NEGROS ORIENTAL | Balinsasayao, Danao — the Twin Lakes of Sibulan (A Travel Guide)

A lanzones seller in Dumaguete tipped us off to get some grub before heading as we won't find any food shops at the twin lakes or might shell out a significant amount for it should there any. We obliged and then hopped on an easyride — the local term for multicab—en route to the town of San Jose.

The driver dropped us off along a coastal road where a sign denoting a "scenic drive" points to Twin Lakes, habal-habal rides (motorcycles) line up the junction, and the southern tip of Cebu island peeks from across the seaside. It is in this point of Negros Oriental where the Twin Lakes adventure begins, once a habal-habal engine kick starts.

Habal-habal terminal in San Jose

The ride's indeed a scenic forty-minute drive along a 13.5-kilometer stretch of concrete pavement. We got ourselves soaked in panoramic green landscapes backdropped with a clear, friendly sky.

Each bike holds two back riders. Driving a motorcycle myself, I somehow worried about riding mishaps such as blown up tires and fuel running out — to think that we're driving on a winding uphill path while carrying more than the bike was designed to hold. There's nothing to fear though. Few vulcanizing shops and residences that serve as satellite gas stations, i.e., vending gasoline repacked in soda bottles, implies that the only thing to fret about was spoiling the itinerary should those misfortunes take its toll.

Scenic habal-habal ride en route twin lakes

We arrived free of blunders at a kiosk that houses the visitors' center. It's a pit stop to settle the necessary tourism fees. We got back on the road for the last kilometer ride before hitting the point where a short trek to the lake would commence.

Short trek going to Balinsasayao Lake

Following a beaten downhill track, we got into a jungle. Trekking through the thick ended in less than five minutes and a sight of the placid Lake Balinsasayao ensued. There was a sudden shift of ambiance as it was far from the noise of rumbling bike engines. Occasional sound of human speech mixes with the echoing chirps of endemic birds and swishing movement of verdant trees. From this spot where the hush fell, nature loudly speaks.

Lake Balinsasayao
Mountains and hills surrounding the lake

The then accommodating sky became covered with seemingly unforgiving clouds. It started to drizzle, getting heavier minute after minute. Moderate winds cut through the emerald body of the lake creating noticeable swells, prompting us to ditch the plan to kayak. We rather chartered a paddle boat meant for cruising across Balinsasayao to check out her much smaller counterpart — the Lake Danao.

Boating at Balinsasayao Lake
Paddle boat docked at Lake Balinsasayao

The unsheltered boat berthed at a hillside after some ten minutes of getting bedewed with heavenly drops. A hill separates the twins; Lake Danao nestles on the other side of this hill. We needed to endure another trek, this time an uphill feat, along a similar kind of staircase established within the forest.

A three-storey gazebo towers at the hilltop. It was the park's Bird Watching Tower. Twin Lakes park is apparently popular among bird lovers (no pun intended) and wildlife photographers. But apart from stalking the evasive fowls, the tower is a platform to feast one's eyes with the beauty of both lakes at once. Standing upon the topmost level of the watchtower, I got a vista of Balinsasayao on my right and Danao on my left. It was then that I realized, Balinsasayao and Danao are identical twins, separated at birth.

Lake Danao from the view deck
Lake Danao from the view deck
At the bird watching tower
Lake Balinsasayao from the view deck
Lake Balinsasayao from the view deck

Beholding Danao from the view deck is just a part of the nature trip; getting near her caps off the twin lakes experience. While carefully watching my steps upon the moss-covered rocks that make up the trail, I tramped down the slope with my buddy and dabbled my feet in the stimulating emerald water. I would like to dive but I hate swimming in the cold.

Moss covered rocks that makes up the trail to Lake to Danao
Lake Danao

Fast Facts

  • Officially named as Balinsasayao Twin Lakes Natural Park, the lakes are declared as a protected area that spans across the municipalities of Sibulan, San Jose and Valencia. Sibulan tends to take credit of the park's location as the largest part of the area falls under its jurisdiction. Sibulan covers 4,966.05 out of 8,016.05 hectares. That's more than half the total land area.
  • Balinsasayao is said to be 90 meters deep. Does anyone reached its bottom? No one does. Lengthy ropes did the honor of measuring the depth according to our boatman.

How to Get to Balinsasayao Twin Lakes (from Dumaguete)

  • Take an easyride bound for San Jose. These multicabs line up beside the Quezon Park, in front of BPI along Perdices Street in downtown Dumaguete. Tell the driver you'll be visiting the twin lakes. Fare: PHP 17; Travel time: 30-40 minutes
  • Rent a habal-habal. Fare is regulated by the local government so you don't have to worry about mean drivers who do overpricing. Fare: PHP 300 for two persons, round trip; Travel time: 40 minutes
  • Going back to Dumaguete (if you're staying there), just wait for an easyride bound downtown to come by at the habal-habal terminal.

Boat going to the Bird Watching Tower and Lake Danao

Essential Tips and Trip Notes

  • Entrance fee: PHP 25 (Locals), expect a higher fee for Non-Filipinos
  • Kayak for two. Rate: PHP 250 for an hour
  • Rent a paddle boat. Either navigate around Balinsasayao for an hour OR cruise across to visit the watch tower and Lake Danao. Rate: PHP 250 for six persons
  • Check out Ulayan Falls. It was a 15-foot high waterfalls and can be reached via boat as well, as the locals said.
  • Rent a cottage if you feel like doing so. We did not, however, since we stayed for just an hour or two. Rate: PHP 50
  • Fees may change depending on season. We visited in September, it's off-peak.
  • Swim, snorkel, and free dive!
  • Watch those birds as they fly around the lakes. That's what the view deck was built for, anyway.
  • Boating and kayaking are enjoyed within Balinsasayao only.
  • There's no life guard on duty, hence, you need to sign a waiver should you be swimming, boating or kayaking. Drown at your own risk.
  • There's a cafe near the motorcycle parking area. It offers a great view of Balinsasayao. And good food, I guess.

Boat and kayak of Balinsasayao Twin Lakes

Itinerary: Balinsasayao Twin Lakes

Our nature trip lasted for only about two hours, as cited earlier. It's because we squeezed in our one-of-a-kind habal-habal road trip to Valencia!

  • 8:00 AM : Breakfast at Dumaguete Market — those budbod and puto maya are a must-try!
  • 8:30 AM : Shop for some snacks
  • 9:00 AM : Travel via easyride to San Jose — we had to wait until it gets full
  • 10:00 AM : Habal-habal ride to Balinsasayao twin lakes
  • 11:00 AM : Lake activities
  • 1:00 PM : En route to Valencia — we hired the same habal-habal guys in twin lakes for a special trip
  • 2:30 PM : Arduous trek to see Casaroro Falls
  • 3:45 PM : En route to Pulangbato Falls — yet another twins
  • 4:30 PM : Marvel at the twin falls of Pulangbato
  • 5:00 PM : Cap off the day at Red Rock Hot Springs
  • 5:45 PM : Back to Dumaguete

Sibulan and Valencia (Negros Oriental) series: 
Balinsasayao, Danao — the Twin Lakes of Sibulan
Casaroro Falls of Valencia, Negros Oriental — "She's magical"
Pulangbato Falls, Red Rock Hot Spring — a Warm and Cool Treat from Valencia

Dumaguete Travel Guide:
Dumaguete City: Trip Guide and 5-Day Itinerary


DJ Rivera is an I.T. professional, entrepreneur, travel blogger, writer and the online publisher of based in Rizal province, Philippines. Click here to know more.

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