This vast and rich body of water was a hard-to-reach backwater in the not-so-distant past because of bad roads. With the creation of a new province named after it, Sarangani Bay has become more accessible to beach lovers to behold its beauty and rich marine life. In 1996, it broke into national prominence by being named by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources as a Key Marine Biodiversity Area. In perspective, that was 5 years before Sarangani’s most popular son Manny Pacquaio scored a sensational win over Mexican champ Marco Barrera.
Quarter of a century later, the 230-km roads hugging the coasts of this charming bay is much like a pound-for-pound champ for day trippers, riders, and even bikers with its smooth pavement and soothing sights along the way.
To mark the 25th anniversary of the seascape declaration on March 5, simple but meaningful activities were lined up, kicking off today (Feb. 28) with a Grand Bike & Plant Activity from Gen. Santos City to the mangrove forests of Alabel, Malapatan and Glan. But if we couldn’t be there, we can celebrate at any time through a leisurely drive.
Pit Stop 1: Gen. Santos City. Billed as the country’s “tuna capital” because of the mouth-watering fish caught off its waters, it is the transport gateway to the Soccsksargen Region. Just a few minutes away from the newly-renovated international-grade airport is the city’s famed fishport where the tuna and other aquatic catch from West Pacific pockets is unloaded before being shipped to foreign and local markets. For an enjoyable cruise on the scenic countryside roads, you can rent a car at the airport.
Pit Stop 2: Maasim. Drive up to the SAFI Ranch Fly Site which has perhaps the best view of the 215,950-hectare bay. This mountain spot is a preferred paragliding site in Mindanao because of its good wind for most parts of the year. If you aren’t flying, the view deck is an ideal place to get a cool drink while admiring the seascape.
The panoramic coastal highway is dotted with tourist establishments, most notably Lemlunay Resort, the prime spot for scuba diving, and Pacman Beach Resort, which has a bevy of aquasports facilities.
Sarangani’s western boundary town, Maasim is believed to be host to the richest part of the bay, which has coral resources of 2,293 hectares, 60 important live hard coral genera, 411 reef species, and 11 seagrass species. It is habitat to massive bumphead parrot fishes, dolphins, dwarf and pygmy sperm whales, seacows, and marine turtles which have thrived in recent months because of limited human activities due to the pandemic.
Within the municipal waters is Maasim Reef which abounds in juvenile white-tipped sharks, huge fan corals, gigantic bat fishes, and marine flora.
Pit Stop 3: Kiamba. A short drive westward will take you to this quaint and quiet hometown of the Pambansang Kamao. This municipality is sought-after by beach bums for Tuka Marine Park, a marine sanctuary composed of 4 protected coves, and can only be reached by a 20-minute boat ride from the town proper.
The most-photographed cove has a 100-meter shoreline surrounded by forested cliffs, tall coconut trees, and native cottages for a back-to-basics overnight stay. Its gin-clear water is tops for snorkeling and freediving because of hard and soft corals gardens, and an assortment of marine life. The reefs on the deeper portion are ideal for scuba diving.
If you need to rinse the salt water, you can backride on a habal-habal and frolic at the multi-tiered Bocay-El Falls in the upland, not too far away from the national highway. Back at the mainland, the landscaped boardwalk park beckons you for the obligatory snapshot for your social media post.
Pit Stop 4: Maitum. Situated on the outer edge of the province is this rustic fishing ground which is a cradle of ancient Philippine civilization. The town, which is at the confluence of Sarangani Bay and Moro Gulf, is home to the 2,000-year old burial jars of anthropomorphic men unearthed a few decades ago in the caves of Pinol and Ayub.
The National Museum described the jars as exceptional archaeological assemblage and unparalleled in Southeast Asia, and has kept it as a national treasure and permanent exhibit. Dioramas of these caves and artifacts are on display at the municipal hall museum, along with the ethnography of the Moro and lumad indigenous peoples.
The sea in this side of town might not be appealing to beach bums, but its alternative magnet is the endemic bangsi or flying fish which are hauled everyday, many of which are sold as tasty dried fish.
If you’re craving for a different water adventure, hike up to Mlangen Falls or do the adrenaline-filled 2-km Pangi River white water tube ride.
A true-blue day tripper since age 19, he has travelled across the archipelago by land, air, and sea. As a communications trainer, travel photojournalist, tourist mapmaker, scuba diver, environment advocate, or simply a family road tripper, he has imbibed the diversity of the Philippines by learning the basic way of life of the places he visits.