For those who possess the spirit of adventure, mountain resorts are favorite places to hang out and unwind. In the Philippines, however, the idea of having an exciting vacation in a hospitality establishment up in the mountains is relatively new. Most Filipinos are accustomed to equate vacations with beaches, trips to Disneyland, or trips to air-conditioned shopping malls anyway, which can be quite boring in the long run. But with more and more folks embracing the idea of going somewhere less-trodden but exciting and unique, the popularity of mountain resorts has exponentially increased nowadays.
Mambukal Resort in Murcia, Negros Occidental is one of the most popular mountain resorts in the Philippines. At 1,200 meters above sea level, it is also one of the highest mountain resorts, serving as a gateway—or an exit, depending where you came from—to the vast and verdant Mt. Kanlaon National Park. Mambukal Resort boasts of a perfect blend of natural features and man-made amenities that can provide fun, excitement, and relaxation for everyone.
Sweetie and I went to Mambukal Resort last July 6, 2013 after we cancelled a major climb on Mt. Kanlaon due to bad weather. We felt that the airplane ticket that we bought for our return trip to Cebu after descending from Mt. Kanlaon would go to waste; plus, we saved some money for the climb—a cancelled climb. Also, we already applied leaves on Friday (July 5) and Monday (July 8), which means that if we don’t do something, we’d be left with four days of doing nothing. Thus began our Mambukal sojourn.
When we reached the resort, Sweetie and I immediately checked in, left our bags in the room, and had a sumptuous lunch in the resort’s food court. The food court consisted of small stalls; we figured out that owners of these stalls pay rent so they could continue selling in the resort. All meals on display were covered with cellophane to keep flies, dust, and debris from contaminating the food.
Sumptuous food galore! For the duration of our stay in Mambukal, we took samples of their delicious yet affordable meals. All stalls in the food court serve a variety of seafood, classic Filipino dishes, native delicacies, snacks, and beverages.
Trekking to the Seven Waterfalls of Mambukal
We hiked deep in the jungle to check out the magnificent Seven Waterfalls of Mambukal. It took us a little over two hours of leisurely walking to complete the entire trek.
Warm Sulfur Dipping Pool
After trekking through the jungle, climbing gentle slopes, and visiting the tears of Mother Nature, we were ready to relax in Mambukal’s famous hot spring. Officially, it is called Warm Sulfur Dipping Pool, but that is quite a mouthful, isn’t it? Many people would just call it “hot spring.” Our feet and legs were throbbing, and a dip in hot water should definitely sooth our limbs.
Know the rules before entering the dipping pool. Do not dive; else, you will never look at the fish in a bowl of hot tinola the same way again.
One of the nicest things about the dipping pool is that it is surrounded by massive trees like a protective wall. Thus, bathers will feel as if they are taking a hot dip in the middle of the jungle. A carefully manicured garden surrounds the pool, creating a visual feast of color and life.
Hot water that is naturally warmed by the heat that radiates from the bowels of the earth flows down this artificial fountain. The water is so hot that it needs to be mixed with cooler mountain spring water to make it bearable for bathers.
While enjoying a relaxing bath in the hot pool, we were perpetually serenaded by screams and chirps like otherworldly calls that emanate from the trees around us. Looking up we saw huge fruit bats soaring high above us. It was a glorious sight after seeing the only mammals capable of flight gliding effortlessly in the air. The sight and sound of these bats actually enhance the experience in relaxing in a hot pool.
Fruit bats are also called flying foxes. Unlike vampire bats and other microbats that rely on echolocation to navigate and hunt in the dark, fruit bats have large fully functional eyes, which allow them to see clearly in the dark. Their vision is augmented with an excellent sense of smell.
We left the pool for a little while around 6 PM to have a sumptuous dinner. Since I’ve been craving for cold, fresh halo-halo for the past few weeks, Sweetie ordered this special halo-halo for me. I have to tell you: Mambukal’s halo-halo is one of the best I’ve ever tasted. The serving is huge, and there are plenty of ingredients dumped into it. In fact, it seemed that the bowl was too small for the ingredients!
When we came back to the pool an hour later, heavy rain started to pour. The combination of cold rainwater and hot spring water was so good and refreshing that we stayed in the pool for almost two hours!
See the heavy steam? That is how warm the water is. And speaking of warmth, be sure not to enter the dipping pool at once; it’s quite painful if you enter the water quickly. Instead, slowly put your feet first until your body adjusts to the heat. Then gradually dip the rest of your body in the warm water.
The water is hottest near the artificial fountain and “coolest” near the entrance. Three fountains continuously spray cold spring water into the pool. If you feel uncomfortably hot, just shower under the fountain for the cold water to caress you.
Kayaking in the Boat Lagoon
The morning after, we were ready with our next adventure, rowing a kayak around the lagoon. Excited to get the activity going, we woke up around 6:30 AM and got to the lagoon area early—too early, in fact because no personnel were in sight. So, we just took photos of the lagoon.
