BURAUEN, Leyte - The Mahagnao Volcano Natural Park (MVNP), the site known for lakes and thousands of wild ducks, has officially opened after more than two years of closure and limited operations due to Covid-19 pandemic.
The ecotourism site is the last of the seven protected areas in Eastern Visayas ready to welcome visitors again since the health crisis broke out, Crisostomo Badeo Jr., the MVNP protected area superintendent on Wednesday said.
"We have not rushed the reopening since the primary purpose is not to do business, but to preserve the natural wonders of Mahagnao. We have to make a lot of preparations," Badeo said in an interview during the reopening of the site.
The MVNP protected area management board limits the daily carrying capacity of the destination to only 150 tourists from 250 before the pandemic.
There are also mechanisms in place to ensure compliance to existing minimum public health standards.
Visitors have to fill up a form downloadable through the MVNP Facebook page before their visit.
The reopening coincides with the 5th anniversary of legislation of the 341-hectare MVNP as a protected area.
For Department of Tourism Eastern Visayas Regional Director Karina Rosa Tiopes, the reopening is very timely since people want outdoor activities after years of movement restrictions.
"We always advocate for safe and fun tourism. It should be our way of life since this is the normal," Tiopes said.
"We are so blessed to have this gift of nature. This is extraordinary and we are responsible to protect this," she added.
Myrna Agustin, president of the MVNP ecotourism association, said they are currently offering two tour packages -- the Tanguile and Bulkan trails.
The Tanguile Trail is named after the dipterocarp Tanguile trees dominant in the area, giving visitors the experience of what it is to "commune with nature and immerse in a forest atmosphere."
The trail brings a sense of relaxation through your five senses by seeing the forest surrounding, hearing the chirping birds and forest winds, touching the cold ground by walking barefoot, inhaling the wonder of blooms, and tasting the sweetness of young melastoma plant pods.
The trail ends at Malagsum Lake, one of three lakes of Mahagnao known for its green acidic water, a sanctuary to about 2,000 wild ducks of several species.
Near the lake thrives a type of Bermuda grass that only grows in soil soaked in acidic lake water.
Bulkan (local term for volcano) trail gives visitors a chance to see Philippine Macaque monkeys leaping from tree to tree while hiking through a dry stream bed.
Through this trail, one can reach the top of the inactive volcano overlooking two lakes of Mahagnao.
Along the way, tourists will find some sulfuric gems, but picking them up is strictly prohibited.
The biggest lake in Mahagnao village has a length of 15,590 meters and a surface area of about 16 hectares, ideal for boating, kayaking, and stand-up paddling.
Tourists will also discover the local cuisine through a buffet lunch of rice, native chicken cooked in coconut milk, local fish simmered in vinegar, fried local fish, mixed local vegetables, fried dried fish, camote (sweet potato roll), fruits, and coconut juice.
The cost of each tour package is PHP1,035 per person for a group of five.
Proclaimed as a national park in 1937, MVNP is endowed with different natural attractions -- a lake, falls, multi-colored mud, virgin forests, and a lagoon.
In 2018, the park has been proclaimed a protected area through legislation.
Mahagnao, located 860 meters above sea level, is 18 kilometers away from the town center of Burauen. (PNA)