Contributed by Ezaiplorer
A few months ago, I went on a solo trip to one of the top surfing sites in the Philippines, Mati. It is a fifth class city and the capital of the province of Davao Oriental. It may be famous for surfing as well as skimboarding, but there are still a lot of things that you can do here. Check out my over-the-weekend experience and feel free to make it your own #travelgoals, #bucketlist or #wanderlust journey!
How I got there
From Ecoland Bus Terminal in Davao City, you can take a bus with the Mati signage. There are two bus lines that ply this route. You can choose to take the non-stop, air-conditioned or non-air conditioned bus.
In my case, I was able to take the air-conditioned bus because the non-stop bus doesn’t follow an hourly schedule. The fare is ₱240 and the travel time is five to six hours including all the stopovers in bus stops and terminals.
How I got around
The tourist destinations in Mati are quite far from each other, except the Baywalk and Clock Tower which can be found in the city proper. If you want to go around, you can either take a habal-habal, tricycle or rela. I’m not sure how much the fare is for the tricycle and rela since I took the habal-habal option.
Habal-habal drivers will approach you once you get off at the bus terminal. The rate will differ depending on where you want to go. Try to negotiate to lower the rate if you think it’s too much. As for me, I hired one to tour me around and drop me off at Dahican Beach. My driver Kuya Mon (contact him via +639354768200) gave me a rate of ₱500. The next day, he charged me ₱150 to pick me up from Dahican Beach and drop me off at the bus terminal.
Where I went
My first stop was the Sleeping Dinosaur. While on the bus, you can actually get off at the viewing deck before you even arrive in the terminal. However, I chose not to because I was worried that I would find it hard to look for transportation to bring me all the way to the terminal, which is about 10 to 11 kilometres away, or about 15 to 20 minutes ride.
As the name suggests, it is a hill that is formed like a sleeping dinosaur. A portion of it is surrounded by seawater. Visitors can also trek here which will take 30 minutes. But for people like me who have limited time, I just took photos and appreciated it from the viewing deck.
Before I headed to my next stop, I stopped by the city’s Clock Tower, which is found near the City Hall. Somewhere here, you’ll find the digits “1903”, which refers to the time Mati was declared as a municipality.
My last stop before heading to Dahican Beach is the Baywalk, which is surrounded by stalls and restaurants. Here you can find and buy the famous empanada. Kuya Mon kept on asking me if I was going to buy or not, but I didn’t since I wasn’t going home directly after leaving Mati. But when I come back, I will try this for sure.
Many people, both locals and tourists, come here especially when the sun is about to set. Some just relax and chat while others are take pictures, eat and even dance. The sunset here is beautiful too.
Kuya Mon then dropped me off at Amihan Sa Dahican. He had been promoting the resort and convincing me to stay here, but I already had a reservation at Dahican Surf Resort.
To those who plan to go to Dahican Beach, you can either stay at Dahican Surf Resort or Amihan Sa Dahican. They are just a few walks away from each other. The difference might be that the former has rooms and tents that you can choose from. Their fan room costs ₱2,000 (5 pax), ₱2,400 (6 pax), ₱3,600 (10 pax) and ₱4,800 (12 pax). The AC room costs ₱1,500 (2 pax) while their tent rental is ₱300-500. They also have an entrance fee of ₱200 per person. You can reach them at their Facebook page. They only have common comfort rooms and showers, but they do have Surf Shack Bar and Grill where you can dine and drink. They also teach surfing lessons.
On the other hand, Amihan Sa Dahican only offers tents to those who want to spend a night at the resort. The rate is ₱320. They have a store where guests can buy their needs. However, they don’t sell liquors, or alcoholic drinks and cigarettes. They don’t allow drinking within the premises since they are protecting the turtles in the area as well as the kids that they are supporting. Amihan advises guests who want to drink to go to Dahican Surf Resort. They also offer surfing lessons for ₱500 per hour and cooking for their guests for a fee. If you want to stay here, send me a message so that I can give you the contact number of the caretakers.
Wherever you choose to stay, always keep in mind to be responsible guests. Do not throw garbage anywhere and help the people protect their paradise!
What I did
I did not go to Mati City just to eat and chill even if I really wanted to just sleep all day. I went there to do something for the first time and tick this off from my bucket list, and that is surfing! I’ve been to Siargao but was not able to do it. So I made sure not to miss it this time in Mati.
I went to Amihan Sa Dahican for the surfing lesson. My instructors, Kuya Winston, Qiara and Kuya Jose, were so patient with me the whole time.
The first thing I did, since it was my first time, was to do the basic. Paddle, ready and stand up! We then went to the water and applied what they taught me.
After few minutes, I was rather frustrated thinking that my one-hour lesson had been over yet all I did was the paddle. But I did not give up. I kept on trying and motivating myself that I could do it. My instructors were also encouraging me and were very helpful.
After my third try, I finally found it enjoyable. I also fell a couple of times but still did it. It was the best experience! I was very happy after that and felt so fulfiled.
I went back to Dahican Surf Resort to change and prepare my things. Then, I checked out and headed back to Amihan Sa Dahican where Kuya Mon picked me up.
Indeed, it was an experience that I will always look back to and cherish. It wasn’t just because I was able to surf, but before the trip, there were people who told me that it’s going to be hard and unsafe for me to go there alone. This motivated me more to do it. Also, I was able to meet and chat with the locals who became my new friends. We talked about their lives and how beautiful and peaceful the place is.
I will definitely be back in Mati City. First would be for the empanada. Second for the museum, which I also missed visiting because I was running out of time. Third for the turtles at Amihan Sa Dahican. Fourth for the surfing. And fifth, of course, for the people and my newfound friends.
Mati City travel tips
- Mati City is far from Davao City, so it is better to depart Davao City early in the morning. It is also much better if you take the non-stop bus.
- You can bring your own food when travelling to and from Mati City. However, there will also be some stopovers.
- It is better if you contact a habal-habal driver to pick you up from the terminal and tour you around the city.
- If you have already contacted a driver, you can ask the bus driver or conductor to drop you off at Sleeping Dinosaur so that you won’t need to go back there. It will save you time. Then, inform your habal-habal driver to fetch you there.
- Do not forget to try the famous empanada at their Baywalk.
- Buy your dinner at the city proper before heading to Dahican Beach. Dahican Surf Resort has its own restaurant but the food options are limited.
- You can also buy your necessities like snacks, water, toiletries and more from the many convenience stores in the city. There are also banks for your financial matters.
- If you want to stay in a standard room at Dahican Surf Resort, reserve it in advance. Their rooms are very limited that they get fully booked fast.
- If you opt to stay in a tent, there are options to choose from. You can either bring your own tent, or rent one at either Amihan Sa Dahican or Dahican Surf Resort. There is also an area a few metres away from Dahican Surf Resort where you can put up your tent.
- Do not leave Mati City without surfing! Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, you should do it because it is indeed fun!
I hope you can pay a visit to Mati City. It is quite far but it is totally worth it! Plus, the people are so accommodating and friendly. You will not just gain experiences and stories to tell, but you will also find new friends.