SARANGANI, DAVAO OCCIDENTAL, PHILIPPINES — The three-island municipality of Sarangani (a separate entity from the nearby Sarangani province), has took my interest upon knowing that Balut Volcano (which is also the Balut Island) is the southernmost volcano of South Central Mindanao. Hence, I’ve made sure the islands are ironed in my rough itinerary.
DAY 2 (July 8, 2016)
Despite the wavy nature of the long boat trip, I’ve been in a very deep sleep. I remember a few times of waking up in the night due to the cold atmosphere. I’ve forgot to bring my malong therefore, I had to endure the night on my walking shorts while my skin has been smoothed by the cold tarpaulin bed. Hey, it’s the second day of my solo birthday trip and I’m on my way to a great adventure.
Getting down to the port was already a challenge. I’m serious with using the phrase “getting down”, because the bow of the ferry (where the ladder to the port is connected) is bobbing high atop the edge of the port. As each wave hits the port, the ferry is consequently tossed upwards. It was rough, but it was fun.
The municipality of Sarangani is composed of two major islands (Sarangani Island & Balut Island) and one minor island (Olanivan Island) and is politically part of Davao Occidental, the newest and the 81st province of the Philippines. Prior to 2013, Davao Occidental was a part of Davao del Sur. Hence, many establishments and boats still have “Davao del Sur” imprints.
“Doon muna tayo punta sa Sabang,” shouted Isman against the strong bursts of the boat engine. Isman is a Sangil, which is one of the prominent indigenous group in the municipality. The Sangil people have hailed from the Sangihe Islands of Northern Sulawesi, Indonesia – you can actually see these islands from the summit of Mt. Balut! He’s born Indonesian but is amazingly multilingual. He speaks Bisaya, Muslim, an ample amount of Tagalog and of course, Bahasa.
The ride from Mabila Port was long but you can look at a lot of sea caves & cracks forming along the eroding coast. Balut Island’s main crop was coconut, no doubt. The foothills of Mt. Balut (Balut Volcano), or the island itself, are teeming with erect trunks of coconuts, neatly arranged in patterns for several patches. Small-scale fishing boats can be seen all throughout the ride as well as several boat builders along the shores.
Portions of Sabang hot springs were paved. The municipal office developed the hot springs of Balut Island for tourism, but the activity has dwindled down some time in the past. What remained is a young relic of the former resort, lined with cobblestones and gravel (that came from its own shoreline) for decoration. Warm tinge and white sulfurous vapors will soothe through your nose and skin – a strong indication of an authentic volcanic hot spring.
As I dipped a foot in the bluish waters, my self-proclaimed calibrated body sensors registered a temperature of about 40°C. I’m kidding, of course. The water was too hot for a spa-worthy dipping though. But for sure, you can cook a balut egg in here! The water contains dissolved silicate compounds hence, the milky blue color of Sabang Hot Springs. If it isn’t too hot, it might pass as a mini version of the Blue Lagoon in Reykjavik, Iceland.
From the distance, I’ve seen a faint view of the small Olanivan Island. A lot of locals also call it Laniban. The island is positioned a paddleboat away from Sarangani Island and quite far from Balut Island. The mountains of mainland Davao Occidental and of eastern Sarangani province are clearly visible from Olanivan Island.
It didn’t took me a long time to process that the island has white sand. From afar, you’d see a bundle of coconut trees seemingly planted on a gleaming mound of white sand. According to Junjun Diola, the island’s caretaker and resident, the current mayor of General Santos City owns the island. No worries, the you may visit the island as long as you won’t build your house there.
Since the island is not a commercial island, driftwoods and twigs can be seen throughout the shoreline. Me & Isman ate our fill of lunch first after docking. Unfortunately, the water have receded again (in reference to Gumasa Beach’s lowtide). As a result, the rocky sea bed was now exposed. Hence, I am now certain that I am repulsive to the sea tides. But this didn’t took out the fun in Olanivan Island.
A PINK BEACH?
Since it’s not a good time to hit the waters, what I’d usually do during low tide is to look for marine organisms trapped in rocks, corals and puddles of water. While walking around the island, I’ve seen various marine organisms. One even spits out purple-red ink when stressed. When Isman stepped on it, I thought he was bizarrely bleeding purple!
