Skip to main content

My Top 5 Mindanao Adventures

Mindanao is the second largest of the 3 major islands in the Philippines. Its land area spans 37,657 square miles and although its reputation is marred by news of conflicts occurring in several provinces, a traveler should not take this against the entire island. It is politically divided into 26 provinces, and of this number, you can only hear about 5 of them constantly in the news. This leaves the other places absorbing gossip that Mindanao is unsafe for visitors.   Not fair!

Let me share with you my favorite adventures, personally tested during my previous travels to Mindanao. Hey, I’m still very much alive and ready to hit  my 30th birthday as of this writing! :)  (in fact, I am flying to Zamboanga two weeks from now...I am excited! Great weather please!)

1. Davao Del Sur - Water Tubing in Sibulan River
As I walked from the main highway towards the tubing site, I was met with curious stares from bystanders, to which I returned a warm smile. I wasn’t sure where to go so I decided to ask. I was led to a local’s place where I was told to leave my backpack. I was introduced to my young guide. After packing my cellphone and money in a waterproof pouch, we started with a short hike down the river which took less than 30 minutes.

The waters were raging but the view was gorgeous – mountains on one side, stone walls on the other.

The guide gave some instructions before we boarded our tubes, which was attached to each other. I sat in front. We started off smoothly and then it got intense. We traversed the river at a quick speed and I can see boulders a few inches from my face. We were like leaves vigorously towed by the strong currents. It was awesome!!! I wish I had a waterproof camera at the time so I can relieve the experience through videos. Unfortunately, the intensity of the experience was only stored in my head. Hope I can do this again!

2. North Cotabato - Toploading in Kidapawan
Barangay Illomavis in Kidapawan is one of the popular and safest jump-offs in climbing Mt. Apo. It features Lake Agco and a resort with man-made pools.

The terminal is at Mega Market and will take two hours of negotiating through rough road and concrete to get to the resort. I sat on top of the roof, beside onions, chickens and other people.  Though my butt was in pain the entire time,I was so excited because I would be able to see Mt. Apo, even from a distance. The ride passed through the highway and into a community along the mountains. The Philippines’ highest mountain regally loomed ahead of us as the vehicle zipped down the road and I can only stare with my mouth half open, amused like a kid.

3. Camiguin - Motorbike Tour
I met a persuasive local in a hot pink jacket as I emerged from a convenience store. I just arrived at the Benoni Port and had no idea where to go. She helped me find a cheap place to stay and contacted a friend with a motorbike. The 3 of us toured Camiguin, even hiked the Old Volcano which I enjoyed. We also went to the sunken cemetery which gave an eerie vibe and finally, to the foot of Mt. Hibok-Hibok as the moon started to rise. Riding motorbikes, though kinda freaky, is such an amazing way to see unobstructed views of your surroundings and quite easy on the pocket too! :P

The last 2 on my list are from Bukidnon, my beloved, a playground for adventure seekers! Here there are mountains, waterfalls, caves, canyons, pretty horses, cheap restaurants, great coffee, budget accommodations and friendly people, basically everything I want!

4. Spelunking at Sumalsag Cave – “When you land from the plane, be in your caving attire”. That was one of the instructions I received from our Bukidnon contact, Doc Chi. At that time, I was with a different company and part of my job was to test outdoor activities (my fave part!).

I took the first flight from Manila which was at 4:15 AM and was picked up by Doc. Chi and Ben, a local adventurer and race organizer, at the Lumbia Airport in CDO. You can just imagine how energetic I felt at that time. I was so not in the zone to get wet. However, my mood changed as soon as we descended to the entrance of the cave. It was dark but the chambers were huge so there was plenty of room to move around. We spent about four hours inside the cave where we saw gours, stalactites that glistened in the dark and enormous pools where you can dive! My favorite part was when we had to swim underneath a natural pool to exit the cave. That was cool.

The caving experience ended with a short hike down the mountain to where our vehicle was parked. From  afar, massive  valleys in rich shades of green were our views.

5. Waterfalls Adventure – CEDAR
Here's a video of me and a friend under one of the falls. The boulders were slippery and the water dropped against our bodies with strong force that I was both afraid and thrilled at the same time.  Amazing! 

