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One of the largest cities in the Philippines, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of Davao, but there’s much to see and do in this cultural melting pot. Many different nationalities and ethnicities call Davao City home, and over the centuries all have left their mark on this urban jungle. With historic landmarks, mega shopping malls, luxurious hotels, and tantalising food markets, there is much to fascinate you within the city. On the other hand, just outside the metropolitan area a completely different experience is on offer, one of stunning natural landscapes and wonderful wildlife.
The city was devastated during the Second World War, when American troops fought bitterly with the Japanese to take control over Davao. Massive reconstruction was needed to rebuild the city, but one remnant from those tumultuous times is the Japanese Tunnel. Discovered during the ground-breaking for a new hotel, the passageways, rooms, prison cells, and offices contained many artefacts left by the Japanese Army. Now the area is open to the public and offers a rare and fascinating glimpse back into that era of conflict. Religious sites are also plentiful in Davao City, with San Pedro Cathedral being one of the most popular catholic places of worship. With an unusual post-modern style, it’s completely different to many cathedrals around the globe. Buddhism also has a home in Davao, that of the Lon Wa Temple, the biggest Buddhist temple on the island of Mindanao. Step inside to see the marvellous Italian marble that lines the walls and an enormous Buddha statue.
Davao City is situated in a very biologically diverse area of the Philippines, one which the critically endangered Philippine eagle calls home. It’s the country’s national bird, and one of the largest eagles in existence. To get up close to one of these magnificent birds pay a visit to the Philippine Eagle Centre, which works hard to help protect this threatened creature. For something altogether scarier, the Davao Crocodile Park should be your next port of call. The name is a little deceiving, as it’s not just crocodiles here, but tigers, snakes, monkeys, and even more to see. Feeding time is exciting to watch and they even serve a crocodile burger in the restaurant here! Another place to visit is the Eden Nature Park, part nature reserve, part theme park, this place even has its own hotel. For a unique experience try the Sky cycle ride, where you pedal a bike along a cable suspended 60 feet above the ground!
Towering above Davao City in its hinterland is Mount Apo, the highest mountain in the country, stretching a staggering 2,954 metres into the sky. The mountain is actually a stratovolcano, but there are no reports of it erupting in any historical records. Still, geothermal activity is very active in the area, recognised by the sulphuric vents on the mountainside. The mountain and tens of thousands of hectares surrounding it are a protected national park, full of rivers, lakes, and waterfalls. If you are a fit hiker you could join an organised trek to the summit of Mount Apo, or for a less strenuous option a guided walk around the national park for some wildlife spotting. Other activities to enjoy in this amazing wilderness include exhilarating white water rafting and river tubing. Just ask at your hotel reception for a reputable tour operator who organises trips to this unique part of Davao.
For some rest and relaxation, a quick getaway to Samal Island is a popular choice for residents of Davao. This island is just a ten-minute ferry ride from central Davao City but it couldn’t be more different. With over 100 kilometres of white sandy beaches to enjoy it’s easy to find a quiet little spot all to yourself. One piece of advice before you go, make sure you head over to the east side of the island facing away from the mainland, the water is clearer and you won’t see docklands, refineries, and container ships in the distance. Scuba diving is popular here, with some beautiful coral reefs to explore, and sea kayaking is also a great activity to enjoy on the calm waters. If Samal draws you it to stay longer than just a day there are a few great hotels and resorts on the island to choose from, albeit a tad more expensive than in Davao City.