Visiting Lake Sebu in Mindanao, Philippines
One of the less traveled by tourists destinations is the island of Mindanao, the most southern of the main islands. One reason why the island is less visited is because of the US government's warning to Americans to be steer clear of it due to some local terrorist groups. That said, the truth is that if you are with a Filipino, there is a good chance you will be safe. The danger area (if there is one) is confined to the more remote Muslim populated areas of the island (which is quite large). Yes, some foreigners have be kidnapped and held for ransom, whether they a real terrorists or just criminals looking for easy money is unknown. The Philippine government and the country's largest Muslim rebel group signed a peace deal in March 2014, home to Abu Sayyaf, a Muslim extremist network with international links to Al Qaeda. The deal was with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who wanted greater autonomy. However, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM), has vowed to continue fighting for their own Islamic State. It is home to the countrie's worse criminal gangs, the Pentagon Gang and Abu Sofia. The island may have up to 10,000 fighters. There are five predominantly Muslim provinces and only one region has its own government. However, despite this, nearly all of the "warning" to foreigners is around the Cotabato area and more remote areas. It is a dubious warning since many foreigners travel to Cotabato, Iligan , with no issues. Most will state that their stay is limited though. Many Filipinos will warn foreigners not to go those areas, just to be safe.
That said, luckily, Lake Sebu is very safe. Going to Lake Sebu is simply peaceful and serene. It is just being with nature and its amazing waterfalls and lake. Hiking is also there. There are about three decent hotels and Punta Isla is probably the best and fairly cheap and all will be fine for a night or two.
Getting to the lake from General Santos (GenSan, as locals say) is a 2-2.5 hr. drive. Take the main highway to Koronadal, which is about 1 hr. Follow signs to Surallah from there for another 30 min drive and from there it is a LONG 45 minute or so drive to the lake. Not the best of roads for sure. I would top off gas tank in your car in either Koronadal or Surallah. There is a gas station at Lake Sebu. You can also take a bus for around 140 peso total from GenSan to the lake. The small town at the lake does have a small store with limited selections. Rooms range from 950 to 1800 peso, but for 1000 peso ($25) a nice double room is available.
But, the REAL attraction is the most awesome zipline that crosses over seven waterfalls. The zipline starts are Waterfall 1 where to zip to Waterfall 2 and over the others. You can go single, doubles. The fare to the zipline area is 30 peso each, then, the zipline costs 200-250 peso each. You can take a shuttle for 20 peso to Waterfall 2. The whole zipping over all the waterfalls is so breathtaking it is hard to describe and in that 1:30 minutes of real time, when you are done, you want to do it again! The adrenaline rush sharpens your senses keenly- you're freaked out but also in awe of the looking down as you fly over the waterfalls! Something you have to experience. If you have driven a car, I would park the car at Waterfall 1 and when done with the second zipline, take a short walk to the first zipline where the car is and then drive to the second zipline if you need to pick someone up.
Driving there and spending the night is sufficient to see most of the best Lake Sebu has to offer. Hiking and taking a boat on the lake just to explore is another good thing to do. It is really not a place for non-school age kids, its more of a school age or adult nature park.
If you are in that area, Lake Sebu is a must.
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