Extreme boat riding in Samar launched-A A +A
Thursday, December 2, 2010
PARANAS, Samar – From being a mere nautical highway to being tagged as an illegal logging hotspot, Ulot River is now an eco-tourism destination with extreme boat riding as its main attraction.
The Ulot River Torpedo Extreme Boat Riding was launched Tuesday, which is expected to draw thousands of local and foreign tourists considering a different experience it offers – riding in a boat without outriggers going downstream and upstream.
Department of Tourism (DOT) Regional Director Karina Rosa Tiopes described the activity as “unique” and a never-been seen adventure in the country and even in Asia.
“This is a destination that we should be proud of. If Palawan said they are the last frontier of the Philippines, I would like to say that Samar is the ultimate frontier of our country,” Tiopes said during the launching.
Aside from DOT officials, the event was attended by officials from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Samar Island Biodiversity Project, Philippine Army, Samar Chamber of Commerce, non-government organizations, and officials from provincial offices and local government.
DENR regional technical director for research Manolito Ragub said that the arrival of tourists would help preserve the environment within the watershed area since people will earn income that would sustain their needs.
“This tourism activity will provide jobs to people and would divert their attention from cutting trees and hunting wildlife to providing services to tourists,” Ragub said.
Boatmen and river guides were earlier trained by the DOT on how to deal with tourists and ensure their safety during the tour but their skills in boating was acquired from hauling illegally-cut logs.
Tour guide Adrian Igdalino, a native of Barangay Tenani, said that the arrival of tourists in Ulot has somehow changed livelihood activities among the locals.
“Before the tourists came in, our group was used in transporting of logs. That’s the fastest way to earn money,” said Igdalino who earns P250 a day from tour guiding.
Igdalino is just one of the hundreds of villagers engaged in ecotourism activity.
There are nine people’s organization in Ulot Watershed that are now service providers to tourists such as tour guiding, boat services, catering, food production, among others.
The nine groups, formed into Ulot Watershed Model Forest Stakeholders Federation, are affiliated with the International Model Forest Network Secretariat.
Federation’s president Danilo Miralles said in an interview that these people have been earning before the launching of the eco-tourism loop.
“Visitors have been coming here. It’s a big help to our livelihood and contribute to the effort in protecting the forest,” Miralles added.
Records of the Samar Island Natural Park (SINP) showed that at least 300 visitors have so far visited the river this year.
Long before roads became the main transportation route, Ulot River served as a nautical highway for trading products and transporting people from and to Samar and Eastern Samar.
“This tour is not just an adventure but also one way to share the local’s way of life,” Tiopes said.
Few boats are still transporting villagers since it is the most convenient way to get to the town center.
Ulot is a 520-kilometer river and is considered to be the longest in Samar Island. It is part of the 87,000-hectare Ulot Watershed rambling in 11 towns of the island with bigger part of the area situated in this town.
SINP is recommending only 10.5-kilometer stretch for extreme boat ride, which is the most accessible part of the stream from the national highway.