We initially planned to visit Bohol this year, but an earthquake struck the said province last October that we decided to forgo the trip and go somewhere else. It was a choice between Camiguin and Dumaguete. We chose to go eastward.
A very promising itinerary was prepared for our visit to Dumaguete, but somehow along the way, it didn’t go everything smoothly as we planned. First, we weren’t able to go directly to Dumaguete. Instead, we spent the night in Bohol to take the ferry from there. Well, this overnight stay ain’t so bad at all. It suddenly became my husband’s surprise visit to the island, getting a quick taste of what it has in store. Unfortunately though in Dumaguete, we missed visiting the islands of Apo and Sumilon, and Oslob, the southern village in Cebu to see the whale sharks. This one was disappointing. It’s mainly because we got sick. We realized that the travel junkies in us deserved a much needed rest. And another booboo, I lost the captivating pictures I took all throughout the city stroll and the eco-tour. It’s devastating I know, but good thing, my husband was able to take photos of our nature trip.Yet despite all these, we still enjoyed our stay. Strolling around the town and visiting Balinsasayao and Danao twin lakes, Casaroro Falls and Red Rock hot springs, as well as dining in very nice restaurants, were the nicest things we did in Dumaguete.
Dubbed as the “city of gentle people,” Dumaguete is the capital, main seaport and largest city of the province of Negros Oriental. Also referred as a university town, the city is a popular educational destination for students coming from Visayas and Mindanao. For one, the country’s first Protestant and oldest American private university in Asia, Silliman University is located in Dumaguete. The city also attracts tourists for its beaches and diving sites, as well as dolphin and whale watching attractions.
Depending on where you are coming from, Dumaguete can be reached by air, sea and land. From Cebu we’re intending to go on a ferry trip via Oceanjet that would take us straight to Dumaguete. Unfortunately, there was no scheduled trip and instead we could only reach Dumaguete when we take the ferry the following day in the morning. There’s another option: we could also spend the night in Bohol and take the ferry from Cebu en route to Dumaguete the next day. Since my husband was equally eager to see Bohol anyway, we chose the latter. As we found ourselves spending the night away at Alona beach, it turned out to be a nice surprise, especially for my husband who had just visited Bohol for the first-time.
Going Around Town
We stayed in Hotel Essencia, which is already located at the city proper so it was easy and quick to go downtown. Dumaguete is relatively small and simple. It wouldn’t take half a day to be able to see it all, even by taking a walk; while the tricycles and motorbikes are the town’s main mode of public transport. Our quick city tour consisted of passing by Silliman University, walking along Rizal boulevard and visiting the 17th century bell tower that is just standing next to Dumaguete Cathedral. We also arrived in the tourist office and got a tip for best-priced tour packages by going to Harold’s Mansion, a pension inn popular for backpackers.
Interestingly, we visited some very nice restaurants and coffee shops in Dumaguete. We had our first lunch in Casablanca, which is located along the boulevard. We got so impressed with its wide variety of quality food, friendly service and cozy place at a very good price that we chose to have our last lunch here as well. It may not look fancy from the outside, but when you get inside, KRI restaurant is modernly decorated; style’s eclectic. Food is fresh and tasty, but it’s more expensive compared to other restaurants in Dumaguete, and the portions are small.
As I was craving for some Japanese, fitting it was that we went to Mifune for some authentically good Japanese munchies, at again, very delightful price. It’s more of a curiosity than a craving when we visited Le Chalet for Swiss dishes served non-stop. We felt we quickly flew back home to Switzerland as we ate lots of bratwursts, cervelas, rostis, saukraut and grilled meat in a chalet-like setting.
For some classic brew of Pinoy coffee to perk us up, it’s nice staying at Bo’s Coffee. Of course, before we left Dumaguete, we passed by Sans Rival not only for its infamous cake that’s just perfect as pasalubong, but also for its hearty, delicious breakfasts. It’s indeed a pleasant surprise to dine in these ecstatically good restaurants in Dumaguete.
