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  • August 5, 2021

Mindanao Island



Situated 500 mi/800 km south of Manila, Mindanao Island, Philippines, is not a completely safe destination for travel. Islamic insurgents are active throughout the island, and attacks against tourists have occurred at Samal Island, among other places. When it becomes safe again, travelers will find that Mindanao feels more Indonesian than other islands.

Mindanao has two large and rather featureless cities—Zamboanga and Davao. Zamboanga's main attractions are Pansonanca Park (hanging gardens), a 17th-century Spanish fort and the city markets. Davao, the economic engine of Mindanao, serves as a useful jumping-off point for the beaches and dive sites on Samal Island and for Mount Apo National Park (30 mi/50 km west of Davao, the mountain can be climbed in two to four days, depending on your skill level). Davao also has a casino.

Just off the north coast of Mindanao, Camiguin Island is made up of seven volcanoes, some of which are still active and can be climbed. The island also has an underwater cemetery (the result of a volcanic eruption in 1871), good diving at the Jigdup and Burias shoals, hot springs and Tuasan Falls (ask locally for directions).

You can take a short boat ride to White Island, a treeless islet with nice beaches but poor snorkeling (the dynamite fisherfolk have already been there). It's possible to get to Camiguin by ferry from Cebu Island. Arcing away from the southwest corner of Mindanao, the idyllic Sulu Islands are considered unsafe because of the ongoing Islamic insurgency.

Travelers interested in indigenous cultures should visit Lake Sebu, home of the Tiboli people—it's among the most scenic regions in the Philippines.

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