The rickety bamboo pathway creaked under my weight as my foot descended in stride. I was walking along at the massive Mangrove Forest in Kalibo, spending a day before my flight back to Manila at one of the most peaceful sanctuary in the province of Aklan.
The Bakhawan Eco-Park, as it is officially called, is a sprawling 220-hectare mud flat that has been transformed into a mangrove haven by the Aklanons, NGOs (particularly Kalibo Save the Mangroves) and the local government.
Bakhawan is a local Visayan term for mangroves.
Twenty years ago, the whole area is a barren coastline, totally unprotected from the harsh elements of the sea. Today, the place is teeming with life; so much so that the Bakhawan Eco-Park has been named by UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization as an exemplary project in the Asia Pacific region.
The reforested coastline is home to various kinds of mangrove trees.
How many species to be exact? I’m really not sure. But before visiting this man-made forest, I thought there’s only one kind of mangrove tree. Stupid me, I know, haha. What’s more curious is that these trees also have genders!
Besides the lush mangroves, Kalibo’s Eco Park is also home to various species of birds, the only one I can recognize though is the Blue Kingfisher. I’ve seen quite a few just a few meters from me and they seemed to be not that bothered by the presence of people; perfect for bird enthusiasts.
I also heard that mudcrabs, similar to Capiz’s Pontevedra Market, are also regularly caught here by the locals. Tamiloks or woodworms also abound. In fact you can even ask for a demonstration and eat one yourself.
Although I haven’t tried one, I heard they actually taste like mussels.
A gift shop cum gallery is located near the park’s entrance and hosts a few paintings and photographs of the place. You can get a few snacks and bottles of water from their small store, but not much else.
To explore the Eco Park, a footbridge made from bamboo wounds through the bakhawan. It feels rickety at first, but rest assured, these things can carry your weight as it certainly did mine. And I’m no lightweight.
The path, which is elevated a few meters from the ground, is pretty long; totaling at 1.3 kilometers in length.
There are numerous huts and sitting area to rest along the way, just in case you tire from all that walking or if you just want to relax and savor the peaceful atmosphere of the bakhawan. These are also ideal places to have picnics, you just have to pay the fee for renting the huts.
After walking for more than thirty minutes through Kalibo’s Eco Park (I was walking real slow), I finally saw the end of the bamboo pathway.
From afar, I can see hints of blues. The Sibuyan Sea.
I rested a bit, reading the numerous graffiti written by bored teens along the bamboo fences, walls and even floors of the shed, before heading back.
It was actually amusing to read the exchanges between posts by random strangers.
I savored the scent of the calm sea one last time, looked up at the shockingly blue sky and listened to the whispers of the bakhawan leaves. I turned back and strode across the shaky wooden bridge, creaking along at each and every step once more.
Bakhawan Eco Park
Address: Brgy. New Buswang, Kalibo, Aklan
Entrance Fee: Adult Php20.00 | Student Php15.00
Cottage Rental: Php100.00
Tour Guide (optional): Php200.00
Open Hours: 8:00AM to 5:00PM
GPS Coordinates: +11° 43' 5.28", +122° 23' 8.67"
Getting there: Hop on a tricycle anywhere around town and ask to be dropped at the Bakhawan Eco Park