White water rafting, swimming with dolphins, zip lining, SCUBA diving, firefly watching and neighborhood photo-walkabouts over 6 days – it was the dream activity holidays are made of! We dubbed it as the Mindanao adventure with the activities spread across 3 provinces.
The gateway to our adventures is the city of Cagayan de Oro or CDO as the locals call it. We took a 2-hour flight from Manila to CDO where we meet up with our advance party. Sadly we were not able to go with them for the white water rafting and swimming with the dolphins and had to be content with their stories and photos. Work seem to always get in the way of fun!
White Water Rafting in CDO
Introduced in the Philippines as a hobby by a group of outdoor enthusiasts back in 1995, it took 10 years for the activity to catch on as an attraction for both local and foreign tourists. White water rafting is an activity that uses a raft, usually made of inflated rubber tubes, to navigate a river or any body of water.
Excitement flows as the raft negotiates its way through varying degrees of rough water and passengers try to hang on and prevent the raft from capsizing or worse hitting the rocks. Best enjoyed with a group, however anyone can go alone provided you bring your friendly spirit to meet new people and build relationships.
Swimming with Dolphins
Another one we missed because this happened on the second day of the adventure trip. The dolphin infraction is in Misamis Occidental Aquamarine Park or MOAP. It’s about a 30 minute ride from Ozamis City to Sinacaban.
The interaction happens in Dolphin Island, not a real island but a facility built in the sea accessible inside MOAP. It’s a real interaction where you can snorkel and swim with the dolphins. Stories of people being scared at first but then soon replaced by extreme joy as these creatures are so friendly they facilitate the interaction. They literally welcome you to their environment and make you feel at ease.
I was really disappointed to miss this one and still curse commitments to clients to this day!
Ziplining in Bukidnon
This was where we caught up with the adventure. We arrived early in CDO airport from Manila and our team picked us up from the airport at about 6:30am. We had a quick breakfast along the way and set off to Bukidnon to experience the longest zip line in Asia found in Dahilayan Adventure Park.
The trip from the airport is about 2 hours and half of the time is spent going through the Del Monte pineapple plantation, where hectares of pineapples are grown for cannery purposes. Past the plantation is a community and loads of fruit bearing trees, owing to the fertile soil of this region, then after a short while you will see Dahilayan Adventure Park. They have 2 zip lines and and another attraction called Zorb where you go inside a giant transparent ball that goes down one of the cliffs.
We only had one purpose and that is to ride the longest zip line in Asia, superman style! The ride was exhilarating, especially the anticipation as they strapped us with the protective gear. The zip line is 840 meters long suspended at about 100 meters from the ground and travels from 60-100 kilometers per hour.
It was fantastic and I felt like Peter Pan as I watched my shadow flying on top of trees. The ride took only about 2 minutes but it was one of the bet 2 minutes well spent! I wanted to go again but we had other things planned and getting quite hungry, especially since we were told that there is a restaurant inside the pineapple plantation that sells pineapple fed steaks.
We are avid SCUBA divers and the Philippines is one of the perfect places to go to explore a rich marine life. We went to 2 areas to dive – Mantigue Island in Camiguin and Duka Bay in Medina.
- Camiguin has at least 20 top dive sites but the most spectacular ones are:
- Mantigue Island – nice drop off reefs often compared to Maldives.
- Sunken Cemetery – not a real cemetery; great siting for turtles and soft corals.
- Tangup Bay – perfect for beginners with soft and hard corals and some interesting rock formations.
- White Island – beautiful black coral forest, strong current and requires advanced diving skills.
Camiguin was the first time I used nitrox and it was an interesting experience as the air felt lighter to breathe and seemed to give a happier after dive effect compared to compressed air. Some minor set-up required for dive computers needed as calculations of bottom time and surface intervals change.
Duka Bay has 3 spectacular dive sites:
- Paradise Garden – I love the colorful damsels in this site and the corals are so colorful. The crater features canyons and overhangs – truly a paradise under the sea!
- Aquarium – first time I saw thermocline where cold freshwater springs out of the sea floor mixing with warmer salt water.
- Japanese Garden – a shallow dive but not to be missed for the colorful and abundant collection of fish and corals!
It’s good to have your own dive equipment but even without your complete set there are rentals from resorts at very reasonable prices.
In one of the nights we rented local canoes that took us inland among the mangroves to watch fireflies dance.. Each canoe had a boat man that rowed for us and a navigator that ferried us along the shallow waters of the mangrove forest while we drank beer and sang a few tunes. Fireflies are not something you see everyday especially in the city and seeing them in their natural habitat brings back a lot of childhood memories. The canoe ride along the calm waters with just our flashlights to light the way is very romantic.
Neighborhood Photo Walkabouts
Medina is loaded with history and culture so we packed our cameras one day and did a neighborhood photo walkabouts. Visiting heritage houses taking photos of the local flora and fauna and interesting sites around. This is one way to get to know the locals and the surroundings just make sure you leave the abrasive and patronizing attitude at home and pack a lot of positive energies.
It was certainly one of the greatest activity holidays we’ve ever been a part of. What’s even better is being hosted by our dive instructor who originally came from Medina. Its always good to have someone who can show you around and really get the most out of the experience.
We’re planning to go back September 2012 but this time the eastern side of Mindanao and we’ll make sure not to miss the dolphin interaction.