is. The steward doesn’t allow me to put my walking stick in the overhead locker, insisting that it goes underneath the seat in front of me. I’d like to see her try, there is no way that fits under the seat. She then suggests I put it between mine and David’s seat. Is she crazy? She wants me to wedge my stick between the seats, blocking the exit for the middle and window seat in case of an emergency? Yes, she does; in fact, she insists.

The window seat on the plane is occupied by a lady from Texas, who is flying to Palawan to collect her dead brother’s body. We spend the entire flight chatting with her, which makes the time go quickly.

Puerto Princesa Airport

We land at the small provincial airport earlier than advertised, and we make our way to the outside pick-up waiting area, a small covered shelter with bench seats, where all the drivers and reps are standing with boards. We cannot find a board with our name, so we wait a little. Still no joy. After a further few minutes, a kind taxi driver asks which hotel we are staying in, and phones them. They reply that we do not have transfers included, so David goes back into the airport terminal to use the wifi and message the WhatsApp group that the tour agent here in the Philippines has created in case of any problems. “They’re coming” is the reply.

Andrew, the local guide, is full of apologies when they finally arrive. “I guess you are already used to ‘Filipino time’, he says. No, actually, we’re not. So far on this trip (not just in the Philippines), every single guide has been on time (or early) every single day. We are given a tacky and touristy welcome necklace made of shells and taken to a waiting minibus.

Hibiscus Garden Inn

The hotel is delightful, our favourite so far (along with Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, which is totally different); it is laid back and friendly, with the rooms surrounding a large, leafy courtyard with a swimming pool.

The entrance area

Checking in

The swimming pool

Seating area on the grass

More seating with the restaurant behind

Some eclectic sculptures dotted around the garden

A covered walkway leads to our room, which is right at the end

The door on the right is ours

The room is big, airy, and bright, with one single and one double bed, and a large private covered open-air courtyard at the back.

The courtyard

An interesting coffee table, with the welcome necklace we received earlier


The restaurant is open-sided and has a few moveable fans to cool diners down in the heat of the day.

The path leading to the restaurant

View from the restaurant

My patatas bravas and mozzarella sticks with spicy dip are absolutely delicious, with just the right amount of kick

David enjoys his black cheeseburger with bacon, too

Chocolate and vanilla ice cream for dessert

We have quickly fallen in love with this resort, and enjoy chilling for the afternoon.

Kitu Kito dMacarios Firefly-Watching Tour

Andrew picks us up at 18:00 to drive us the 50 minutes for a boat trip on the Iwahig River to see the sparkling fireflies. Before boarding the boat, we are shown a slide show explaining all about the fireflies and the mangroves they inhabit.


When I see how crowded most of the boats are, I am once again grateful that we have a private tour, with just the two of us, a boatman, Andrew, and Elsa, a delightful young tourist rep, who was also present when we were picked up from the airport. Elsa is as excited about the trip as we are.
Fireflies are bioluminous plankton that have dedicated light organs that are located under their abdomens. When they take in oxygen, it combines with a substance called luciferin to produce light with almost no heat.


As we paddle silently along the river, the stars above compete with the fireflies, which twinkle like Christmas tree lights all around us. I am absolutely captivated by these little insects that sparkle and glow, flicker and shine. Some are fast-moving, others just hang around in trees. Some of the trees are absolutely full of lights, creating an enchanted fairy world.


The boatman catches a firefly in his hand and carefully transfers it into my palm, where it stays for several minutes. Wow! Wow! Wow! The experience is totally, utterly, completely magical!

Still on a massive high from this incredible experience, we return to base, where we grab a couple of hot dogs before returning to the hotel.

The jetty and restaurant


We get a couple of Kahluas from the bar to take back to the room, where we sit in our private enclosed courtyard to relish the special memories we created this evening that I will cherish forever.


We are now three-quarters of the way through our Grand Tour of South East Asia, which has been expertly put together by Undiscovered Destinations.


Posted by Grete Howard 13:37 Archived in Philippines Tagged philippines manila puerto_princesa south_east_asia fireflies undiscovered_destinations grand_south_east_asia_tour philippines_airlines nailfile walking_stick hibiscus_garden_inn firefly_watching nightcap

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What an experience!

by Ils1976

Thank you, Ils, it was magical ♥

by Grete Howard

What a wonderful experience, just magical 😮 And your hotel looks really lovely too.

by ToonSarah

Thanks, Sarah, it truly was magical. ♥ We loved that hotel, everything about it. ♥

by Grete Howard

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