The sea was calm that early morning. The dawning of the day was dramatic. While the sun mightily rose on the east, the moon on the opposite side was slowly devoured by the daylight. As the fresh morning sea breeze started to cuddle my worn-out body, I began to search for a perfect spot in that jagged boat where I can lay down and regain enough strength. That was what I needed so I could last the most anticipated trip I made that day – journeying to the southernmost islands of Mindanao’s Davao Region, the Municipality of Sarangani, Davao Del Sur.
I have long wanted to come to this part of Mindanao. I’ve read ample mystical stories about the Islands that made me think how exciting it could be if I would experience it myself. But what I didn’t realize was that the journey sailing the angry strait of Sarangani was an adventure in itself.
We were supposed to sail from General Santos City as our entry point to Islands but two days before the trip, we were told the 70-seater vessel was already fully booked. It was expected as it was in time for the Holy Week. Hence, we were compelled to find other ways just to succumb to the itch of being there. Luckily, we found the best other way to get there – sailing from Glan, Sarangani Province with a small fishing boat.
When we left Glan, the sea was completely unruffled and still. Since the boat ride would roughly take three hours, I opted to take a nap lying at one side of the boat. It was the most insane thing I’ve ever done sleeping in deep slumber at the spot with no safety measures at all – no life jacket, not even a wooden side brace. I guess the call to sleep overruled fears. Besides it is where real adventures begin, I thought.
Two hours passed. I was awakened by the splash of the seawater that hit my face. When I opened my eyes, the sight of the raging waves of Sarangani Channel was the first thing that was laid before my eyes. They were huge and strong swaying our tiny vessel from side to side. Instead of getting scared, there was an excitement in me that was truly invigorating waking up my snoozing senses. I cared less seeing those monstrous waves hitting our boat. For me, it was part of that journey, part of the whole adventure. And from afar, I could already see the two main Islands of the town – Balut Island and Sarangani Island. Both were so enticing! What’s more, the sight of the two sea cows playfully swimming in the clear waters was a welcoming scene to behold!
Another hour passed, we neared Balut Island, the town’s center of commerce and local government. As the water turn from dark blue to calmest turquoise blue, the corals thriving underwater started to get visible. It was so clear we can see the rich marine life underneath.
As we get closer to island’s port, the view of Balut Island seemed to get more vivid. It became so picturesque looking from afar. Although it is the center of the town, the island is mostly covered by greeneries and lush vegetation. Adding to the island’s innate allure is the island’s highest peak kissed by cotton-like clouds that seemed to be there since time immemorial. I find it very mystical because the Island’s highest elevation is only 2,828 feet above sea level yet those clouds up there covered the summit all day long. Later, I learned that Balut Island is actually a volcanic island and considered by PHIVOLCS as potentially active volcano. I thought, maybe that can explain it.
The sun was high and scorching when we finally reached Port of Mabila, the island’s main port. From there, we headed straight to our tour guide’s humble home where our scrumptious lunch awaited for us. The town seemed too silent as we go along the way. I didn’t see much people going around the town center even at the nearby Municipal Hall and covered court. It was a Holy Thursday, I thought. People were home resting, reflecting.
The food was great – unlimited fish recipes just apt for Lenten Season. Being a coastal town, fishing is one of main living of the Sarangans aside from vast coconut farms that abound the island. In fact, fishermen from this island would even go to the nearby islands of Indonesia for fishing. Being at the southernmost part of the Region, Balut Island is just two hours boat ride from the nearest Island of the Indonesian Archipelago. In fact, there are plenty of Filipinos living in those Island and likewise Indonesians living in Balut Island.
From the town center, our first destination was Sabang Hotspring, about an hour boat ride from Port of Mabila. It was past one in the afternoon and the waves were getting bigger at that time. Hence, the supposedly one hour boat ride extended for another 30 minutes. While others took it horrendous, I on the other hand, found it more adventurous.
As we docked at the shores of Sabang, it was the sight of volcanic rocks and pebbles scattered on the shores that first captured my eyes. The rocks are of different sizes, colors and textures. It was a new sight to me.
