My recent visit to Bakhawan Eco-Park in Kalibo, Aklan opened my mind to the importance of mangroves to the environment. The park is dubbed as the Philippines’ most successful mangrove reforestation project. It was my first time to walk along a 2-km trail surrounded by various kinds of mangroves–a fun way to relax and unwind.
Bakhawan Eco-Park is located in New Buswang, Aklan, approximately 10 min away from the town proper. To get there, you can take a dark blue tricycle with the sign ‘New Buswang’ at the New Buswang Tricycle Terminal located near Kalibo Public Market and RC Supermarket. Ask the driver to take you to Bakhawan Eco-Park. Fare is Php10. Entrance fee is 150php for adults and 50php for kids.
Why Mangroves Matter
First thing you’ll see at the entrance to the park is a structure housing the Center for International Mangrove Studies. The whole 2-km walkway in the middle of the forest is made of wood and bamboo.
One of the important roles of mangroves is being home to an incredible array of species. Mangroves are known for being a biodiversity hotspot. As explained by our guide, they provide a nesting and breeding habitat for fish, shellfish and migratory birds.
When we asked him if there was a crocodile around the area, he said there was none, but they were hoping to see one, because that would mean a more balanced ecosystem.
For every hundred meters or more is a small waiting shed where we can sit, rest, take photos and enjoy the rich mangrove forest surrounding us.
Bakhawan Eco-Park also gives livelihood to the community especially to fishermen who depend on their natural environment to provide for their families. A healthy mangrove ecosystem means healthy fishery.
While walking along the boardwalk, our group came across the wide So-of River. This part of the boardwalk will require you to cross a shaky wood-and-bamboo bridge that will give you the best view of the river.
It will also give you an idea on how wide and long the mangrove forest is and how it can be the best coastal defense that stabilizes shorelines by slowing erosion and providing natural barriers that protect coastal communities from increased storm surge and flooding. One good example was when Typhoon ‘Yolanda’ hit the country. The mangrove forest minimized the damage caused by flooding and storm surge.
More than halfway through the boardwalk, we came across some of the open-air picnic huts where we ate lunch. Guests are also allowed to rent this place. the tour will end at the open bar area where we sat and relaxed while enjoying the view of the ocean. We also had the chance to eat ‘tamilok’ or more commonly known as woodworm. It was my first time to eat the exotic fare, which was surprisingly good.
There are other things to do on your visit at Bakhawan Eco-Park aside from walking, learning and enjoying the view of mangroves. You can also swim and do bamboo rafting. This is also a good place where you can have a picnic, and spend time with your family and friends. You can also volunteer and be part of the cause.
Aklan is truly not just about Boracay. There are other places to discover that can be easily reached. The next time you book your flight to Kalibo and plan to stay overnight, include Bakhawan Eco-Park in your itinerary.
For bookings, tours and more details, please get in touch with Kalibo Save the Mangroves Association at 036-262-8862, or send them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow them on Facebook by clicking on this link.