Sunday, June 24, 2012

Escaping to Davao's Eden Nature Park

In the highlands of Davao lies a slice of heaven here on earth where those who crave to escape the din and drudgery of urban life—that includes me!—can head for to experience the plethora of pleasures waiting to be relished by nature lovers.

The fun and excitement that you will experience in this sanctuary begin the minute you drive high into the mountain south of the city. Ascending through a largely smooth road, you’ll be treated to an awe-inspiring vista of hills and valleys swaddled with vegetation as the visually arresting panorama of the city emerges from behind you. 

Davao as seen from Eden Nature Park

Up ahead, the looming figure of Mt. Talomo—believed to be the Philippines’ highest peak before it literally blew its top and got overshadowed by majestic Mt. Apo—zooms into view and takes your breath away. 

This is Eden Nature Park, one of the must-sees that tourists ought to explore when they’re in Davao. 


Eden's Skyrider
The amphitheater
Together with some coworkers, I first saw this haven in the highlands way back in the late 1990s after the Ayalas opened to the public what was once their family’s private hideaway. Over the years, the resort kept on reinventing itself, adding a number of facilities and amenities that have clicked so well with city slickers from Davao and elsewhere who usually go there on weekends and long holidays to bask in the beauty of the natural surroundings while enjoying the company of family, friends and relatives.

Nestled at the foothills of Mt. Talomo, it’s the nearest mountain resort I can readily visit if I want to be close to nature. Rising some 2,630 feet (800 meters) above sea level, it’s a veritable slice of paradise roughly 45 minutes away from the downtown area just waiting to be visited (or revisited, in my case, for the nth time?) by those yearning for some mountain magic while communing with nature.  

One of the things that I guess make the resort extraordinary is the lush pine tree forest that surrounds it, touted to be the only one of its kind in the city. Varieties of these lofty evergreen trees are extensively cultivated in the park’s nurseries. Another feature that will intrigue visitors is the scattering of rocks and boulders, said to be remnants of Mt. Talomo’s eruption.

Matinlo Falls

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One of the colorful peafowls roaming around Eden's grounds

There are also resting sheds located at various points along the pine tree-shaded road where hikers can take a break and catch their breaths. Signs and markers containing verses promoting environmental consciousness are also strategically entrenched along some points of the trails.   

Indiana Jones
Once a privately-owned orchard planted with exotic fruit trees, vegetables and rare blooms, Eden Nature Park has expanded into a natural wonderland that’s replete with excellent amenities: a children’s playground, a restaurant, a fishing village, a large swimming pool, a souvenir shop, vegetable gardens and greenhouses, a prayer garden, tree and ornamental nurseries, a sprawling  sports field; a camp site with camp huts; and a mountain trail, among others.

One of the beautiful creatures found in Eden

Its most raved-about features include an amphiteater-cum-flower-garden, which is a favorite venue of debuts, birthdays, weddings, soirees and the like; a 200-meter adrenaline-pumping zipline called “Sky Rider” as well as its predecessor, “Indiana Jones”; an outdoor museum/cultural park named “Tinubdan”; a flower garden featuring indigenous flora; a deer park and a bird and butterfly sanctuary.

Mayumi’s Wishing Well

Day tourists can choose from two packages offered by the park. A lunch package entitles you to a sumptuous buffet lunch and a whole day access to the nature resort and its facilities. If you opt to stay for only half a day, there’s also a snack package. Regular tours around the nature park are also available, with a guide rattling off a volley of facts and trivia about the resort and answering some inquiries from guests. Overnighters and campers can also choose from a wide variety of accommodations with very affordable rates.

In the morning, when the sky is clear, the sun shines and the mist blows away, Davao City, its gulf, and its vast plains far below appear serene and beautiful beyond belief, making you feel like you’re in seventh heaven. Silently, you’ll be thanking God and asking Him to make them stay that way for a long, long time.  That’s exactly what I did very recently. :D

Monday, June 11, 2012

Glad to be in Glan's Gumasa Beach

Not a few of the Philippines’ loveliest beaches are found along roads less travelled. Glan, a sleepy municipality in Sarangani Province, happens to have some of them. This little town in Congressman Manny Pacquiao’s turf has gradually carved a name for itself as a tourist hotspot in southern Philippines.

Blessed with verdant mountains and rolling hills, dense rainforests, varied wildlife, and crystal clear waters offering an excellent glimpse of the marine life make Glan a veritable slice of paradise in that part of Mindanao. However, it is those immaculately white-sand beaches that make it worth the trip.

As an incorrigible beachcomber, I’ve long been wanting to go on an escapade in Glan. However, it was only recently that I’ve finally made it to this booming beach turf. After finishing my transactions in nearby GenSan City, I decided to spend the night in the quiet town before heading back for home. I’m so glad I did. 
Found on the eastern side of Sarangani Bay, the town is being touted by its drumbeaters as the "Boracay of the South”. Like Bora, Glan also boasts of long stretches of white sand beaches but sans the chaos, commotion and crass commercialism that one of the world’s best beach strips is notorious for. 

In recent years, people from all walks of life have been flocking to Glan, especially during weekends and holidays, to bask in the beauty of this alluring coastal town. Its obvious crowd-drawer is of course the popular stretch of immaculate shores found in the quiet village of Gumasa.

Located roughly  twenty minutes from the poblacion, Glan’s renowned white strip is caressed by the cool waters of the Celebes Sea. Many of those who’ve been there say that Gumasa is what Boracay’s White Beach was decades ago when the famed island in Panay wasn’t the top tourist destination that it is today.

Gumasa boasts of palm- fringed, immaculate shores dotted with a good number of resorts offering well-appointed accommodations ranging from beach cottages, villas and hotel rooms. For me, the best place to stay when you’re there is Isla Jardin del Mar, which translates to “island garden by the sea” in Spanish.   
Isla Jardin has probably everything I’d love to see in a beach resort—swaying palm trees, emerald waters, white shores, clean and comfy accommodations. More importantly, it offers two precious things that I think many resorts in Bora could barely provide their guests—peace and placidity.

Separated from the main beach of Gumasa, Isla Jardin is neatly tucked in a small cove found at the southern part of Glan. The entire resort has a total sprawl of about 34 hectares, half of which have been earmarked for development. The sand there, though white, isn’t as fine as that of the main beach.  
Summer is undoubtedly the perfect time for beach bums to go and explore Glan. Every May, its white-sand stretches in Gumasa teem with thousands of visitors who come in throngs to join the annual celebration of Sarangani Bay Festival, arguably one of the biggest summer beach parties in the country. 

Now, here’s an enchanting place where you can let time stand still while you live it up to the max:  swim in the cool blue waters, sniff the salubrious sea breeze, savor the freshest seafood, stroll the shores sans sandals, shoot breathtaking seascapes, snore to the soothing sounds of waves, and so much more. 

Glan, no doubt, has captured my heart, enriched my mind and resuscitated my soul the moment my beach-hungry feet first touched her powdery shores. For me, this idyllic beach town is the proverbial Shangri-la where I can get the best of what the summer season offers—without busting my budget! 

Having discovered this seaside enclave, I'll think twice about traveling far and wide just to get a summery dose of sun, sea and sand. After all, Glan has it all. No flights, no flurry, no fuss at that! Yeah, I’m so glad I’ve made it to Glan. I can only wish though that it doesn’t end up like Bora in the years to come. :D

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