Just meters away from where we docked, Sabang Hotspring can already be seen. As I went nearer, I gradually smelled the sulfuric odor of the hotspring. It became more intense I get closer. And when at last the fenced hotspring was right in front of me, I froze in wonder as the see the boiling water and the sulfuric vapor coming from it. I have been to quite a few hot springs in the country but seeing a boiling one was truly incredible. My eyes resisted from believing what I saw – such an unbelievable view.
As expected, hotsprings like Sabang abound on areas where volcanoes are found. Balut Island, being a volcano island is one great example. But what’s more amazing about this particular hot spring is that it is located just across the beach. In fact it is part of the shoreline of the beach. Most of hot springs I know are those in highlands or higher than sea level. What’s more, its sulfuric content is high making its natural pool yellowish in color in the sides along with its water passage. We can’t help but get some and tried it on our skin. It really smelled like sulfur soap.
Bathing is not advised at Sabang Hot spring. Who would dare to swim there anyway? The boiling waters alone looked really scary. I braved dipping my feet at the water passage but I can never stand a minute. It was really hot. And so I just contented myself just going around taking photos of it – that’s the only way to enjoy it.
I learned that Sabang Hotspring was developed years back to become a major tourist attraction in the Island. At one point, tourism flourished servicing local and domestic tourists in the region. It didn’t last though. For some reasons, development was stopped. What’s left there now is an old memory and ruins of once-a-beautiful resort. Today, people can just come there for free. It is still an amazing sight to see though.
From Sabang Hotspring, we hurried back to our boat and sailed further for two hours to the other island, the Sarangani Island. Like Balut Island, Sarangani Island is also considered an important island in the town. In fact most of the best white sand beaches, pristine coves, untouched lagoons and various rock formations can be found here like the first one we visited – Tuke Nunsol Beach.
Tuke Nunsol Beach teems with dazzling white sand beach and rock formation that wowed me the moment we docked there. The water is clear and underneath abound rich marine life. I regretted at an instant for not bringing snorkeling set with me. I could have seen the beauty underwater. So instead, I managed to enjoy the beach, swam like a child and even jumped at a shallow cliff.
Still at Tuke Nunsol, came dusk. On the opposite island, the mighty sun was starting to set. As it retired, it left us with a perfect sunset scene that froze us from where we stood. It was like everything had to halt to glimpse the most wonderful scene of the day – the setting of the sun. And so I grabbed my camera and pointed it to the most glorious sight of the day. Still not contented, I went up to the rocks and worshiped a stunning sunset view before me. It was just so beautiful. Done and satisfied, I muttered this to myself, “The Travel Teller is forever a sunset lover. Always will.”
As darkness slowly devoured the skies, we left Tuke Nunsol bound to our final destination for the day – Tuke Maklang Beach. Just when I thought surprises and beautiful scene ended with that spectacular sunset at the opposite Island, another surprising sight awaited for us at the Tuke Maklang. As we our boat neared the beach, an old familiar sound started to get louder. When it got deafening, there was one thing I was so sure of – it was the sound of a bat colony. And when I looked up the skies, it was a colony of flying fox bats that was incredibly laid before my eyes. It was an incredible twilight scene seeing thousands of bats flying out at dusk. I glued myself from where I sit and just stared at the heavens as huge bats flew in beautiful choreography thickening harder the dusking skies. What an astounding sight!
When that breathtaking nightfall scene cleared up, it was time to proceed to the resort. Tuke Maklang Beach is situated at one the Island’s unspoiled lagoons. Like most of the beaches around the Island, it also boasts a white sand beach and shallow calm sea waters perfect for swimming. Thick vegetation envelops the place. Though the beach resort is not equipped with first class facilities, it is modest enough to make our stay comfortable.
When we were all settled, I opted to sleep early that night. My body ached from a long non-stop beach adventure and I needed enough rest for yet another island escapade the following day. So off to bed – Balut Island and Sarangani Island are both worth the long trip!
WATCH OUR FOR NEXT POST:
“My Name is OLAN and I am here at OLANIBAN ISLAND”