Let me guess, you have no idea where is Lake Balanan. Am I right?
If you are a lover of lakes or water in general, chances are you’ve been in a secluded or semi-remote area where lakes, falls and rivers can be found. There are certainly massive of places like this in the world and most probably this Lake Balanan might be new to the ears.
Lake Balanan is a lake situated in Siaton Negros Oriental, where Negros can be found at the center of the country – The Philippines. A 50 km distance from the city of Dumaguete to Siaton center town with an additional 10 km from the main road of Siaton going up to a mountain where the lake can be found. No wonder this area is seldom visited by many even local tourists, merely because of its limited access to transportation. Also, the road is bumpy and rocky, and though it’s a bit inaccessible, I still love coming back and made heaps of visits.
Local Terms used here and it’s meaning:
Habal-Habal – is a motorcycle modified to seat more than two persons
Bangka – a type of vessel as a means of transportation, used widely by the local fishermen in the islands.
Given the distance and the potholed road, a tourist might have a second thought hitting the village and thinking of how else will they make use of time. This I can relate as this was also my apprehension on the day I first stopped by. If you love visiting a semi-remote area and is also a nature lover this might fit for you. With my experience and familiarity with the place, I hope this guide on a day tour visiting Lake Balanan will help you.
The best time to start your journey is at least before 8 am if you come from Dumaguete City. Travel time from the city to Siaton town proper is 1-hour drive depending on what type of transportation you are using with a 50 km distance in total. After which, another 30 minutes drive from Siaton proper or from the highway to Lake Balanan. Overall travel time is maximum 2 hours to reach the lake.
From the main city, there are different transport available like bus & jeepney in traversing to the town. The only difference is the travel time each vehicle spend, if you are taking the jeepney it may take 2 hours the most, and taking a bus or the v-hire (a passenger van) is obviously faster which will take an hour ride. These are available every hour in the city.
Bus Fare Php
Php 42.00 non-aircon; Php 50.00 aircon
V-hire (a passenger van)
The village is actually a semi-remote area, there are no scheduled jeepney or a bus or passenger cars as means of public transportation from Siaton town to the lake, instead, a habal–habal is widely used for settlers and some tourists. Since I have been to this place lots of time already, I managed myself trying the habal-habal, a rented van, a car and a motorbike at different times. I first came here in the year 2012, which unfortunately I lost count on how many occasion I swing by the spot. The villagers have once a week schedule of a truck which is free of use from the government, where the locals ride on and bring with them whatever they have or what source they could think of to easily sell in the town’s public market from vegetables to poultry to handmade items. This is one way the government helping them to augment daily expenses as they can create a bit of an income.
Rent a Car/Van
Price Range Php 2,700-3,500.00 (rate is from Dumaguete City)
Rent a Motorbike
(but make sure the motorbike can survive on this kind of road) Php 500.00 a day
Take a ride on Habal-habal Php 50.00 each person (capacity is 6 pax per habal-habal), haggle for Php 450.00 if you wish to hire the whole habal-habal, rate includes return way.
3 spots to check on. The Lake – The Waterfalls – The freshwater Swimming Pool
Yes, there are 3 spots in this small village that are open for tourist. And the first activity you can do after arriving and before lunch is set your things at their restaurant, you can bring food with you but if you like helping the locals here, there’s no harm ordering food from them, after all their food is also fresh I suggest ordering “Halang-Halang” from their menu or a native chicken adobo. After setting all things needed, check their activities at the reception. Please note that staff here are also people living in the village, they have women workers but recently they have few men who are helping them, still a resident of the area. Some of them may not be able to understand English and cannot make any conversation.
These are the activities you can choose from, and I’ve done this except the zip line. Not that I do not like zip lining, I have had enough zip lines in my life so far. So, I have nothing to share about zip lining in this lake.
NOTE: NO SWIMMING IN THE LAKE (only local in this village can swim in the lake, even if you are a resident in nearby places, they won’t allow for protection, staff of the restaurant mentioned that there was already an incident that a Japanese man swim and died in the area, so from then on, they won’t allow outsiders to swim)
To go to the waterfalls, I would suggest hiking from their restaurant to the waterfalls, it’s 3-4 km hike which will take an hour trekking. You can also do kayaking, either way is feasible. But, personally, I would do hiking going to the place then come back with their local bangka or small boat and help the local paddle the boat. Paddlers are also the women working at the restaurant.
Why I subjectively suggest hiking? Apart from enjoying the lively nature, it is one way of interacting the few locals who live nearby, and one can be able to mesmerize the quiet place, especially if you like taking photos, there are corners that are worth taking a shot. I have seen 3 small houses in the area, where villagers set also their cows, poultry, piggery and water buffalo as their means of daily living too. On the way to the waterfalls, just right after the toilet area, there is a school for children but you need to trek for another 3 km in reaching the school, when school time, I can hear their echo.
Kayak Rental – Php 150.00
Boat or Bangka Rental with 2 paddlers/helpers – Php 150.00
Zip Line Php 250.00
Bamboo Hut rental for Lunch at the center of the lake Php 150.00
Have lunch after coming back from the hike, staff usually serve the food on time. After lunch never missed having a quick check of those banyan trees or creepy trees at the left side of the restaurant all the way to the tree house, ask the people around at the reception where the tree house is.
As mentioned there is a swimming pool in Balanan. This is located in a slope area to the lake. Take a walk back to the road from the restaurant. You’d noticed mini falls and a mini lake each side of the road. On the right side, there is a 100 year old Balete Tree beside the pavement, walk through that way until a swimming pool with scattered nipa huts can be seen.
The water as the local saying is fresh, they might be coming from the mountain or from the river somewhere, they said, it is not from the main lake. There are 3 pools available and one of those is for children. Imagine swimming in a pool surrounded by big trees, more of being in a forest.
If you are lucky enough, there might be some fisherman in the area searching for fish, shrimps and freshwater shells, it’s also a good activity with them. There are also plenty of “escargot” or snails during their season.
Please also don’t fret when you see plastic empty bottles in the lake, there are areas that this is intentionally set, for it is for the fisherman’s easy work. Just ask the local on how it has been and will it be disposed of in the right place.
Doing all of these can be done in a day, one can leave from the place by 4 in the afternoon at the latest. Do not leave the place after that to avoid any inconvenience on the road and also, there are times where rain shows up, this is due to the unpredictable weather in the mountain.
Other things to note:
Entrance Fee – Php 50.00
Swimming Pool Entrance Fee – Php 20.00
Tip (Optional) for the local workers
There is FREE Entrance for all every Tuesday.
Rooms/Few Cottages are available Php 1,500.00
What To Bring:
Emergency Kit (obviously in case of emergency)
Slippers or flip flops
Rain jacket or umbrella (in case it will rain)
Do NOT FORGET Mosquito repellent
Author: Ferna Mae
Ferna is from the Philippines who travel spontaneously. Thrives to be more independent in her own skin. She first traveled The Philippines before she embarked to other countries. She believes that by traveling, her undying crave for learning excites her in a more profound way. Her flexibility had proven her that time is genuine. As a former tour guide in the Philippines, she hopes that her travel experiences will give value to the aspiring travelers. Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org,