Where Should A Tourist Visit In Mindanao?

Intro by Dezza, 15 October 2019. Article written by Bruce Curran.

Are you looking for some unique places to visit in Davao City or elsewhere in Mindanao? The Davao region is one of my favourite places in the Philippines as it’s full of beauty, adventure and some of the friendliest people you will ever meet.

Please continue to read on as I share an article written by my good mate and travel mentor, Bruce Curran, about a recent trip he took to Mindanao and the adventures he got up to while there.

My Travel Mentor

We all have someone in our life who inspires us to do things that we never thought possible. We all have a person that we look up to as a mentor who provides us with wisdom and encouragement.

For me, that man is Bruce Curran.

Over the years Bruce has become my travel mentor and has inspired me to get out of my comfort zone and explore places off the beaten track, where the real hidden beauty of the Philippines is found.

An Absolute Legend

Bruce is a fascinating character with an absolutely amazing background. Scottish by birth, Bruce’s father served in the Royal British Army Medical Corps for 35 years.

As a result of this, the family moved around every three years or so. Just as the family was settling down, they would move again. As a result of this, it is easy to see where Bruce developed his love of adventure.

This eventually culminated in an amazing adventure starting back in 1971 when Bruce rode his Norton Commando 750 (affectionately known as Demeter – which means “Goddess of life” in Greek) across seventeen countries and a few continents.

This incredible journey started in England and took him to Pakistan via Europe and the Middle East, and then saw him finish off in Africa.

Turning our focus to the Philippines, Bruce first visited here in 1988 and then moved here in 1997 when he sailed his 43-foot yacht here from Hong Kong.

In 2006, Bruce started a banca safari business (a banca is a native Filipino boat). This allowed Bruce to explore the Philippines in the best way you can – by sea.

With 7,641 islands on show, there is simply no better way to fully explore the Philippines than by sea.

The adventures that Bruce experienced while running his bunca safaris inspired him to write a bestselling book entitled “Combing the Coral Carpet”.

At the time of writing this blog, this book has recently been re-released and updated.

Bruce and I in Subic in 2018 with a map of the Philippines and two of the books Bruce has authored, Combing The Coral Carpet and The Voyage of the Balangay.

Combing the Coral Carpet is regarded as a sailing and cruising guide to the Philippines archipelago, as well as bringing environmental awareness with regard to the damage that has been caused to the Philippines reefs by dynamite fishing and other environmentally ignorant and unsafe practices.

All in all, Bruce has sailed more than 35,000 miles around the world, 8,000 miles of which was right here in the Philippines. Bruce has also authored close to 20 books and has a goal to complete 25 by the time he is 75 years old.

The man is an absolute legend and has inspired me not only when it comes to travelling, but also life in general. He was also an inspiration for me starting this very blog that you are reading now.

With Bruce being such a fantastic author, and also an avid traveller, he has written numerous books and blogs about his adventures and some of the best places in the Philippines.

So please read on and enjoy Bruce’s amazing adventure in Mindanao and check out some of the best Philippines destinations that you can also visit.

The Magic Of Mindanao

Flying into Davao was a treat since it is a well-organised airport. There were vans there to take the many beekeepers arriving for the National Beenet Bee Conference in July in Tagum, about a 1-hour drive to the north. 

The 3-day event focused on the vital role of many types of bees for pollinating 1/3 of all the food that we eat. 

Some 350 participants from Luzon, the Visayas, Palawan and Mindanao mingled and shared their experiences and knowledge. 

A Kiwi told everyone about Manuka honey, a New Zealand speciality, and revealed its vitality and health uses now appreciated and recognised worldwide. 

One night the host was the Governor of Davao del Norte Province and another night the Mayor of Tagum.- ‘Tagumpay” means ‘success’ and the conference was a buzzing success.

It was well appreciated by all the beekeepers and affiliated beneficiaries of the booming bee populations that are thriving throughout the country. 

Tagum City itself is a booming place with many brand new facilities, extensive new complex buildings, and laid out with modern very wide accommodating roads and well thought out infrastructure. 

An impressive place well respected by the busy and productive population. Then it was time to go exploring and travel by public transport up the East side of Mindanao. 

Tourist Visit In Mindanao

Tagum City Hall is a very modern piece of architecture in this bustling town in Davao Del Norte.