And speaking of shades of red, a portion of Olanivan Island (on the rear side) has pinkish sand upon close inspection. This pink mottles may be attributed to red pipe corals that are drifted along the shore and got pulverized over time. I haven’t seen the pink beaches of Sta. Cruz in Zamboanga nor San Vicente in Northern Samar yet so I have no basis for comparison. Of course, do not expect a hot pink color similar to the exaggerated & overly saturated versions of pink beaches that are unfortunately circulating around the social media networks.
TIDES ARE LOW
The low tide was also the perfect timing for the fishermen to spear-hunt for fish and octopus on the shallow waters. Kuya Junjun and Jhong-jhong, two of the caretakers of the island, even offered me a fresh catch (grilled, of course) to know the difference between a freshly caught fish and those that are sold from the market. There really was a difference – the meat was much more tender, I didn’t even need condiments to enjoy its flavor.
The boat was trapped in Olanivan Island until 4:00pm because of the low tide. Thus, I have decided to cross out Tuke Nunsol Beach & Bolae Cave from my itinerary.
TUKE MAKLANG BEACH
I found nothing exciting on the twin beaches of Tuke Maklang itself, located in Sarangani Island. What interested me was the roost of flying foxes perched atop the trees of Tuke Maklang. Since it was already near dusk, I’ve decided to wait for the sunset – the signal for the bats to wake up and start their hunt.
As I was observing them, I’ve realized they’re like humans when it comes to our laziness of getting out of bed. Some bats would fly from branch to branch to wake up their brethren but then they’d just wiggle, seemingly saying, “Five more minutes!”
And there I found myself whispering,
“Five more days here please!“
TRAVEL GUIDE / TIPS
- HOW TO GET THERE (Balut Island).
- The nearest airport is the General Santos International Airport (GES).
- From General Santos City, go to the port in Lion’s Beach (beside Queen Tuna Park) or go to Puting Bato Wharf, depending on the schedule of your trip. The boat trip is usually at night. You can reserve your tickets (and your preferred bunker bed) at an earlier time. The boat leaves at around 10pm – 12mn and the travel time is 6-9 hours.
- BOAT SCHEDULE (GenSan to Balut). Depending on the day of the week, the following are the boat schedules (no trip on Sundays!):
Ferry Port Departure Day Fare M/V Frederick Lion’s Beach Tuesday & Friday PhP 390 M/V Nieky Puting Bato Wednesday & Saturday PhP 320 M/V Sabhan Puting Bato Monday & Thursday PhP 320
- BOAT SCHEDULE (Balut to GenSan). Depending on the day of the week, the following are the boat schedules (no trip on Saturdays & Mondays!):
Ferry Port Departure Day Fare M/V Frederick Lion’s Beach Sunday & Thursday PhP 390 M/V Nieky Puting Bato Tuesday & Friday PhP 320 M/V Sabhan Puting Bato Sunday & Wednesday PhP 320
- The return trip from Mabila Port (in Balut Island) to General Santos usually leaves at 9pm.
- An alternative and faster boat ride (recommended for day trips) is by hiring a pump boat at Glan, Sarangani. This route is nearer to Olanivan Island.
- Hire a pumpboat for the island hopping (around PhP 2000-2500). For a trusted guide/driver, contact Isman at +63-9265800719.
- WHERE TO STAY. There is a B&B inn near Mabila Port if you wish to stay overnight or more. The JVL Inn & Cafeteria has rooms for around P1000-2000. Contact Chacha at +63-9053772600. No online reservations.
- Tolerable 2G phone signal for Globe subscribers. Poor cellphone signal for Sun & Smart subscribers. Do not expect for a mobile data signal.
- You can hike Mt. Balut / Balut Volcano / Balut Island. The forested summit sits at 862+ MASL. If I’ve known earlier that Pinoy Mountaineer will be hiking Balut Volcano few days later, this will most likely be a hiking-related post.
This is part of an 11-day solo birthday adventure to Soccsksargen, Singapore, Tanjung Pinang / Bintan (Indonesia) & Johor Bahru (Malaysia). Read the rest of the adventure here:
- From GenSan to Gumasa Beach
- Balut Island, Davao Occidental
- General Santos Fish Port Complex
- Lake Sebu, South Cotabato
- Asik-asik Falls, (North) Cotabato
- Grand Mosque
- Pink Mosque
- Isulan & Baras Bird Sanctuary, Sultan Kudarat
- Lake Agco & Davao City
- Tanjungpinang, Riau Islands, Indonesia
- Loklok Hunting in Johor Bahru, Malaysia
- Marina Bay, Singapore