VOLCANIC IN ORIGIN
It may surprise you to learn that the lakes are actually the water-filled craters of an extinct volcano. The island of Negros is volcanic in origin. The northern part is home to an active volcano called “Kanlaon.” The southern half is home to an extinct volcanic complex called “Cuernos de Negros.”
Cuernos de Negros (also known as Magaso) is a large stratovolcano complex that anchors the southeastern tip of Negros Island. The eastern side of the complex consists of two stratovolcanoes and a lava dome; two crater lakes up to 1.5 km in diameter are present. The lower western part of the complex contains four volcanic centers. The small summit crater of Magaso, the highest peak of the complex, rises above the city of Dumaguete and contains fumaroles. Two Sulfuric springs are found on the east-southeastern flank of Magaso, and hot springs occur on the northeastern flank. The youngest radiocarbon date obtained was 14,000 yrs BP from a dacitic breccia, and a younger andesitic unit is present. An increase in fumarolic activity took place after a major tectonic earthquake in 1902. The Palinpinon geothermal field is located south of the Okoy River on the north side of the volcano. — source: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Global Volcanism Program
I visited it with a friend during a particularly rainy day — in the waning days of a typhoon, in fact.
We took a multicab (fare: 15 pesos) in Dumaguete City that was bound for San Jose — and not Sibulan — to get to the “Crossing.” The Twin Lakes are located within the municipality of Sibulan but you want to take a multicab bound for San Jose because multicabs bound for Sibulan do not pass the Crossing. Multicabs bound for San Jose, on the other hand, do pass the Crossing.
At the Crossing, we hired one of the habal-habals (motorcycle drivers) to take us to Twin Lakes. His fee: 400 pesos per person roundtrip, and that included his time waiting for us.
THE VISITORS CENTER
Three lakes are actually in the area — the first one (Lake Kabalin-an) is small and lies beside the Visitor’s Center. The other two (Lakes Balinsasayao and Danao) are 100+ meters higher up the mountain.
The lakes are craters of an extinct volcano that have been filled in by eons of rainfall.
The habitat up there (several hundred meters above sea level) was invigorating — it was cool, the wind was brisk, and the air was incredibly purifying. (It would be a treat to do yoga there!) Because it was a rainy day, we had to be extra careful since everything — the stone steps, the path, the boat — was slippery.
Both lakes are deep. According to one boat woman, a team of Filipino scuba divers explored the depths and, using a measuring rope, found a maximum depth of 172 meters (560+ feet) in Lake Balinsasayao while suspecting deeper points elsewhere. Carp and tilapia were introduced decades ago and, today, these are the two dominant fishes. (This was an ecological mistake as these invasive species wiped out whatever species originally inhabited these waters).
Visit the “Fernery” located beside the restaurant. At the restaurant, try the “Pako” salad (40 pesos) but tell the cook to go easy on the vinegar and sugar and instead to add more Pako to the salad.
The funding force behind the Fernery is the Foundation for the Philippine Environment, an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) founded to help mitigate the destruction of the country’s natural resources — and in this case, to preserve the knowledge and specimens of medicinal and edible ferns.
There were ferns everywhere. Apparently, locals eat a lot of it — a good thing!
RETURNING TO DUMAGUETE
The habal-habal returned us to the Crossing. From there, after a 5-minute wait, we flagged down and rode a Ceres Transport bus back to Dumaguete (fare: 20 pesos). This was a better proposition than the multicab since the ride was more comfortable and the trip went faster. Rain notwithstanding, it was an excellent visit and is highly recommended!