About 70km south of Butuan on the road to Davao, the Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary is a giant maze of interconnecting rivers, channels and lakes, with dramatic areas of swamp forest consisting largely of sago trees and inhabited by parrots, purple herons, serpent eagles and a good number of saltwater and Philippine crocodiles.
The marsh is around 2 hours 30 minutes from Butuan and 3 hour from Davao; whichever direction you’re coming from, you need to get off the bus in the town of Bunawan (only slow non-a/c buses stop here), and then take a tricycle west to the town hall (t910/984-0285) to register. From here you can hire a boat and guide for the three-hour ride along the river to the marsh area itself – be prepared for a full day out and take lots of water and sunblock. Hotels in Butuan can help arrange trips, but a locally arranged day tour in Bunawan costs around P1500 for the boat plus P1000 for the guide. Despite its isolation, the marsh is inhabited by about 2600 people, mainly the Manobo, an animist group that live across much of eastern Mindanao. Their houses are floating wooden structures with thatched roofs and rest on a platform lashed to enormous logs. Whole communities exist like this, their houses tethered to one another in one place, but moveable at any time. There is some very basic accommodation in Bunawan if you get stuck, and some of the floating Manobo villages also offer lodgings – ask at the town hall.