An unspoiled waterway, with little by way of buildings lining its banks, the Abatan River makes a great alternative to the more developed Loboc River. Travelers come here to kayak through tunnels formed by over 30 different species of mangrove, hunt for fireflies and bioluminescence, or even try stand-up paddleboarding (SUP). Cultural options include a cruise in traditional thatch-roofed bandong boats to the villages of Maribojoc, Antequera, and Balilihan with live performances and, often, food.
Things to know before you go
- Nature lovers will adore an Abatan River cruise—and the fireflies are magical for couples and families alike.
- Both fireflies and bioluminescent creatures respond to weather: Plan your Bohol firefly cruise for a dry, clear day.
- Booking a private boat can be surprisingly affordable and make for an extra-special experience.
- Fireflies and bioluminescence are crazy difficult to capture. Leave the camera at home and enjoy the view.
- Abatan Riverboats are small, shallow, and unsuitable for wheelchairs.
How to get there
Around 15 miles (25 kilometers) of the Abatan River is navigable by rafts, but most tours start at the Abatan River Main Village Center in Salvador, Cortes, about a 6-mile (9-kilometer) drive north of Tagbilaran City Port. A tour with transfers is recommended to avoid the risks of driving at night.
When to get there
Fireflies hate rain. If firefly-watching is central to your vacation, book your Abatan River trip during Bohol’s dry season (roughly December through March) or allow time in your schedule for a second run if the weather isn’t right.
What Are Fireflies?
Also known as lightning bugs, fireflies are a type of beetle, equipped with special organs that turn oxygen into light, with almost no heat—as you’ll feel if a guide passes you one to hold in cupped hands. Each of the world’s 2,000-odd species has its own signal pattern of flicker, which they use to attract potential mates.