I took the front seat of the ‘torpedo’ boat. That’s what they call this long wooden motorized canoes without outriggers in Samar. Like the faluwas in Batanes, these boats are designed to navigate wild waters whereas if they have outriggers, it would easily snap from the force of the rapids. Judging by the boats, I could expect an exciting ride over at Ulot River. The Ulot River Torpedo Extreme Boat Adventure is one of the main attraction in Samar which is also a part of the Ulot Watershed Ecotourism Loop attractions of numerous waterfalls, caves, springs and an eagle sanctuary.
The Ulot River is the longest river in Samar spanning 90km. The headwater starts at San Jose de Buan in Western Samar, passing downstream through Paranas and finally Can Avid in Eastern Samar. The jump-off point for the Ulot River Torpedo Extreme Boat Adventure is at Samar Island Natural Park (SINP) headquarters at Sitio Camp Uno, Brgy. Tenani, Paranas. There are actually so many names and organizations concerned here. Even the term TORPEDO is derived from Tenani Boat Operators for River Protection and Environmental Development Organization.
I couldn’t understand Samar’s fondness on long names and acronyms but at the heart of all this is Ulot River. Ulot which means, “monkey” in Waray, describes the river where they used to be seen often. The river was used as navigational highway to access different provinces of Samar when the road network was not yet connected.
Ride the Rapids
The Ulot River Torpedo Extreme Boat Adventure was our first stop in our tour of Eastern Visayas with AirAsia Philippines. From Tacloban, we took our coaster up the highway heading to Catbalogan and stopped at Barangay Tenani, Paranas. The SINP overlooking the operations was very organized. They had quality safety gears from life vest to helmets. Their trained guides numbers at around 30 and have more than 20 boats that can seat five guest each excluding the two boatmen. I chose the front seat to absorb the full experience.
The calm waters at the start our our 10.5km route was deceptive of what lies ahead. The 16-horse power engine roared behind us as our boat launched like a torpedo over the water. Cutting through the olive-hued river, we passed by the verdant foliages growing by the banks. A curtain of falls flowing can be seen early in our ride followed by a series of wild rapids that kept us awake in excitement. I marveled how our boatmen easily communicates by simple hand gestures. They sure are used to this already. Me, I enjoyed the ride.
We reached the end point of the 10.5 km route and parked our boats for a little river trek to a place they called Deni’s Point. Deni is also a waray point which is similar to “here” from my understanding (correct me if I’m wrong :)) Aside from a little snack, the group build up the nerves as our local guides and host Brett and Fidel from DOT 8 tourism challenged us to jump at the swirling pool of torrential water along the rocks. It looks frightening but the guides demonstrated how fun it looks.
I wanted to do it but it took Kelly, our PR person to start the ball rolling and crossed the river to the other side. We then followed one by one and attempt to jump directly at the white water. I took my turn, took a deep breath and jumped. I let the bubbly rush consume me and the current push me forward. I wasn’t bit afraid since I have a life vest. Just a little concerned if I miss the stop. But it wasn’t a problem. The experience was just fun and had to do another jump for the thrill of it.
Lunch was served at Deni’s Point, fried chicken, fish fillet, pork adobo, bananas and buko juice. It felt good to eat with our hands making the food all the more delicious. Some took another jump at the whirlpool and we headed back. Going against the stream is what they call the Salmon Run which is also exciting. But this time, I enjoyed the calmer parts of the ride. Looking attentively at the hundred years old trees and fascinating birds of different colors and types I’ve seen flying. I was only familiar with the brahmini kite soaring above us. I should have binoculars next time on trips like this. Ulot River river is an exciting ecotourism destination in Samar that I wouldn’t mind bringing friends and family along for a wild adventurous ride.
Samar Island Natural Park (SINP)
Sitio Campo Uno, Brgy. Tenani,
Paranas, Western Samar 6703
Contact: 0918.223.5586, 0926.702.0590
How to go to Baranggay Tenani, Paranas
From Tacloban, ride a GT Express Van headed to Catbalongan. Fare is Php 120 one way. Buses to Catbalongan also passes by. Ask the driver to drop you off at Baranggay Tenani.
AirAsia Philippines flies to Tacloban daily from NAIA Terminal 4 in Manila.
The Torpedo Extreme Boat Adventure package cost is Php 1,825 for a maximum of 5 persons per boat. Package includes boat, guides, safety gear and community fees. Guest may bring their own food but can also add Php 150–200/person for food catering.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.