The wind was blowing on our faces as our habal-habal raced down the circumferential road of this island garden city. We were headed to the port after a day of racing through the hotspots of this premier Mindanao destination. It was a day of fully getting immersed and connected with nature that had me refreshed and totally blown away.
Just 15 minutes away from Davao City, the Island Garden City of Samal or IGaCOS is a city composed of two islands along the waters of Davao Gulf - Samal and Talikud. Its name is derived from the Sama-Bajau people, the original inhabitants of the island. This city is a popular weekend destination in the region that boasts of white sand beaches, ruggedly beautiful nature spots, and the largest colony of fruit bats in the world. So how do you capture all these wonders in a day?
Well, it was quite easy. My brother and I hopped on a habal-habal and enjoyed a full day on an island garden city.
Balete Tree Park
After a quick breakfast by a roadside eatery, our first stop was the Balete Tree Park in Anonang. The main attraction of the park is a huge Balete tree that is estimated to be a 120 to 150 years old.
Every Filipino's childhood is not complete without the mystical story of the Balete tree. The tree is said to be a dwelling place of entities and we were told not to get close to it. But traveling around the Philippines have shattered these mystical stories. A number of these century-old trees have become an attraction in itself like the ones found in Baler and Siquijor.
Samal's very own Balete tree is not an exception. The towering tree, with its long hanging vines, does not send shivers at all. The locals allowed the tree to flourish by keeping it untouched.
Just by the main road, the Bluebird Resort offers an amazing view of Samal Island and its surrounding waters. The resort charges a minimal entrance fee and there are also huts that you can rent for those who are intending to stay longer.
The panoramic view, coupled by the gentle sea breeze, is very relaxing. You can just sit down and enjoy the view while munching on your favorite snack. I guess, it is also a nice breather before immersing yourself to the beauty of Samal.
Tucked nicely along the shorelines of Samal is a cliff diving spot for adrenaline junkies. Unlike other cliff diving spots, Sabang Cliff is raw and void of the usual platforms. So cliff diving would mean climbing up rocks and crevices after making the jump into its calm blue waters.
On the other side of the dive spot is a rocky beach area where you can enjoy the breaking of the waves. The place is also a great place for photos because of its trees along its shores that make a great backdrop for pictures.
Kaputian's white sand shoreline, its blue waters, and the chill vibe make it one of the popular beach spots in Samal by both locals and guests. It is located on the southwestern part of the island and has a nice view of Talicud Island. It is a popular spot that it is one of the quick stops of island-hopping activities of tour operators in Talicud.
The government-run resort has cottages for rent for those intending to stay longer by the beach. It has a sprawling open area for camping for those who want to experience staying overnight. The laidback atmosphere of Kaputian Beach make it a perfect spot to relax and enjoy the sun.
By the way, one of its attraction is a stuffed "dugong" (sea cow), a reminder for guests and locals that these gentle creatures reside in the waters of that surround Samal.
Imagine getting immersed and fascinated by a network of waterfalls in one area. This is what you will get to enjoy when you visit Hagimit Falls. The name of this prime tourist spot in Samal was derived from "hagimit", a tree that was once abundant in the area.
The network of cascades was developed into a park complete with accommodations, cottages, and restaurant to cater to the needs of its visitors. These structures were built around these small falls keeping and preserving Hagimit's natural beauty intact. It was great to see how man-made structures blend beautifully with nature.
There are a lot of nooks and crannies to explore in Hagimit Falls. Water that cascades in varying heights will definitely amaze you so don't just settle in one area. Walk its trails and enjoy a lazy afternoon under the shade of its trees. Choose your own spot where you can enjoy the sound of water cascading on its rocks while taking a dip in its cool waters. Trust me, it’s a perfect way to relax in Samal.
Monfort Bat Sanctuary
Have you ever wondered how Davao's durian continues to flourish?
Well, you can put the blame on the "kwaknit" or fruit bats from Samal Island who helps propagate the durian fruit in the province. Samal Island is the home of the biggest fruit bat colony in the world with an estimate of 1.8 million bats at the time of its discovery. At present, the colony is said to have an estimate of 2.5 million bats.
The 5 bat chambers are all located within the property of the Monfort family who have taken conservation efforts to protect the colony. Guests of the sanctuary can view these nocturnal animals outside the entrances and entering the caves are strictly prohibited. You would be amazed observing thousands of bats that blanket the walls of the caves.
Guests go through an orientation of the conservation efforts being done at the sanctuary that focuses on CPR - Conserve, Protect, and Respect. It includes a brief history of how the sanctuary came to be and the importance of the kwaknit. With 2.5 millions bats helping propagate the durian, the region is assured of having a steady supply of durian. Without these bats, there will be no durian.
Sanipaan Marine Park and Vanishing island
Capping off our daytrip, we headed to the Sanipaan Marine Park in Tambo. The marine sanctuary was identified as an eco-tourism zone and a community-based tourism program for the local community covering 158 hectares. Locals offer boating, mangrove tours, and snorkeling activities.
One of the main activities in the sanctuary is a visit to the Vanishing Island. It is a white sandbar located a few minutes from the jump-off point that "rises and sinks" with the tide. There are floating cottages on the island for those who want to stay on the island longer. You can also explore the nearby mangrove area for those IG worthy shots.
The best time to visit will be in the late afternoon for a more dramatic shot.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
Nature has a very interesting way of refreshing and re-energizing the mind and body. Having spent a whole day exploring nature's wonders on the Island Garden City of Samal, I went home totally blown away by the island's beauty. Samal Island is a must-visit destination in Mindanao. The beauty that it showcases above water is one that will definitely make you want to head back and explore more. I guess, next time, its time to explore what's underneath.
Like what I mentioned previously, last year's trip to Mindanao was something for my books. It made me realize that I have been missing a lot on Mindanao's beauty and that it is about time to focus on this region this year. #Mindanao1 is definitely underway and Mindanao will definitely rock this travel blog this 2019.
Getting There: Major airlines have regular flights to Davao from major cities in the Philippines and some select international destinations. You can take a taxi or a public jeep to the Samal Ferry Wharf where you can take a 15-minute RORO ride to Samal Island.
For daytour Samal Island arrangements, you can reach Kuya Jaynon at (0975) 216 1434 (Globe) and (0938) 101 9110 (SMART).
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Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.