It's a shame how I've visited the city of Mati twice already but have only experienced its entirety just now. It cannot be denied how this place has become the new promising tourist destination in the South. While no one knows if it would reach the level of popularity that overcrowded beaches like Boracay has attained, Mati certainly has the potential to excel in its tourism efforts.
The city could be reached primarily by land via a private vehicle and public transports, such as vans and buses. Since my friends and I are not allowed to drive by ourselves to an unfamiliar place, we initially opted to ride a van (P220).
Nonetheless, we did not pursue this as van transportation is said to be quite dangerous--considering that we would be encountering a zigzag road in Mati's Badas area. Hence, we rode an air-conditioned bus (P270; non air-conditioned bus for P210) in Davao City's Ecoland Terminal.
After more or less five hours of traveling and witnessing the panoramic Sleeping Dinosaur view in Badas, we safely arrived in Mati. We were supposed to be staying in Gregorio-Ditas Beach Resort, which offers a room for P600 a night good for 4-5 people, but we later on figured out that it would cost us more if we stayed in a resort that is far from poblacion (town).
This merely means that we would be haunted by simple dilemmas each and everyday, examples of which include the place where we would eat (considering that a resort only offers quite expensive meals) and how to get to another place (as the resort is roughly a 15-20 minute motorcycle ride from the town).
It's a good thing that my high school friend lives and works in Mati, and she introduced us to her friend who owns the Emerald boarding house right in the heart of the city. This is specifically located in front of the Mati Provincial Hospital, at the second floor of Jem Pharmacy.
This was really a good find, and I would definitely recommend it to people who wish to experience the city but are on a shoestring budget. For P80 per person per night, we were able to spend our nights in Mati sleeping soundly in a small room with two bunk beds. We shared the living room, kitchen and common CR with the other boarders.
I. Dahican Beach
Our first destination was Dahican Beach, which is well-known for its pearly white beach and extreme sports like skimboarding and surfing. From poblacion, we hailed a pedicab to take us to the beach and paid the driver P100.
We particularly went to the Amihan Resort, which offers a crash course in skimboarding and surfing for a very affordable price. We were able to skimboard for P150, which already entails a skimboard for the whole group. We chipped in so each person just paid P40 for the lesson.
In all honesty, it is amazing to watch the Amihan boys skimboard effortlessly, not minding the painful crash of the waves as they set off to the waters. They look cool gliding through the waves as if balancing was a completely natural thing for them. However, when it was already my turn, I really have to provide real effort for me to be able to maintain my balance on the board. I have to avoid hitting the waves face-on or slam my butt real hard on the sand.
While I felt good with my balancing skills, it is just painful to directly crash into the waves, which mercilessly pulled and pushed me on the shore. Even though we have to endure waves that are just about 1-2 meters tall, it is just too difficult to maintain one's poise as they would surely rid you of all shame as you adjust your swimsuit and save yourself from exposing private parts of your body. :(
Nevertheless, our guide, Winston, also offered surfing classes for P500 for our group, but my friends weren't keen enough since skimboarding did not treat them quite well. I was quite interested, so Winston further lowered the price to P300, yet this still did not get my companions' vote.
In the end, he dropped his initial price to P150, so I grabbed this deal even if this means that I would be paying on my own. Doesn't matter though, I've always wanted to surf but am too scared and too frugal to even try such sport. I remember our visit in Siargao, where resorts particularly offer surfing classes (devoid of the surfing board) for P500 per hour.
It's a good thing I trusted in Winston as he ensured that we catch the waves only in the less deeper parts of the sea. He is also very accommodating and quite talkative as we wait for a wave that a beginner like me could ride.
True enough, I was able to ride a couple of waves but not to the extent that I could glide before them. Not bad though as I was, in fact, having the time of my life. My attempts to surf were enough to make me promise myself that I would definitely come back to Dahican to experience this wonderful sport once again.
As we begin to pack up, darkness has already started to engulf the sky. We realized that we did not have any transportation back to our boarding house. We waited beside the road for a motorcycle, however only one habal-habal stopped for us. We needed two motorcycles as there were five of us.
It's just fortunate of us to have been able to hitch on a passing multicab. Even though we just squatted at the back of the vehicle, we really could not care less. Getting a free ride is more than what we could ask for.
II. Waniban and Pujada Island
I guess we were just too unfortunate to not have enjoyed the best parts of Mati on a sunny day, but we tried to look at everything on a brighter side. While we were not sure if we could cross from island to island with the sky drizzling unto us, we gave it a try just so we could follow our itinerary. We first went to the city center to buy food and drinks for lunch as we would be eating in either of the two islands.
