Foray into the Silonay Mangrove Conservation Area
Department of Tourism Region IV-B (MIMAROPA) Regional Director Atty. Minerva A. Morada recently visited Oriental Mindoro with a group of selected travel writers. Our purpose was to check out the possibility of developing some areas as tourist attractions.
Our first stop when we arrived in Calapan was the 42-hectare Silonay Mangrove Conservation Area and Eco Park on Silonay island. Local officials and caretakers of the protected area me ys, and after registering, we commenced our tour.
Part of the Mindoro Oriental province and on the east side of Calapan, Silonay Island has a land area of 87 hectares, and used to be dense with mangrove trees. However, it is highly vulnerable to storm surges, particularly the 42 hectares of the Silonay Mangrove Conservation and Eco Park, which could result in the loss of significant tracks of mangrove forest.
In cooperation with conservationists, locals are working to replenish the stock by planting new trees. Apart from these efforts, the area is now a tourist attraction with the addition of a mangrove boardwalk. The boardwalk traverses the mangrove forest for 350 meters, ending in three huts, each able accommodate 10 tired trekkers. Scattered along the boardwalk are native baskets for trash, and reminders on the proper way to treat the environment and protect the ecosystem. It opened to the public in November 13, 2013, just in time for the commemoration of the founding anniversary of Oriental Mindoro.
Tourists and nature lovers can access the mangrove area via bamboo a footbridge, and some areas display murals done by local students under the guidance of environmental artist AG Saño. From the footbridge, I could easily see the results of reforestation efforts. According to our guide, the mangrove forest now boasts 14 species of mangrove as of 2014, up from eight in 2009. Conservation experts attribute this to the intervention of the eco-park administration in planting new trees.
We climbed a 6-meter high tower made of concrete at the end of the boardwalk tour, where we could rest 10 at a time and enjoy a panoramic view of the Silonay River, and trace its path to the sea.
The mangrove forest was certainly impressive from a tourist point of view, but according to the guide, it also happens to be the habitat of 2 species of bats and 29 species of birds. It is certainly a possibility that the eco-park may be a potential bird (and bat) watching spot, Among the most common birds found on Silonay Island are the black-naped oriole (Oriolus chinensis) white-throated kingfisher (Halcyon chloris), and the yellow-vented bulbul (Pycnonotus goaivier). You might also catch a glimpse of the fruit bat (Ptenochirus jagori) and the nectar bat (Macroglossus minimus) at dusk.
The fee to enter the eco-park is PhP50, and PhP20 for students. All visitors are given all the encouragement to plant mangrove seedlings in specific areas in the wetlands and do their part in reforestation.