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This blog is an amateur photographer's attempt to show how beautiful the world really is. He is drawn to the colors of nature like a moth to a candle light. What are showcased here are nature's grand display of colors at sunrise and sunset, beautiful beaches and off-the-beaten track locations in his beloved Philippines, waterfalls and some of nature's great sculptures, architectural gems, and other views from around SE Asia that he was fortunate to see at one point.

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May 22, 2010

lake sebu zip line: fly above the 7 falls

Every since the dawn of civilization, man had been fascinated with flight. We have imagined it, weaved fantasies about it, and with technology, invented countless contraptions and flying machines. But there is no sensation of flight when you are couped up in a flying machine. Other forms like sky diving, hang gliding, base jumping, etc, are simply too prohibitive or inaccessible for common folks. So we went back to basics: a simple line between two elevated points and some secure harness and we've got ourselves several seconds of "flight".

The scenic town of Lake Sebu (a fave place of mine, see Favorite places section of this blog), known for 3 lakes and 7 major waterfalls, is one of the best places to visit in South Cotabato. With the addition of the zip lines (only in its 4th month of operation at the time of writing), things just got even better.

Related post: The Lake Sebu Experience

What sets the zip lines in Lake Sebu apart from other zip lines in Mindanao is the scenery you get to see. You won't only see tree tops, you'll get to see waterfalls, river systems, and wild life. In fact the first line is located a few meters downstream from Falls 1 and passes over the drop of the 2nd falls, the highest of the 7 falls in Lake Sebu.

2nd Falls
2nd Falls
I was beaming with anticipation the first time I tried it. It was the first time I'll be riding a zip line. My wife, who is strapped beside me, has tried the zip lines a few weeks back and assured me I'm in for an unforgettable ride. I insisted on bringing my camera along, secured using carabiners on the body harness (I also have my camera bag and tripod on my back).

2nd falls drop
first drop (2nd falls)
I could feel the adrenaline rush on the first few seconds on the first zip line (740 meters) as we went over the sheer drop of a cliff. One second you are just a few meters above ground, the next you are 400 meters up in the air. I was frantically pointing my camera every where and shooting in burst mode.

Above the rivers and the trees

Soaring at a top speed of 100-120 kph over a forest canopy and a river system was a sensory overload.  I stopped taking photos after a while (after I realize it was rather pointless, I could not enjoy the ride if I'm on photo snapping mode) and decided to enjoy the few seconds left of my flight.

Falls #4 and #5 Zip line mae and mencit

A jolly crew will meet you at the end and even take your photos using your camera if you like. You'll be given a few minutes to recompose yourself and gather your wits before they strap you to a second line (400 meters).

approaching end of the second line
The second line is much lower than the first, its just above the forest canopy. However it still offers a great view of the waterfalls and if you are lucky, you'll see a troop of monkeys at the tree tops.

How to get there
There are daily flights from Manila to General Santos (1.5 hours). From Gensan, take a bus to Koronadal (45 min). Koronadal is the regional hub, so transportation is not a problem. From Koronadal take a bus/van to Surallah (20 minutes). From Surallah there are jeeps/vans/motorcycles going up to Lake Sebu (20 minutes). Hire a motorcycle to take you to Falls #1 where zip line #1 is once you get to Lake Sebu (10 minutes)

Info and Tips
  • Php 250.00 for the two lines. You'll start near Falls #1 and you'll get to see Falls 2-5 during the ride.
  • Its best to ride the zip lines early in the morning. It usually rains around midday (its surrounded by a rain forest after all) and the zip line operations stop if it rains.
  • There are motorcycles at the end of line #2 that can take you back up to Falls #1 (10 pesos/pax). You can also hike down to Falls #2 where they have a Tourism center.
  • To truly enjoy the ride, leave your camera behind.

Updates 2011/12/28
They really made it more efficient this time. Gearing up (putting on the harness) is much quicker than the last time I was there. They used to take your photos using your cameras, but not now. They have ready photogs at the end of the line to take your souvenir shots and they have a printing booth. This made "zipping" much quicker since they don't have to ask for your camera, then push you back a few meters to take your photos.  The lines have been busy, with riders zipping by every few seconds. 

There lots of stores now at the end of the 2nd line, selling souvenirs, food, and whatnot. Its as touristy as Lake Sebu can get! Its a big business.

More Falls
In the mood for a trek? There's actually more"hidden views" on the zip line grounds, like Lake Sebu's Falls #5 (Hikong Kefo-I).

Hikong Kefo-I

Of the 7 falls in Lake Sebu, only Hikong Alu (#1) and Hikong Bente (#2) are easily photographed. Both are so accessible nowadays they have probably been shot a million times already. The rest, however, are rarely photographed up close.

Falls #4 and #5 are usually just photographed from above (while riding the zip line) or from a safe and far vantage point. I braved the rain and slippery trail one afternoon. Climbed over and under fallen trees, scampered down slippery rocks, and got everything I had soggy wet, just to get as close as possible to this beauty. Kept asking our guide "can I go down there?". A friend who accompanied me played it safe and did not bother with the "risky shots".
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