Candaba Birds in Flight
Candaba Wetlands Birds in Flight

There’s what we call the Great Migration, in which living beings move from one place to another to survive and we humans are no exception to this chain. When our habitat condition is deemed unliveable we move to a new location. A perfect example of this of course is the migratory birds that fly endlessly around the world and live temporarily on environments favourable to them. The Philippines, particularly the Candaba Wetlands in Pampanga has been an annual host to these birds

Farmers tilling the land
Farmers tilling the land

I’ve heard the rise of Candaba Wetlands on the tourist map for years now but hadn’t had the chance to visit the place. That’s why one Saturday, I, along with some travel blogger and photographer buddies made our way to Baliwag Bus Station in Cubao en route to Baliuag, Bulacan to make our way to Candaba, Pampanga. There are several of us first timers (Lawstude and Noise Ninja) in the group aside from Lagalog and Lantaw who has been here before.

Herding the goats
Herding the goats

The one and a half (or more) bus ride to Baliuag only cost P73. From Baliuag proper, we bought our supplies as there are no stores or eatery at the Candaba Wetlands. Once we have packed up on some water and packed lunch we hired a couple of tricycles to Candaba at P100 each tryke. It only took 20 minutes to reach our jump-off hike to Candaba Wetlands proper at Brgy. Doña Simang. Lantaw and Lagalog were quite surprised to see the paved highway and how small vehicles can enter the dirt trail to the bird sanctuary, Lantaw was especially surprised since he was just here a last November 2010.

Lantaw and Lawstude at the Trail to the Bird Sanctuary
Lantaw and Lawstude at the Trail to the Bird Sanctuary

I got ready for the hike and switched on my tracker to record the route. The trail is easy especially on an overcast weather and the air was quite cool. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to save the data since Globe has a weak 3G signal there. From the 3km at 40 minutes walk along the dirt trail between rice paddies going to the Bird Sanctuary, I could already see a number of birds flying from afar. But what also interest while me while I walked were the pastoral sceneries on this country side like people farming, herding goats and other domesticated animals.

Bird Hide Trail Path
Bird Hide Trail Path

We reached the large piece of land owned by Mayor Pelayo which he converted as a Bird Sanctuary thus not allowing land conversion in this area. But I was also told that the periphery already had farm lands already encroaching on this sanctuary which my companions also noticed. I also found out through further research that the Candaba Wetlands used to cover an area of 32,000 hectares thirty years ago, and now due to agricultural development, it has been reduced to 72 hectares. This is truly sad and alarming situation that could threaten the arctic bird migration.

Looking throught the Hide
Looking throught the Hide

Candaba is being developed into a tourist destination especially for the bird watching group. There is now an entrance fee of P150 per person upon entering the Pelayo grounds. The development is evident on the bird hides being placed on bird watching spots. Aside from these, visitors can stay overnight at the Pelayo Resthouse or camp along its grounds. They just have to pay for the generator fuel and bring their own supplies. They also have a guided river and swamp tour from Candaba to Arayat for P400 pesos, something to try in the future.

Many of the birds are camoflauged among the bushes
Many of the birds are camoflauged among the bushes

But despite these conservation efforts, there were things I noticed that concerned me. I’m no expert ‘Birder’ or conservation specialist but I’m basing my opinions on the conservation model from natural heritage wetlands area like Singapore’s Sungei Buloh  Wetland Reserve. Here are some of my points and you are free to correct me if I’m wrong.

Tricycles and other vehicles shouldn't be inside the Bird Sanctuary
Tricycles and other vehicles shouldn't be inside the Bird Sanctuary
  1. Vehicles or other mechanical devices shouldn’t be allowed on a certain radius around the bird sanctuary. I noticed that there are motorcycles, tricycles and even cars inside the vicinity.
  2. People shouldn’t make large noises or fire gunshots to rouse the birds up in the sky and offer them as a spectacle for people to watch. If they do this every day the birds might get stressed or disrupt their natural living patters or worse leave the area.
Agriculutral development encroaching into the wetland reserve
Agriculutral development encroaching into the wetland reserve

I’m a bit saddened I wasn’t able to see Candaba Wetlands on its more pristine state. But people can still visit the Bird Sanctuary for birding activities; just make sure you are well equipped with extremely long telephoto lenses. My 300mm equivalent struggled to get some decent close up shots of the many species of birds visiting the wetlands. I just hope the Bird Sanctuary follow proper conservation methods to keep this marshland alive for many years to come.

Hundreds or Thousands of birds in flight
Hundreds or Thousands of birds in flight at Candaba Wetlands

Essentials:
For Booking the Pelayo Resthouse or the Guided Tours you may call these numbers
0999.4143266 (Anna) or 0939.7802077 (Cherry) or 0915.9195413 (Mila).

Join our Backpack Photography Workshop, Photography 101 at Banaue at March 4-5, 2011 and Island Hopping Photo Tour in Batanes on April 17-23, 2011.

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