The first 5 1/2 hour bus trip wound its way through the agricultural pastures that make up a massive foundation stone of the local economy. 

Then it was up through the scenic pastures and many treelined hillsides that make up the Compostella Valley. 

This part of the journey was brim-full of superb views of the extensive mountainous arena that stretched as far as the eyes could see.

Then in the bubbling smallish town of San Francisco, it was time to transfer for a 2 hour or so trip in a UV Express tracking NE towards the coast and the large town of Tandag lying facing the open Pacific Ocean. 

Tandag itself was a thriving laidback provincial town full of classic well-maintained old buildings, a shallow shoreline, a massive river basin, and full of friendly welcoming people. 

The boulevard by the ocean was lined with seafood restaurants and tables and chairs overlooking the open sea. 

Tourist Visit In Mindanao

Daku Island in Surigao Del Norte is an example of how beautiful this part of Mindanao with beautiful clean and sand the sensational blue waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Our early fish and shrimp dinner went down a treat as the orange sun rays lit up the cloud banks over the ocean before darkness obscured the far off ocean horizon. 

The next morning took us on a wander through the busy streets and into a coastal residential area. 

Another beachfront area appeared before us after we had wound our way down through some narrow alleyways. The shoreline was lined with many simple wooden shacks and homes. 

The beach itself was laced with empty seashells of many descriptions and within minutes of our arrival, a dozen local kids were helping us make our collection of artistic seashells, many of which we returned to the shallows when we discovered they were homes to living seashell inhabitants! 

A bag of 50 shells was our local trophy, and we thanked the kids and went for another walk around the quiet backstreets with many classic homes to admire. 

Tourist Visit In Mindanao

Just like all over this amazing country, the children are so friendly and love interacting with tourists. Their smiles are always so heartwarming.

A little garden cafe was our resting place for a snack and a drink as we laid out all the shells on the table, only to find four more of them with living beings inside. 

These ones were returned later to the foreshore shallows so they could return to their home base and carry on with their lives.

The counter staff told us how to catch a mini-jeepney down the coast to a place well-known as a popular spot. Cagwait, pronounced ‘cag-wa-it’, has a reputation for being a mini-Boracay, due to its spectacular white beach. 

The 30-minute drive, then a short trike ride, to the far end of the beach brought us to a brilliant restaurant embedded on the beach built in a very large banca boat. 

Several beach resorts adorned the bay, and after some snacks and a drink, a group of locals further up the beach insisted we join them for a fair few shots of lambanog (coconut wine)! 

We had a friendly 45-minute chat and swam in the clear clean waters of the Pacific Ocean. They told us that a little further down the coast were some pristine islands worth visiting.  

However, It was time for us to move on and we thanked our new found friends and set off back to Tandag. 

It had become clear to us that the east coast of Mindanao is full of many attractions, that includes the little Niagara Falls of the Philippines near Bislig, the Hinatuan Enchanted River, and has several renowned surfing spots, as well as a whole host of beaches and islands and endless natural wonders.  

Hinatuan Enchanted River Tourist Visit In Mindanao

Hinatuan Enchanted River in Surigao Del Sur is one of the most unique rivers in the country with water that is crystal clear.

The next day’s breakfast at dawn was in the stilted restaurant over the ocean belonging to our recommended nearside and friendly staffed and cozy hotel the Shacene. 

We were then ready for our next 5-hour bus trip mostly along the northeast coast, all the way to the north side of Mindanao at Surigao City. 

Again, the scenery was spectacular, with massive bays and coves, some with large ships anchored and many places with local banca fishing boats on their foreshores. 

A final weave through some coastal hills brought us down to the major city of Surigao. It was back to life in a busy, dynamic urban sprawl.

The night ferry for Cebu welcomed us aboard, and a bunk bedded cabin was to be our home for the night.

At dusk, we saw the orange sunset over Mindanao for our final time and reflected on the warm hospitality, friendliness of the people, and the most enjoyable trip through the rich agricultural lands of this scenic east side area. 

The ferry approaching Cebu as it passes under the Mactan Bridge at sunset

I have now been lucky enough to travel in 10 Mindanao provinces so far, and look forward very much to expanding my horizons and exploring further afield on my next return journey.

Please check out the related articles and videos below and please feel free to share this article with family and friends and also join the conversation below!

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