You read all about my travels to Bali, and how much I loved it. You also know about my plans to travel more in Southeast Asia. I recently started looking into a country often overlooked when talking about Southeast Asia, and that’s the Philippines.
I can’t really tell why, but despite all the Filipino friends I have, it never crossed my mind. The Philippines is an often misunderstood country, with a strong cultural clash of Filipino, Spanish, Chinese, Malay and American influences. It can be really confusing and I’m the last one who can even try to explain it.
But with a little bit of thought, and the help of Philippinestravelpackage.com, it really started to make sense to me. The Philippines is not to be ignored as a major tourist destination in Asia, with so much to offer, especially to an outdoors enthusiast like myself. This is my top 10 pick for outdoor adventures in the Philippines.
Dive in Malapascua
How does diving with sharks sound to you? Well, for me that sounds scary, but I think that’s my instincts fighting my logic. There are many kinds of sharks that aren’t a threat to humans, and the thresher shark is one of them. Apparently, these nocturnal sharks (the reason for their big eyes is that they could see in the dark) live in deep waters.
Monad Shoal in Malapascua is the only place in the world where you can spot them on a regular basis. It is a sunken island more than 30 m deep, and it drops up to 230 m. These sharks come up every early in the morning to get cleaned in the many “cleaning stations” in Monad Shoal. Keep in mind that for this specific dive you must have an advanced open waters license, but it can be acquired in Malapascua too.
Climb Mt. Hibok-hibok
Hibok-hibok is a unique trek in Camiguin, a very special island on its own. It is a 1332 m volcano that takes 6 hours to climb. It is still active and last erupted in 1951. The hike starts at 5:00 am and should only be tempted with a local guide, as the trail goes through dense tropical jungles. The crater is the first official stop (but most take many on the way) and is a flat grassy meadow surrounded by the volcano’s walls.
The second stop is on a higher summit, overlooking the whole island. The most spectacular sight is White Island, a bare naked sand bar in the middle of the ocean, and a popular spot for island hopping. The mountain has six hot springs in it, the most famous one is Ardent, which is also the last stop of the hike. Visiting it will be a reward to your aching muscles. Keep in mind, you must be in good shape to climb Hibok-hibok.
Camiguin plenty of unique natural attractions, like black sand beaches, volcanic dive sites, and a sunken cemetery (as a result of one of the eruptions). The locals say that the island was born of fire, but none of them seem to take it too seriously, as everyone is so relaxed and friendly.
Surf in Siargao
Siargao is probably the Philippines’ equivalent to Bali. It is called the surfing capital of the Philippines and became very trendy recently. The most famous surfing spot is Cloud 9, but there are many others. There are many instructors, arranged by resorts and surf shops. They can also arrange boards and other needed equipment.
But that’s not the reason that Siargao is great. It is still a small traditional town, not yet developed, with the abundance of natural wonders. Renting a motorbike is the best way to go around the island, and it will take you to private white beaches, tidal pools, and lagoons.
Another thing I was told that it is still very affordable, which is a great plus! The resorts here are much cheaper than most places in the Philippines and way cheaper than Bali, and the food here is cheap too. For a meal in the western restaurants you’ll pay around $10, but the place is packed with Filipino BBQs that sell chicken, fish, squid, pork, shrimp etc. for $4 a meal.
Climb Pinatubo volcano
This mountain erupted in 1991 in the second largest eruption of the 20th century. The way up is a combination of a 4×4 vehicle ride and a one-hour trek to the top. On the way, you will notice the moon-like terrain, as there are many boulders and ash remaining from the violent eruption. It is a reminder of nature’s violent side, because the barren landscape was home to the Aeta people, an indigenous tribe of the Philippines that evacuated from their homes as a consequence. They had no reason to return afterwards, as the land they once worked was no longer good enough.
That will look all too absurd when you’ll reach the crater. It is now a scenic lake, with grass covering the walls of the mountain, and has a camping ground for people who want to stay overnight. By the end of the day, you’d feel like you’ve been to the moon and back.
Fly in Dahilayan Adventure Park
Dahilayan is located around 40 km from Cagayan de Oro in Northern Mindanao. Not many international tourists visit this area that has so much to offer. The way to Dahilayan is very beautiful, as it goes through Del Monte Village. You are going to ride through endless pineapple plantations as you climb up to Dahilayan, and when you reach it you will feel like you’re somewhere in the Alps as far as the view goes.
