It has been dubbed the “Crown Jewel of Mindanao” and with good reason. It is a sprawling city (the third largest metropolis in the Philippines) but there is so much more to it than being the economic and commercial center of the south. The city offers a majestic view of Mt. Apo,the highest peak in the Philippines. It houses several attractions that are within a few hours from the city center. On top of that, it is home to lush vegetation and rich aquatic resources which only means one thing–the food is great!
There are several things to do in Davao from simple strolls in a park (Davao has several parks!) to extreme activities like white water rafting and sky cycling (biking on a zipline!). I would have loved to do all these if only I had more than a weekend to spend galavanting in the city.
Davao is obviously a good choice for a solo traveler like me. There’s so much to see. The public transport is efficient which means I don’t have to spend a lot for taxi or car service. The people are friendly that I’d have no problem asking around for directions. The place is generally safe even for female travelers since its former Mayor (now the president of the Philippines) implemented rules (curfews, liquor bans, etc) with an iron fist. I could stop anywhere in that paragraph and I’d have enough reason to choose Davao over any other place. But to say that I traveled to Davao for leisure is not entirely true. I had another agenda but one that would already be covered by the end of lunch.
I arrived in Davao on a Saturday shortly before noon. From Francisco Bangoy International Airport, I took a cab going to Uno Hotel. An overnight stay only set me back P750. Not bad at all considering it is a very decent place to stay. After freshening up for a bit, I took care of business and by 2:00 pm, I was already on a jeepney to Bangkerohan Market where I bought some fruits to take with me on my first adventure. I had durian and pineapples which the vendor skillfully sliced in front of me. The sight of a real-life fruit ninja is something you should come to this market for.
In the same market, I looked for a van plying the Bangkerohan-Calinan route. It dropped me off at the Calinan town proper where I took a tricycle to Malagos, home of the infamous Malagos Chocolate and of course, the Philippine Eagle Center. The wet pavers, the smell of rain, and the tiny droplets that danced on the leaves gave me that enchanting feeling of being at the right place at the perfect moment. The eagle center simulates a rainforest environment which should give foreigners a glimpse of what Philippine forests are like. While being in a rainforest isn’t something new to me (I’ve lived for nine years at the foot of Mt. Makiling), Malagos worked its charm on me. At that moment, there was nowhere else I’d rather be. And that’s saying a lot considering that at that point, I haven’t even seen the eagles yet.
The Philippine Eagle Center is home to 36 Philippine eagles, several other species of birds and even some terrestrial mammals. Philippine eagles are categorized as critically endangered and if it weren’t for places like this, we would never see these birds outside a post stamp. The center not only promotes environmental and ecological awareness but also generates funds for tending the wounded birds and returning them to the wild. Apart from providing the birds a temporary home, the center facilitates breeding until there are enough of the eagles to fight against the extinction of their kind. Hatchlings are given names and are put up for “adoption” by large corporations that provide monetary support for the everyday needs of the birds until they are set free in the wild.
And if those aren’t reason enough to visit the center, how about having a dashing eagle to photobomb your selfie? Believe it or not, the eagles aren’t shy for photographs. Take as many clicks as you want and you’ll find these birds staring right at the lenses. I would truly be happy to have gone only to this one place for this trip but I had one more day left in Davao. I might as well take a whiff of the ocean breeze. So on the ride back to the hotel, I was already hatching a plan to visit Samal Island.
The Island Garden City of Samal in Davao Gulf is actually no longer part of Davao City. But whenever you’re in Davao, a side trip to Samal Island is definitely worth your time. It is accessible through Sasa Wharf via a 10-15-minute boat ride. For only Php20 (10 for the jeepney and 10 for the ferry), I got myself in an island paradise. How is that for value for money?
I visited Monfort Bat Sactuary, home to a colony of some two million fruit bats. The sactuary holds the Guinness World Records for having the largest single colony of Rousette fruit bats. You’d be disappointed if you expect a spelunking adventure to see the bats. The caves are merely deep openings in the ground. The redeeming quality? Of course the thousands of bats lining the walls. You can find five openings full of bats but we were told that the tunnels run long and deep and tourists are not allowed to go down. [Warning: Their poop doesn’t smell very nice.]
Next in the itinerary is Hagimit Falls. It’s a long drive from the bat sanctuary and it requires a short hike from the road. It’s not as majestic and as pristine as the waterfalls we have in Cebu but it was a sight to see nonetheless.
I then made my way to Bluebird Resort (entrance fee: P10). The viewing deck offers a good view of the neighboring Talikud Island. A trip to Samal Island usually includes an island hopping tour around Talikud Island where you can find the Pearl Farm Resort, several coral gardens, the Taklobo (Giant Clam) Sanctuary, and a lot more. However, chartering a motorized banca is not practical for a solo traveler. And besides, I’ve already taken this tour last year when I visited Davao for the Chemistry Congress. At Bluebird Resort, I just marveled at the scenic view of the island.
Bluebird Resort would have been the last stop of the tour but the driver told me that there is a spot nearby where locals can frolic by the beach for free. If you’re in for an adrenaline rush, they have a perfect spot for cliff diving.
By noon, I was already on my way back to the city where I had my late lunch (I’ll post my eat-tinerary separately). I had a few hours left before my flight so I decided to visit Crocodile Park and Butterfly Garden which are both close to the airport.
Davao Crocodile Park offers wildlife encounter at the heart of the city. They have Philippine crocodiles of all sizes which they breed primarily for leather but also for other products (meat, crocodile oil, etc). More than that, they also have other animals like Bengal tigers, ostriches (which you can feed for a fee), orangutans, birds, snakes, and a lot more. The entrance fee also allows free entry to the Butterfly Garden. For P250, you definitely get a bang out of your buck. If you linger, you can catch their daily shows like Feeding Frenzy (crocodile feeding), bird shows, tightrope walking (suspended over a pond full of crocodiles), fire dancing and a lot more. But then again, the shows were to start at 4 pm and I had a 5:40 pm flight to catch. I had to pass.
And that was it. I took a cab to the airport, took one last photo at the giant durian landmark, and boarded the plane. Even with just two days, one night, and a tight budget, I must say that I didn’t do so bad at all. Especially for someone who only came to Davao for a lunch meeting.
“But it’s over now, go on and take #Davao”
-Take a Bow, Rihanna
Getting There: Several airlines fly to Francisco Bangoy International Airport daily.
Going Around: There are taxis, jeepneys, and buses.
What to Eat: Durian and other fruits (try Pomelo), tuna (try it as kinilaw), durian coffee, civet coffee, dark chocolate from locally-sourced cacao
Places to see:
- Bankerohan Market | Several jeepneys pass by this market (Php 8)
- Philippine Eagle Center | In Bankerohan Market, take a van going to Calinan (Php 40) and ask the driver to drop you at the tricycle terminal going to Malagos (Php 8). Park entrance is Php 150 but Malagos Water District also asks for a Php 5 entrance fee (the center is within the water district compound).
- Samal Island (inland tour) | Take a jeepney going to Sasa (Php 10). At Sasa Wharf, ride a ferry going to Babak Wharf (Php 10). You may charter a habal-habal (motocycle with driver) for a day for only Php 800. You can go wherever you like. | Entrance Fees: Montfort Bat Sanctuary (Php100), Hagimit Falls (Php50), Bluebird Resort Viewing Deck (Php10), Caputian Beach (free)
- Crocodile Farm and Butterfly Sanctuary | This is accessible only through taxi and private vehicles (Php 150 fare from the city). Entance Fee: Php 250
- [PS: I’ll write a different post for my gastronomic adventure in Davao.]