Since everything we did in Candaba led to misadventure, I am gladly posting a few tips for other travelers who plan to visit the Candaba Wetlands in the hope that they never experience the same troubles we did.
This is the first rule of a successful travel and I admit I didn’t do much research before embarking on the trip and relied only on a few blog posts regarding the place and its accommodations.
There are a quite a few buses that you can board to Candaba, the most popular ones being the Baliwag Bus lines and the Arayat Express in Monumento.
Since we plan to drop by SM Pampanga before heading to the swamp, we boarded a Victory Liner bus bound for Olongapo (Php87.00) and alighted at the expressway exit near SM. From there we took a jeep (Php27.00) that heads straight to the town of Candaba.
There are tricycles at the town plaza that will transport visitors to the wetlands.
The bus fares from Manila to Candaba are pretty standard in their rates (Php80.00 give or take) but the tricycles fares to the farmlands vary considerably. Be sure to haggle to at least Php100.00 per tricycle, as that seems to be the base fee, to the fields. If you plan to rent the tricycle all the way to the Candaba Bird Sanctuary (which I don’t recommend as vehicles are quite noisy and disrupts the birds in the area), prepare at least P140.00 per tricycle.
There are apparently two Pelayo Resthouses, one on the wetlands and another in town at the Mayor’s compound.
If you plan on staying on the wetlands, please make sure that you specify it when contacting the tourism office in Candaba. Else, they would assume that you’d want to stay at the Mayor’s compound.
For an overnight at the wetlands, bring your own sleeping materials; cots, blankets, pillows, etc., and be ready to sleep on the floor. There is also no electricity in the resthouse, but I heard they have a generator which you can rent for the night. Call ahead just to be sure (see contact numbers below).
If you are however staying at the Mayor’s compound, no need to bring anything. The resthouse has quite a few luxurious looking rooms (Php1,200.00 per room which can accommodate two) at the ground floor and bunkbeds on the second floor (Php600.00). We had the whole place to ourselves during our stay but I’m not sure how this would work if two groups decide to rent the resthouse at the same time since it is in reality, a regular guest house with only one access door.
The house has a kitchen but no equipment (only a water heater) and utensils (you can ask for plates and utensils from the main house though). Hot and cold drinking water is available via a mineral water station and is free of charge. You can refill your own water bottles for hiking to save on cost.
Be sure to wear comfortable hiking shoes or sandals as there’s a lot of walking at Candaba. Tricycles generally drop visitors at the dirt road leading to Dona Simang (which is where the Sanctuary is) and it’s a good 40 minutes of walking from there (3km according to Ferd Decena’s account).
Wear comfortable clothes, arm warmers and hats (or umbrellas if you must). There are hardly any shades from the sun while hiking, so better protect your skin.
There are a lot of places to eat in town but these are mostly carinderias, no fastfood and posh restaurants here. Prices are quite affordable, around Php50.00 per meal.
Be sure to bring adequate food and water before heading to the field, there are no stores there for miles around.
If you have no telephoto lenses, better buy or borrow one before going to Candaba if you don’t want to get frustrated and disappointed in taking photographs. The birds are far from the trail and even my 20x Canon Superzoom point and shoot camera was having a hard time getting close up shots of the birds. A 300mm lens is the minimum if you want to get some good photos of the birds.
The birds in Candaba do not fly the whole day. Visitors only have two windows of opportunity to watch them blot the skies of the lowlands; very early in the morning and late in the afternoon while feeding. So make sure you schedule your visits on those times.
The Candaba Wetlands is also not a park nor a playground, this is a bird sanctuary. Be respectful of the place, do not litter and do not make too much noise to disturb the migratory birds.
The best months to visit the Candaba Swamp are between November to April.
Fee for a guided bird-watching tour is Php150.00 per head.
Aside from bird-watching, there’s also a river tour which we we’re unable to try out. It’s about an hour long according to one of the operators we spoke with. Tours start from early mornings up to early afternoons.
Fees are on a per boat basis, so better optimize the maximum load which is up to five passengers to keep expenses low.
You may call the Mayor’s Action Center to arrange your accommodations, boat tour and guided bird tours:
0999-4143266 [Anna] | 0939-7802077 [Cherry] | 0915-9195413 [Mila]
I texted all three numbers, but the only one that replied was Mila. Although we had some miscommunication as to where we were gonna stay, she’s quite prompt and reliable.