We then hailed two motorcycles to take us to Taganilao, where boats are waiting to offer us an affordable island hopping tour. If you are up to riding a habal-habal for more than 30 minutes, not minding the scorching heat of the sun or the dampness of your clothes on a rainy day, then you could opt to visit Taganilao so that you could find a low-priced island hopping tour (P1,000).
NOTE: This is quite a steal as resorts like Masao Cinco, Gregorio-Ditas and Jamby Beach Resort offer a P1,000-Waniban-only-tour and P2,000 for the two islands.
Get more information on Hotels in Davao.
Considering that we are about to endure splashes from a muddy road and probably a chilly feeling from the mild drops of
the rain, we still proceeded to Taganilao. After about 40 minutes, we arrived in a small village fronting the beach. We walked to the beach front where a small motorized boat, which could accommodate a maximum of five people, awaits.
After about five minutes, we arrived at Waniban Island. I read somewhere that this island was the best among the islands he had seen in Mindanao, so I have high expectations prior to arriving. However, when I saw that the white-sand beach only stretches for a couple of meters since the rest of the island 's beach area was already covered with huge rocks, I was kind of disappointed.
I also do not think that you could snorkel anywhere around the island as there are only sea weeds surrounding the area, if not huge chunk of rocks or mangrove trees. So what we did was we strolled around the place, and in more or less 20 minutes, we have already walked around the entire island.
Moreover, we were not informed that the cottages in the island come with a fee. We got the P300-cottage, inclusive of the supposed P30/pax entrance fee.
After about two hours of staying in Waniban, we then transferred to the bigger Pujada Island. This is known for its sightings of dolphins, turtles and sea cows, all of which we have not seen. :(
I found Pujada better than Waniban, though we did not bother to walk around the island as it is ten times bigger than the latter. There were also no cottages or entrance fees, so you basically could enjoy the beach on its entirety. When I asked the boatman if there were any snorkeling sites around the area, he unfortunately has no idea. So my snorkeling set has simply gone to waste.
After about an hour in the island, we decided to leave as one of my friends was supposed to catch the last bus trip. It was when we left when we saw that there was a nice snorkeling site a couple of meters from the shore. Being a snorkeling fan myself, I just comforted myself by saying that I still could not snorkel since there were no life jackets in the boat.
Yes. No life jackets at all. I guess the island hopping tours in Taganilao cannot be directly regulated by the government since the two islands nearby are considered to be private. Hence, regulations cannot be imposed regarding the importance of life jackets for island hopping tours.
III. Buso Hot Spring
When I read on the official Mati government website that the city has a hot spring, I immediately included this in our itinerary. What I pictured in my mind was similar to the Ardent Hot Spring found in Camiguin, but to tell the truth, Buso Hot Spring is the worst tourist spot anybody could go to. No wonder I did not find anything on the Web about it, not even a picture or a blog post.
After traveling for about 30 minutes by motorcycle (P100 one way) and about 15 minutes of grueling walk by foot, which includes crossing a river and climbing a steep path, we arrived in a place that is not even close to what I have expected. We were welcomed by what seems like ruins of an old small dam that could once be reached via a broken suspension bridge.
I actually did not realize that we have already reached Buso Hot Spring since there was really no pool of some sort that could be seen around. There were about two circular cemented containers found up on a hill, and I really thought we could submerge our body there.
However, when I was already halfway on the slippery stairs (it was raining a few hours before), my friend noticed a green, slimy creature on the step. Half of its body was on the bushes with the lower half trying to crawl away from us. Yep, we've just seen a green, poisonous snake.
The thought of countless snakes residing around the area simply did not leave my mind, so I refused to climb that seemingly hellish stairs for quite some time. I really felt paranoia creeping all over my body as I could picture the remaining tail of the snake at the side of the stairs.
Anyway, it does not really matter that much if I climbed that stupid stairs or not since there is really nothing to see up there. On the whole, Buso Hot Spring is NOT a recommended tourist destination in Mati.
IV. Mayo Cold Springs
After an extremely disappointing visit to the Buso Hot Spring, our bodies yearned for any type of body of water that could completely eliminate the bitter pill from our previous adventure. It is a good thing we decided to go to Mayo in the end, so our third day in Mati did not completely fell into waste.
Expenses: (Fare: P100, Table with Entrance: P50)
Although I expected more from this place, it is not entirely that bad at all. I'ts a 6-7 out of 10. The medium-sized pool fronts the ocean and appears like an infinity pool, only with cold waters fresh from the mountain (I guess). While the pool is really inviting, you would later on change your mind once you submerge your entire body in it.
Why, you may ask? The stones lining the bottom of the pool are covered with molds, and some of these even float to the water's surface. Definitely not a plus, if you ask me.
You can check out more of our pictures here.