As you can see, Mambukal Resort’s boating lagoon is quite big, around 36 by 23 meters wide and 9 feet deep. Different varieties of boats are available (2-person kayaks, 1-man kayaks, canoes, and the large four-people barge pictured below), depending on your preference. A small pier and a bay provide access to the lagoon.
We did say there weren’t any personnel around, right? So, Sweetie and I decided to head to the food court to have breakfast. Pathways around the resort are clearly marked and paved, allowing visitors to access all the amenities with ease.
We expected an entire morning of adventure, so we decided to eat a hearty silog-type breakfast. Mmmm! For us, nothing beats silog-type meals with coffee or hot chocolate.
We finished our meal at around 8 AM and went back to the lagoon. The staff in charge of the boats was already there, so we chose a nice 2-person canoe, donned on our life jackets and rowed away.
Let’s head out to that tier, Sweetie! Sweetie and I are starting to enjoy paddle sports after being introduced to the adrenaline-pumping sport of whitewater rafting that we’re planning to take up paddle sport lessons soon.
This small tier directly feeds the lagoon with fresh water from the river.
Sweetie, I saw something interesting over there. Let’s check it out.
We saw bubbles emanating from one of the many fumaroles in Mambukal Resort. Fumaroles are openings in the ground, usually near volcanoes and hot spots, which emit gases or steam or both.
Floating quietly on the water, listening to the songs of birds and fruit bats, and enjoying the verdant surroundings exuded an indescribably blissful feeling that penetrated deep through the soul.
After having our fill with rowing a kayak for almost an hour, we headed to Mambukal’s Butterfly Garden, a sanctuary and breeding facility for numerous species of butterflies that flutter around the park.
Made of bamboo, nipa, and other traditional materials, the Butterfly Garden creates an atmosphere of warm and classic Filipino hospitality. Cared by a couple of elderly caretakers, the Butterfly Garden features a small café, a souvenir shop, a display area, a briefing area (which shows documentaries about butterflies and the world of insects on TV), and the garden itself.
Before reaching the butterfly garden, we passed by a display area filled up with glass cases and frames that showcase different kinds of butterflies and insects. Oh, don’t worry; they were already dead before they were impaled on the frame. The expert caretakers said that these butterflies and bugs only live for a few days before they drop dead.
We were actually amazed at how huge and menacing some of the bugs are. We believe labeling some of them as “monsters of the world of bugs” is apt.
Behind the nipa-and-bamboo receiving area, there were glass cases full of live cocoons. See those green things that are hanging from the branches? Apparently, the glass cases protect the cocoons from being devoured by hungry beetles, bugs, and other animals.
The main butterfly sanctuary is protected by a plastic screen from top to bottom to prevent butterflies from escaping—or predators from entering. Patches of bright blossoms, green ferns, spiky cactuses, and other plants around an artificial rock fountain make this place heaven for butterflies. We are pretty sure that Alexa, Sweetie’s daughter, would love it here knowing that she loves fairy tales.
Thousands of vibrant, multicolored butterflies flutter around the sanctuary. It’s like walking around splashes of life and color! It was also our first time to clearly see how butterflies feed; they insert their long, thin proboscis into the flower to suck nectar.
Yes, you guessed it. Those are mating butterflies.
After visiting the Butterfly Garden, we longed for some adrenaline…again! Thus, we headed to Mambukal’s zip line. Well, it’s not as long as that of Papa Kits or as fast as that in Ugong Rock. Still, it addresses one’s desire for an adrenaline rush and that awesome feeling of flight.
As you can see, the line goes through the jungle.
After donning our safety harness and helmet, we were ready to go!
And off we go! We traversed high above the boat lagoon. At this height, we can see the full glory of the gardens that surround the placid lagoon.
Unlike other zip lines in which you can zip alone, Mambukal’s zip line is specifically rigged for two riders. Thus, you need to have a partner so you can zip. That becomes a problem if you’re alone or if you want to zip solo.
Mambukal Resort has a nice climbing wall much like that in Papa Kits. The cool thing about the wall is that it features an overhang halfway, which makes it challenging to climb. Will we be entitled to a free zip if we reach the top like Papa Kit’s gimmick?
Unfortunately, we never had a way of knowing. It was Monday, which is not a peak day, and the person in charge was not around. No rope was set up, so, sadly, we weren’t able to climb. That overhang just looks sooo tempting!
A morning full of adventure can definitely leave one’s stomach rumbling. So we went back to the food court and ordered another serving of their excellent halo-halo and an enormous clubhouse sandwich that was thick with goodies!
Sulfur Hot Springs
After packing up our things and checking out, we stopped by some bubbling sulfur springs near our accommodation. Mambukal is just right beside the active Mt. Kanlaon so it’s not surprising that hot springs spring out in this area.
This is a bubbling fumarole that guards the entrance to the hot spring. The ground under the water emits gasses, which produce bubbles. There is a similar fumarole like this, albeit bigger, that we encountered in the Kaipuhan Sulfur River during our climb in Mt. Talinis.
The main solfatara (a fumarole that emits hot gasses) is fenced as the water is dangerously hot. This is the main source of heated water used in the dipping pool. You can stoop over the concrete barrier to have a look, but be careful! If you fall down, you’re definitely going to suffer third-degree burns.
