Exploring Philippine jungles

What comes to mind when you picture the Philippines? For a lot of people it’s the beautiful white sand beaches and towering archipelago of Palawan. Those spots get a lot of recognition, and for good reason, but there’s also a lesser-explored side of the country: Its deep, lush tropical jungles.

The beaches of the Philippines are stunning and beyond compare. But if you need to escape the heat, the mountains are where it’s at. They also have a lot to offer, like waterfalls, lush greenery and all the fruit you could hope for. Oh, and you might also spot some bats, depending on where you are.


The place and how to get there

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When I first visited the Philippines, back in 1999, I was just a little kid, but I remember one thing in particular: The jungle.

Specifically, I remember going to this crazy jungle where my mom and dad found a spider the size of a plate, and where there were rivers that I swam in. I also vaguely remember having to wait with some of my relatives while my parents took a hike to see some waterfalls.

This place was actually a “resort” called Mambukal. By that, I mean that it’s more of what we’d probably call a nice park. Sure, there are some cabins to stay in, but it’s not the sort of resort that Westerners might think of when you hear the term.

It’s still a great place to try and visit if you’re visiting Bacolod. It can be hard to get to, but if there’s a large group of you, then you can take a page from my book and rent a jeepney for the day. The driver will gladly take you all the way there and wait the whole day to take you back, and it doesn’t cost nearly as much as you’d think.


What to do

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During my second trip to the Philippines, I was a teenager and old enough to take that hike.

It’s aptly called the Seven Waterfalls Hike, because as you continue up the paths, you encounter 7 waterfalls, each one a little more grand than the next, since they all source from that first fall at the very top.

If you do for a hike in any jungle, make sure you wear closed-toe shoes and bring a lot of water! Sometimes it might not be as hot, but you’ll definitely want to stay hydrated. The hike is definitely worth it, and gives you a peak into the wild side of the country.

At Mambukal, there are also a lot of bats. Like, tons. Covering the trees so thickly that you think they’re branches at first. You don’t really have to go anywhere special to see them, even the entrance to the resort has bats everywhere.

For something a little more…delicate, check out the butterfly enclosure! Needless to say, there are butterflies. Lots of them. They land on you, and it feels pretty magical.

And of course, there are pools and rivers and plenty of other water activities to keep you cool and refreshed.

There are lots of options sure to please everyone, so I would suggest making a half day or full day of it at places like this. You can take your time and be able to explore without feeling like you’re missing anything.

I was still recovering from a stomach flu when we visited this year, but it was still so beautiful and a great experience. I live next to the mountains, but they aren’t anything like this; no lush jungles and tropical plants.

It’s a place that is gorgeous and pretty in its own way. You won’t see any of the white sand beaches or blue water that usually fill up your social media feeds, but it’s a special kind of beautiful. I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to see all sides of the Philippines: The tourist spots, the local spots, the big city and the rural neighborhoods, the beaches and the jungles.

Travelers always want to get off the beaten path, and that often means getting out of your comfort zone. There might not be taxis or shuttles or other conveniences to help you find these places, but I find that’s all part of the journey and the memories. Take a step outside your comfort zone and head into the jungle.

What are some places you’ve explored that you feel don’t get enough attention?


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