As I embarked on my kayak, the tranquil ambiance of the San Vicente – Talisay river system in Talisay, Camarines Norte enveloped me. The chorus of cicadas and the melodious songs of countless birds created a symphony of nature. My aim was to catch up with my friends who had already embarked on a floating cabana towards the Centennial Wharf. However, my paddling skills fell short, and I found myself embracing the serenity of the San Nicolas Mangrove Forest instead.
The San Nicolas Mangrove Forest
Let me tell you about the San Nicolas Mangrove Forest – a hidden gem in Talisay that exemplifies the principles of Community Based Tourism (CBT). Similar to the CBT projects in Labo, this endeavor involves the active participation of the local community on a small scale. While the infrastructure is still a work in progress, such as the incomplete boardwalk, the locals’ genuine effort and enthusiasm are evident.
It’s worth noting that the kayaks used for exploration are rented from private individuals, highlighting the gradual development of this eco-friendly tourism initiative. The path they are on is promising, focusing on offering low environmental impact experiences that showcase the centuries-old mangroves and the idyllic river.
Bounty from the river
During my visit, I had the pleasure of savoring a variety of delicacies crafted by the local women in the village using tuhoy shells. Tuhoy shells are mud clams abundantly found along the banks of San Vicente – Talisay River. Grilled shells and tuhoy meat skewered on sticks were among the delectable options. They also prepared dishes like sisig, meatballs, lumpia, and even tacos, all featuring tuhoy as the star ingredient. For a truly immersive mangrove experience, it’s possible to pre-order these tuhoy dishes.
A Promising Ecotourism Gem
San Nicolas Mangrove Forest serves as yet another eco-tourism gem in Camarines Norte, albeit with a rustic charm. Visitors have the opportunity to embark on a scenic cruise that takes them up to President Cory Aquino Boulevard, where a host of recreational activities await. For those seeking a more intimate connection with nature, kayaking at a leisurely pace is the way to go.
Although the current mangrove boardwalk is relatively short, I couldn’t help but notice the potential for birdwatching while gliding through the waters in my kayak. Along the boardwalk, I spotted some lowland white eyes and a couple of lesser coucals. I knew that if I stayed longer, I would encounter even more avian wonders in the area.
As I made my way back to the starting point, the west winds presented a slight challenge. However, as I found my rhythm, I couldn’t help but relish the sight of the sun setting on the horizon before me. The villagers waved enthusiastically as they caught sight of my return, beckoning me to indulge in more “tuhoy” delights. Eagerly, I stepped off my kayak and joined them, savoring some grilled tuhoy. Before long, the floating cabana reappeared, bringing back my companions.
Community Based Tourism initiatives may not be the most convenient choice for every traveler, but experiences like the one I had in San Nicolas Mangrove Forest were undeniably meaningful and authentic. Through such endeavors, we can forge genuine connections with local communities and truly appreciate the wonders they have to offer.
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.