That’s a very hot, very stinky creek just right beside the main solfatara. See those pipes? Those run all the way from the solfatara to the heated dipping pool.
A large and beautiful rushing river flows in the middle of the resort. Guests can actually go down and trek along the river as long as they don’t go beyond the boundaries of the resort. We wouldn’t be surprised if we’d see photographers here; the boulders, rushing water, and greens all blend together for a picture-perfect setting or venue.
Other Facilities in Mambukal Resort
Mambukal is definitely a camper’s haven. For a minimal fee, one can set camp in the resort. Mambukal offers tents with tarps. However, you can also pitch your own tent in designated camping areas.
That grassy patch is one of the campgrounds in Mambukal. The soft grass and level ground provide campers a stable and comfortable area for camping.
If ever you feel the need for a private bath, you can simply head out to the Ishiwata Bath House. Built in 1927, the Roman-and-Greek inspired bathhouse is one of the oldest structures in the resort. In fact, the resort was actually built around the bathhouse. It was developed and constructed by Japanese Architect Kokichi Ishiwata.
The bathhouse is still fully operational after almost a century. You and your friends (or partner) can book yourselves in one of the five different bath cubicles in the structure. Pure, naturally heated sulfur water flows down from the spigots and fills the cubicle. You can then dip in and enjoy a private moment of relaxation.
Imposing trees shelter picnic cottages that are constructed all over the resort. Guests can rent picnic cottages at very reasonable rates. Each cottage has a grilling station and a wash station. Established walkways allow guests to easily access every area of Mambukal Resort.
A tour around Mambukal is not just enjoyable but also educational. Many trees and features are labeled with these information boards. You’d be surprised about how much you don’t really know about that tree in your backyard.
If you’re travelling with your family, a group of friends, or a number of colleagues, then you may want to rent one of these large, private, and comfortable bungalows for your stay. They’re quite comfortable, and each has its own kitchen, toilet, bath, and everything you see in a home.
The Hot Dipping Pool . . . Again
The hot dipping pool is Mambukal’s baby. Thus, it was definitely worth another visit. Sweetie and I decided to take a last dip in the refreshing, hot water before we check out of the resort and head to Bacolod. Save for a single Mambukal personnel, we were the only ones frolicking around the pool. Why? Well, it was a Monday, and the resort was virtually devoid of weekend warriors.
Without throngs of bathers, the forest-surrounded pool was definitely a blissful sanctuary. Oh, check out that garden. Lovely, isn’t it?
Soon, it was time to head home and to face real life with a positive outlook after a refreshing adventure and stay in the beautiful Mambukal Resort. As you’ve probably realized, our cancelled climb was a blessing in disguise.
1. For an estimated budget of a trip to Mambukal as well as bus-trip schedules, check out our Seven Waterfalls of Mambukal post.
2. For more information about Mambukal Resort, please check the Mambukal Resort website.
3. For room and amenity rates, please check the signboard below:
4. For reservations or if you wish to get in touch with Mambukal Resort, please use the following details:
- Address: Brgy. Minoyan, Murcia, Province of Negros Occidental, Philippines
- Telefax: +63 (34) 473-0610
Since Mambukal Resort is owned by the government, you can also contact their resort office at:
- Address: 2F North Wing, Old Capitol Building, North Capitol Road, Bacolod City
- Phone: +63 (34) 709-0990
- Telefax: +63 (34) 433-8516
5. Except for the food you will order, a government-issued official receipt is issued every time you avail of an amenity or facility. That means, part of your money goes to the government’s coffers.
6. If you want to avail of most or all of the amenities, facilities and rides in Mambukal, then we recommend visiting the resort during weekends. During weekdays, there are so few guests that most of the rides and facilities don’t have any personnel manning the stations (that’s why we weren’t able to get up the climbing wall). On weekdays, amenities are usually available upon request.
Of course, if you want some peace and quiet, then by all means, stay in the resort during weekdays. It’s such a serene feeling to be all alone with Mother Nature as your companion.
7. Note that the warm sulfur dipping pool, one of Mambukal’s main attractions, is closed on Tuesdays for maintenance.
8. Going around Mambukal is very easy since there are clearly marked pathways and signs that lead and point you to the many different places in the resort. Here’s a map of the resort.
9. Do not expect excellent-quality accommodation if you’re booked in an ordinary tourist lodge. There is nothing in the room except a bed and a table. The room does have a bathroom, yes, but no toiletries. Furthermore, on our second day, we didn’t have lights and water although the air-conditioning unit continued to run and electric current was flowing from the sockets.
For us, these inconveniences do not matter because we don’t stay in our hotel room all day when we’re visiting another place. But if you’re the type of person who is choosy about hotel rooms, then you might want to get the more expensive ones that have better-quality accommodations.
10. Leave most of your stuff in your room and just take with you what you need such as your bathing suit, cell phone, dry clothes, camera, etc. in a small sling bag or backpack. You don’t want lugging heavy stuff while walking around the resort. All the facilities are just within walking distance from each other.