Cross to the wild side in Davao

Mike Aquino for Yahoo! Southeast Asia
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Davao is not too far removed from its wild side. Think about it: you could be standing in the heart of this sprawling Philippine city one minute, and in the space of an hour, you could be visiting the rare Philippine eagles in their magnificent tambayan (hangout) in Malagos.

Chalk it up to Davao's diversity of environments. In this popular southern Philippine destination—you'll find them all—Malagos's mountain forest landscape, Samal's porous limestone cliffsides, and the Crocodile Park's riverside animal enclosures—within a fifty mile radius of Davao City's downtown. Including them all in your Davao itinerary won't stretch your schedule or your budget to the breaking point.

Philippine Eagle Center

Start your Davao wildlife trip with the Philippine Eagle Center, a sanctuary and dedicated breeding facility for the king of Filipino birds. The Philippine Eagle (also known as the Monkey-eating eagle) once ruled the forests, but its numbers in the wild have dwindled to the low 500s. The Eagle Center has become its last hope for survival.

Twenty-five eagles have since been hatched by the center's captive breeding program, and the center has expanded into a nature park and zoo that covers eight hectares of the Malagos Watershed. After walking through a large, tree-shaded park, you'll climb up a staircase into the main Eagle Center pavilion, a tent-like complex in front of a large artificial lake.

A concrete bridge spans the lake and takes visitors into the circuit of paths that bypasses the enclosures in the animal sanctuary. The towering cages that house the Philippine Eagles take center stage, but a number of other species share the spotlight too, from a row of assorted Philippine raptors to a frisky islandful of macaques.

Getting to the Philippine Eagle Center from downtown Davao takes a 20 mile drive northwest through McArthur Highway, up the Davao-Bukidnon Road, and then through the Calinan-Baguio Road. Entrance costs P50 for adults / P30 for students; guides are free of charge, but call for their services in advance.

Address: Malagos Watershed, Davao City
Phone: +63 82 271 2337
Site: www.philippineeagle.org

Davao Crocodile Park

Located well within comfortable taxi distance from the city center, the Davao Crocodile Park houses several pools literally bubbling with dozens of crocodiles, all of varying ages and sizes.

The largest croc on the lot named Pangil is 18-feet long, and has a whole tank to itself. Since the untimely death of the world’s largest crocodile in captivity, Lolong, a few months ago, Pangil now holds the record as the Philippines' largest crocodilian.

The crocodiles don't look like much at first, but the reptiles come to life when feeding time begins. For a small fee, you can buy some raw meat to feed the crocs, which you'll throw through a small hinged door on the side of the cages.

A number of other large animals take up cage space in the Park alongside the crocs, and some of them are just as dangerous: two giant Siberian tigers occupy a large enclosure at the corner of the Park, while cages along the other side of the property house large snakes, including a giant albino boa constrictor. Other animals on the premises include bearcats, a series of colorful tropical birds, and a rather sad-looking orangutan. Afternoon animal shows start at 4:30 pm.

Riverfront Corporate City is located along Diversion Road, and is only a 30-minute taxi ride from the city center. Entrance fee costs PHP 150 for adults and P75 for kids.

Address: Davao Crocodile Park Complex, Riverfront Corporate City, Diversion Highway, Ma-a, Davao City (Coordinates 7.0974 N, 125.5979 E)
Phone: +63 82 286 8883
Site: www.davaocrocodilepark.com

Monfort Bat Sanctuary
Samal Island's Monfort Bat Sanctuary is a labor of love. Its owner, Norma Monfort, discovered that the 1.8 million Geoffroy’s rousettes (Rousettus amplexicaudatus) living on a cave in her property were no ordinary fruit bats. Geoffroy's rousettes normally only give birth within prescribed breeding seasons; Ms. Monfort's bats were giving birth year-round.

Visitors can visit the Monfort Bat Sanctuary and view the sleeping bats from the mouth of their cave; rails prevent guests from venturing further inside. If you can stand the stink, you'll be rewarded with the sight of cave walls writhing with shiny gray-black bats jostling for sleeping space.

Samal Island is a ferry ride away from Davao's Sasa Port. Once on Samal, you can ride a "habal-habal", or motorcycle taxi, to the Bat Sanctuary in Barangay Tambo. Admission costs P40 per head; visitors must go through an orientation (sometimes hosted by Ms. Monfort herself) before being allowed to see the cave where the bats roost in the daytime.

Address: Barangay Tambo, Babak District, Island Garden City of Samal (coordinates 7.1653056N 125.6915639E)
Phone: +63 82 221 8925, +63 82 225 8854
Email: info@batsanctuary.org