Thursday, February 21, 2008

Eden resort, Davao City

Second week of January this year, my wife has to attend a training seminar and hold some meetings with their partners in Davao City. Venue was the Eden Nature Park and Resort ( Though she has been to that city several times, it will be her first time to see that place, so she brought our baby and I tag along to watch our daughter. That was my second visit to Eden; my first visit was sometime in 2002, but it was only a day tour. This time, we will stay there for 3 days and 2 nights.

The place is at the foot of Mt. Apo, around 2,600 feet above sea level (roughly 1/4 the height of that mountain, which is the highest mountain in the Philippines). It should be a little less than 30 kms. from Davao city proper. The place is cold, well at least compared to those areas in the lowlands. In the evening, one can see Toril district of the city and its bright lights.

We stayed at Holiday lodges, just below the greenhouses and the hydroponics farm, and near the mangosteen grove, prayer garden, and mini-ampitheater. There's an open air training or conference area. So participants stay at the lodge, and walk just across the road towards the conference area.

The rooms are non-air-con for obvious reason. There's an electric fan though. The tv is small and no cable connection. No wi-fi network too, except in the business center and the main dining area. But I like the toilet and shower area. The toilet bowl is beside an open area with a few colorful flowers; sunlight, wind and rain can penetrate as it's covered only by fine nets to keep out the mosquitoes and other flying insects. Hence, no need for an electrical exhaust system.

The main dining area is big and wide. It should be able to accommodate 200 people. Just below the dining area is a small covered court with stage, for events with plenty of people. Toril district can be seen behind the stage. But what makes the place unique is the presence of free-roaming peafowls, mostly female. About 1 or 2 males (peacocks) accompany the females and if you're lucky, you should be able to see the males displaying their tails -- wide, tall and colorful -- to court or attract the females.

Outside the dining area is the mini-Indiana Jones ride. It's a short cable ride, maybe about 50 meters long only. Further down the Jones ride, are the campsite and a half-court basketball area....

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

zoobic safari

Last weekend, my wife and her friend from college days, Ireen, also a mother to a nearly 2-year old boy, went to Subic for a weekend stay. We brought our daughter Elle, 1 year and 4 months old.

We went to "zoobic safari", on the western side of Subic bay area and near the Morong, Bataan gate. The place is quite attractive to many tourists especially on weekends. Entrance fee is P400 per head, babies are free. The package includes a walking tour of a zoo -- different birds, animals and rodents. They have a good collection, definitely much plentier than one will find at the government-run Manila zoo.

There's a short entertainment in this part of the zoo. In the "Aeta trail", there are 3 or 4 male Aetas on G-strings. One plays the guitar, as one dances the graceful "butterfly dance"; another one dances the quick "monkey dance", complete with a very quick climb on a pole and quick descent; then 2 guys dance the belligerent "war dance".

There is also a covered place where different species of smaller alligators (iguana, monitor lizard, etc.) and snakes (from python to indian albino species).

But what makes the place unique compared to many other zoo in the country, both government- and privately-operated, is the close encounter with tigers on the loose. Well, they can walk and run around in a fenced area. Visitors ride a jeepney with steel bards to protect them from the tigers. Visitors buy dressed chicken for P200 a piece, a zoo staff joins in as "feeder". The tigers' area has double gates.

Upon entry of the jeepney on the 2nd gate, just a few meters you will see the tigers -- about 4 or more of them. The "feeder" shows the dressed chicken, and 1 or 2 tigers come close, well very close, you can see their face, claws and teeth as they eat the chicken little by little right across the steel bars! While one tiger is eating the chicken piecemeal, another tiger would roam around the other side of the jeepney, sniffing if there's another chicken available. Tigers that are full don't come close anymore, they just lie down on some corners but are still visible to the visitors inside the jeepney. This close encounter lasts for about 10-15 minutes.

After the tiger encounter, the jeepney goes back to the main building. Then visitors can choose whether to ride the train-truck (P50/head) or bring their own car. First destination is the tiger breeding area. Here, huge and mature tigers are kept for breeding. It's a good tiger farm. Next destination is the savannah -- a fenced area where many ostrich, wild (now tamed) pigs, ducks and turkey roam around freely. if you get off from your car briefly, you can have a quick picture taking with these birds and animals up close, although the tour guide does not allow this practice, i think. The ostrich can kick you perhaps.

Finally, the last destination is the crocodile farm. There are around 200 different species of crocs there. Visitors can buy a quarter- or half-sized dressed chicken tied to a long stick for P50, then use the chicken to attract the seldom-moving animals to move and attempt to eat the bait. I kidded our tour guide, "Luthy", that perhaps they should change the name of the croc farm to "House of Representatives", other visitors who heard my joke laughed too.

There are 2 souvenir shops -- one in the main building where briefings are made, and at the Crocs cafe.

The place is a good learning area for children and adults alike about various animals. The staff are articulate and friendly too.