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Travel stories: Mindanao, Philippines

Lake Sebu, Mindanao, Philippines - a lake that never dries up.

By Ronald de Jong

Lake Sebu is a beautiful inland sea on the island of Mindanao, the most Southern Island of the Philippines. This lake is located in the southern Tiruray Highlands at an altitude of almost 300m (984ft). Lake Sebu is surrounded by rolling hills and forested mountains and is home to the T'boli, a highland tribe famous for their colourful costumes, complicated beadwork, woven work and brass ornaments. The Ubos, or Tasaday, also live in the region, they are a cave-dwelling and primitive, stone-age tribe that lived in isolation in high caves of the primary rain forest area. Another tribe, the Tirurays, are divided into coastal, river and mountain groups. Tirurays who live in the mountains still live in their traditional way. The area of Lake Sebu is recognized as the T'boli and Ubo ancestral domain.

Lake Sebu actually consists of three adjacent mountain lakes wich will instantly capture the heart of nature lovers. Lake Sebu is the largest among the three lakes. Lake Siluton, the deepest and Lahit the smallest. These placid lakes are found in the middle of Allah Valley Watershed Forest Reserve which is used for fish farming or Tilapia Culture, duck raising and the harvesting of freshwater shrimps and snails. More than one half of the land around the lake is cultivated for agriculture. The lake also irrigates the fertile Allah Valley, the area surrounding Lake Sebu has many small streams, rivers, springs and creeks. Local tribesmen consider the lake not only a God-given food basket but also a miraculous body of water that never dries up. The watershed of Lake Sebu is recognized as one of the most important watershed areas in the Philippines and is proclaimed as a Protected Landscape.

Discover the striking beauty of Lake Sebu's natural waterfalls, �the Seven waterfalls or "Dongon Waterfalls", that cascade down the rugged terrain of the magnificent hills. From these falls, nr 1 and nr 2 are the most accessible, the others have yet to have access trails. These falls are spectacular and will remind you of the power of nature. Crystal clear water from the edges of the hills have, over the ages, carved these unique scenic masterpieces in a brilliant display of natural colours. The Lonon Falls which is the largest of the group pours thousands of cubic meters of water into a natural pool that provide good swimming spots.

The pristine forest vegetation surrounding the lake is thick and humid, but magnificent for nature loving travellers, it has countless species of flora and fauna. In this green paradise there are refreshing springs that flow out of rocks, natural caves and exciting nature trails up into the mossy forests. Wild boars and Philippine deer live around the lake and are considered endangered species The lake and the surrounding rainforest are a natural habitat to Philippine cockatoos egrets, swallows, kingfishers, herons and kites. These rugged hills are a rest stop for migratory birds and is a popular site with birdwatchers. The Philippine Eagle and Tarsier are among the important wildlife species sighted in the tropical rain forest of Lake Sebu.

There are good resorts in Lake Sebu, with guided boat tours, recreational facilities and hotel accommodation. A few of them, the Traankini resort, Estares resort, The Mountain log resort, Dongon Hills & Falls resort and the Punta Isla Resort. The restaurants at most resorts are specialized in the native cuisine which mainly consist of tilapia dishes, a delicious fish to eat. These fishes are kept in net-enclosed bamboo fish pens and taken out only when ordered, so the freshness of the catch is guaranteed.

Lake Sebu is often named the Summer Capital of the Southern Philippines, the climate is pleasantly cool, a beautiful place to enjoy. A new and challenging location to explore where one can watch magnificent sunrises and sunsets in a panoramic view. Lake Sebu is considered a fast growing cultural centre and the area is emerging as a viable destination for eco-tourism. Visitors will surely appreciate the lavish gifts of nature, it's incredible flowers ,amazing vegetation and many different animals.

The scenery and light in this picturesque place, surrounded by serene waters, make it a living museum and a great outdoor escape, a photographer's paradise that will surprise you with awesome natural sceneries.

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