The Center for Ecological Development and Recreation (CEDAR) is  a reforestation project located in Brgy.  Impalutao, Bukidnon and covers a land area of approximately 1,703 hectares.

One can enjoy a variety of adventures such as taking a forest trail that will lead to 5 waterfalls, ride horses, camp overnight, swim in man-made pools amidst trees or climb Mt. Kibuwa which stands at a height of 1,200+ MASL. It is also an area of interest for those people who want to research about the different species of plants, trees and insects within its forests. 

Video shot by Doc. Chi Abellanosa who was also our guide.  Thanks Doc!

As with any activity,  safety must always be a priority. However, we shouldn't limit ourselves within our comfort  zones. One should research  and make an informed  decision on where they want to go,  not from hearsay but through reliable sources of information (people who live and know the area). 

This was prepared as an entry to November 2011 PTB Blog Carnival with the theme, “Mindanao Bliss”. This is a collaborative effort to promote Mindanao as a fun and safe destination. Thanks to our host, Olan of The Travel Teller

Statistical Resources :
1. National Statistics Coordination Website - Philippines
2. Wikipedia - Mindanao
3. Bukidnon Government Website

Popular posts from this blog

Part 2 : Bataan Adventures | Where to Eat in Bataan (Updated 2017)

Being an avid hiker and foodie, I've grown very fond of visiting  Bataan.  This province offers several hiking trails (check my post here) passing verdant forests and nicely decorated cafes and restaurants where you can enjoy a proper cup of coffee and affordable comfort food. It is also highly accessible from Manila via land travel, making it a good option for a short but rewarding out of town adventure. 

Here's a list of restaurants in Bataan where you can enjoy satisfying meals. 

The restaurant's name which means little angels (male) was inspired by the owner's 3 young boys, Miguel (after St. Michael), Rafael and Gabriel.This 2 year old family owned restaurant has a homey ambiance and serves any type of food that the family enjoys.

Dishes are flavorful and priced affordably -100 Pesos above for the main dishes and 20 Pesos above for the desserts.Specialty includes, pork binagoongan and creamy tofu (my fave!). The restroom which has a mini garden is als…

Hiking in La Trinidad : Mt. Yangbew

To kickoff 2017, I  returned to the Cordillera region with one of my closest friends, Jules. We wanted to take it easy  so we decided to try a couple of short but very scenic trails in Benguet I found online (References posted below). 

Barangay Tawang in La Trinidad,the capital of the province of Benguet  is less than an hour from Baguio city and features several accessible, scenic mountain trails - Mt. Yangbew (also known as Mt. Jambo), Tayawan view deck and Mt. Kalugong. These are all beginner-friendly or as the younger Pinoy millenials would say, pabebe-friendly. :P
Since we were taking a super early bus ride,  (1:30 AM early! :P), we made sure  we got nice, comfy seats. Fortunately, with 3 days prior to the trip, we were able to book online via iWantSeats.

In five hours, we arrived in the City of Pines and walked towards Session Road to hunt for a hotel. Fortunately, a vacant room was immediately available at Benguet Prime Hotel so we were able to leave our bags.  We took our sweet t…

12 Useful things to Bring on your First Mountain Hike

Hiking has become very popular in the Philippines that it's now easier to find a mountain and come up with your own itinerary  or join an organized group. (Read 10 Tips on How to be a Good Climb Participant
If you're heading out to your first mountain hike and thinking of what to bring, here are a couple of tips. Note that this list was created as a guide and not a mandatory checklist. The items featured are based on what I observed to be  useful when hiking in tropical weather.

7 Hiking Tips for Beginners | 8 Essentials for Rainy Day Hikes by Basekamp PH

1.  Footwear
Footwear should enhance your experience outdoors and protect you from injury. There are shoes designed specifically for hiking but I encourage you to research the mountain  first before purchasing hiking shoes. Will there be sections where you need to cross rivers? How long will you be hiking?If the mountain has a clear and established trail that normally won't take more than 4 hours to complete, you can very w…