Twin Lakes, Waterfall and Hot Springs
I was so pleased to discover Harold’s Mansion. If it wasn’t for it, we wouldn’t be able to explore Dumaguete more and enjoy it. True enough too, their tour packages were very budget-friendly. An eco-tour to the Twin Lakes, Casaroro Falls and hot spring, which also included a sandwich lunch pack, transportation, and a tour guide, was only worth 800 Php per person. Another tour package we also got interested was the Apo island visit, which was just worth 1,000 Php/pax, but unfortunately, we weren’t able to go.
Riding in a big-wheeled jeepney truck with just me, my hubby and our driver/guide, we took the highway heading north and reached Sibulan. After around 14 kilometers, we saw the “Twin Lakes” sign, indicating that we turn left. The road started to turn steep and winding, and even more rocky and rough. Indeed the ride was long, slow and very bumpy, but we had been mesmerized by the enchanting beauty of wild, tropical forests and the very simple living of townsfolk in this mountain. We’re also fascinated to meet foreign backpackers along the way doing the challenging means to get to the top either by: habal-habal (motorbiking), mountain biking or hiking. Thanks but no thanks, a sturdy jeep would take us there.
After over an hour, at over a thousand feet above sea level, we finally arrived. And this is what welcomed us.
The Balinsasayao Twin Lakes National Park is a designated protected area totaling 8,016 hectares that mainly cover the twin lakes, Lake Balinsasayao and Lake Danao, as well as Lake Kabalin-an and the surrounding areas. Lake Balinsasayao and Lake Danao are relatively small but deep crater lakes that are filled-in by rain water throughout the years, and are separated only by a thin ridge. The natural park is home to an expansive ecosystem and biodiversity, an ideal location for bird watching, trail hiking, lake fishing and kayaking.
We rented a boat (250 Php an hour) so we can reach Lake Danao by crossing Balinsasayao Lake. A hiking trail actually exists but since it had been raining, the trail could be mossy and very slippery. I already slipped even before we got to the lake, so it made sense.
It was so eerily quiescent and peaceful, that we’d only hear the exotic birds, the swaying of trees, our boat and our chitter-chatters. We spent a couple of minutes at Lake Danao by just endlessly appreciating its quiet beauty. Then, we headed to the other side of the lake to see a downstream river. My hubby, together with the boatman and our guide, went further. The big river rocks overwhelmed me, so I stayed behind.
After a quick lunch at Balinsasayao, off we went to our next destination.
Casaroro Falls is situated in Valencia, just nine kilometers west of Dumaguete. Its stream plunges down at 30 meters high. Getting there led us to a path with 350 steps, which were made of concrete until we reached iron-made stairs that got steeper as we went down. We ended up at a river and could hear big gushes of water coming from afar. Apparently, we had to traverse big, mountain river rocks to reach the waterfall. By then I realized how less adventurous I could be, especially when I get into wild forests. For the second time in a row, my hubby and our guide went further to see it while me, the city girl stayed behind and waited. All alone, I distracted myself by figuring how we could ever get out. Unfortunately, and the guide confirmed, there’s no other way but up. I wasn’t expecting that the trip to Casaroro Falls could be really this physically challenging. We took the same 350 steps going up – what a climb it was!
As we went next to the other side of Valencia, we passed through thick clouds of white steam coming from the folds of rocks and smelled the sour sulfur fumes in the air. Due to its geothermal properties, Mount Talinis is classified as a potentially active volcano. Along the highway, we stopped by Red Rocks hot spring resort. After that strenuously tiring, death-defying visit to Casaroro Falls, we realized how perfect it was to end our eco-adventure by taking a dip in the hot springs. It was absolutely refreshing! All in all, we enjoyed everything a lot.
It’s only such a pity though that we missed visiting the beaches and diving sites in Apo and Sumilon islands, as well as meeting the dolphins and the whale sharks in Oslob. Well, I’d rather take it as a sign – there’s a reason to come back to Dumaguete, and a few more good ones to stay further.