The adventure park boasts many ziplines and similar attractions, with the longest one being 840 m long and reaches a speed of 90 kmph. You will fly above green grass, cows, cypresses, and pines, sometimes hidden in clouds. This place is a cool breeze compared to the rest of the usual tropical vacation in the Philippines.
Jump from 16m tall Kawasan Falls
You know about my affection/obsession with waterfalls, and this one looks just fantastic. It’s a 3-tiered waterfall, with the first cascade being the biggest and the third one the smallest. You can’t jump from the first one as it is too dangerous, but the second one has a 16 m jump, and the third a 10 m jump. The water is kind of blueish turquoise, cold and refreshing. The locals believe it has magical healing powers. Canyoneering tours are available and will take most of the day, ending in Kawasan.
The falls are located in Cebu Island near a town name Moal-boal, where most of the tourists stay. It’s a nice beach town with a dash of wild in it (people love to go out drinking and partying until the small hours). When you’re there, don’t forget to snorkel with the giant sardine run that is present all year round.
Island hopping in Caramoan
There are many islands in the Philippines, 7107 to be exact, and many of them are known to be the best for island hopping in the world. Funny, but how can so many own the title? Moreover, can there be only one answer to this highly subjective question? I think not. But when I think about island hopping I want to feel that I’m the first one to ever visit these islands and islets. I know it’s not true but I want to feel they were made just for me.
Beside of being a tropical paradise, Caramaon is still like that. It is truly a virgin place. It became known internationally because, apparently, few non-Filipino countries like the United States, Serbia, Bulgaria, France, Israel, Sweden… you get the idea, did their version of the Survivor TV series.
Just to give you a taste, one of the highly recommended stops on the island hopping tour is Manlawi sandbar. You can rent a floating cottage, only to wait for the low tide and let the broad sandbar rise from the water and be the first to explore it. There are many beautiful islands of pristine beauty around Caramoan, and as I was informed, there aren’t many tourists around, and that means that Caramoan is waiting just for me (or you) to discover.
Hike to the Banaue Rice Terraces
The Ifugao are another indigenous tribe of the Philippines, and known to be a tribe of headhunters. Some of the old folks who are recognizable for their tribal tattoo suits are the last head hunters alive, who in older times used to resolve disputes with their enemies by decapitating their enemies and keep the skulls as trophies. It was in times of WWII and most of the victims were Japanese soldiers, but also some locals as a result of inter-tribal feuds.
Well, these people also participated in a feat that is now an official UNESCO world heritage site. They built huge complexes of rice terraces that are called by locals “stairs to heaven”, because the terraces stretch from bottom to the top of the mountains’ side, creating an illusion of a staircase that leads to the sky.
The rice terraces have an ancient irrigation system that leads water from the top terrace to the bottom ones. The farmers today use the same technology as their ancestors did for many centuries. This type of agriculture requires sophisticated team work and collaboration, as every plot is dependent on the others.
Camping on the beach in Anawangin Cove
My love to the outdoors forces me every once in a while to spend a night in nature. Anawangin Cove is a magical place perfect for that. It is a hidden cove that the only way to get to it is by a 30-minute boat ride. The beach itself is shaded by the pine tree grove that also makes it great for camping, and bordered by mountains on each side, and a small lagoon on its back.
Until recently, there weren’t any resorts on the island. With increasing popularity, a number of cottages for hire were built, but it’s still far from being called a resort. The majority of the visitors come with their tents (that can be rented in the San Antonio Town, where you’ll take the boat from). The so-called resort has amenities to make your time there more convenient, like toilets and showers, a small grocery store that also sells cold drinks, and a volleyball court.
“Luxury cruise” from El Nido to Coron
Coron and El Nido, the two destinations that make numerous travel magazines pick Palawan as the best island in the world. Both of them are very special and deserve a post each. There are several ways to travel from one to the other. In the recent past it used to take around 9 hours, but nowadays there is a fast craft that takes 3 hours.
That being said, I heard of a way that is by no means the fastest or the most convenient, but it is the most special and adventurous for fact. Tao explorers offer a unique service, that takes you from one town to the other, in the space of 4 to 5 days. The traditional sailboats go through many of the small islands between El Nido and Coron. Some are inhabited by a few fishermen and some are uninhabited, with only a few huts built by the staff. It is as close as you’ll get to deserted islands, and this is the reason this cruise is now on my to-do list.