Photo courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

The Philippines boasts some of the most serene and beautiful lakes in Asia. Among these lakes are found in the Balinsasayao Twin Lakes Natural Park in Negros Oriental, Central Visayas. Whether you’re looking to ride a boat across calm and blue waters, walk along forest trails, watch birds, or be simply amid nature, you’ll find wonderful spots in this protected area (PA).

The Balinsasayao Twin Lakes Natural Park, or Balinsasayao, covers 8,016 hectares of lush forest and bodies of water such as lakes and waterfalls in San Jose, Sibulan, and Valencia, Negros Oriental. 

Declared a natural park and protected area in 2000, Balinsasayao is listed among the PAs under Republic Act 11038 of 2018. It belongs to the 113 legislated PAs throughout the Philippines. As a protected area, Balinsasayao is set apart and protected for its unique biodiversity and ecological richness.

Photo courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

The Twin Lakes of Balinsasayao

The natural park is named after the birds that hover its twin lakes, Lake Balinsasayao and Lake Danao, which are separated by a mountain ridge. The small and deep crater lakes rise more than 800 meters above sea level. Lake Balinsasayao is more than twice as large as Lake Danao. 

Photo courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

Four mountains with lush vegetation surround the blue twin lakes. Visitors can ride boats or kayak while taking in the scenery of the calm lakes against the lush trees of the mountains. 

Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer in Balinsasayao Viernov Grefalde describes the views from the lakes as breath-taking, as if being close to the heavens. 

The Biodiversity in Balinsasayao

The Balinsasayao Twin Lakes Natural Park is home to a rich variety of flora and fauna, some of which are threatened or endangered. It is considered the only remaining rain forest in Negros. A walk along the ecotrails or a trek in the forest offers visitors a glimpse at the wildlife in Balinsasayao.

Large trees of the red and white lauan, tanguile, and almaciga are among the vulnerable species that may be found in the forest. The Biodiversity Management Bureau reports that as of 2021, there are 237 plant species and around 124 fern species in Balinsasayao, many of which are threatened.

Balinsasayao is also a vital area for 114 species of birds, some of which are threatened. Among the birds spotted in the protected area are the glossy swiftlet, indigo-banded kingfisher, magnificent sunbird, and spotted kingfisher. The place is also home to the Visayan wrinkled billed hornbill, the Negros striped babbler, and the Negros bleeding-heart pigeon. 

The park has been host to two international bird-watching activities since 2013. Visitors who would like to watch birds may find tour guides in the area who specialize in bringing watchers to sites where specific birds have been sighted. 

There are 27 species of mammals in Balinsasayao, too, including the Visayan warty pig and Visayan leopard cat. Visitors may be lucky enough to see the large flying fox. 

The reticulated python and Hazel’s forest frog are among the 49 species of reptiles and amphibians in the area.

Activities in Balinsasayao

The Balinsasayao Twin Lakes Natural Park can offer a wonderful and unforgettable visit to nature lovers. Visitors can take in the view of the lakes from their boats or they can also kayak. It is possible to cross the twin lakes through a boat ride. 

The established ecotrails provide a way into the forest and the waterfalls. Trails for trekking let visitors explore and observe Balinsasayao’s rich wildlife. Visitors will be inspired to reconnect with nature, immerse themselves as if forest bathing, and observe wildlife. 

For those seeking bird sightings, special tours may be taken with a guide. 

Visitors can also drop by the fernery in the natural park, and take part in tree-planting activities in designated areas.

There are areas for picnic and camping, too. 

Aside from the rich biodiversity to be protected in Balinsasayao, the area’s waters and surrounding forests serve as watershed to Dumaguete City and the municipalities of San Jose, Sibulan, and Valencia. These are among the reasons for visitors to follow the ecotrails, leave no trash behind, take nothing but pictures, and explore with tour guides.

Registration is required upon entry to the protected area. The admission fee is P100. But for locals outside nearby municipalities the entrance fee is only P50, and P30 for locals within Sibulan, San Jose, and Valencia.

Ways to Get to Balinsasayao

The Balinsasayao Twin Lakes Natural Park is approximately 45 minutes from the airport. 

From the city, visitors may rent a private vehicle such as a van. 

From the main highway to the lakes, visitors may ride a habal habal or motorcycle taxis for hire for P250 one way. 

There are also motorcycles for rent at P300 with the renter paying for the gasoline. On a motorcycle ride, one must follow the North National Highway going to San Jose, and in Barangay Lalaan in San Jose, the sign showing the way to Balinsasayao may be found. There will be a 12-kilometer hike to reach the area. 

Government efforts to conserve Philippine PAs 

Currently, there are 247 PAs under the NIPAS, 113 of which have been legislated, 13 have been proclaimed by the President, and 120 remain as initial components of the System. The NIPAS was established by virtue of Republic Act 7586 or the NIPAS Act of 1992, and amended by Republic Act 11038 or the Expanded NIPAS (ENIPAS) Act of 2018.

NIPAS is the classification and administration of all designated PAs to maintain essential ecological processes to preserve genetic diversity, to ensure the sustainable use of resources found therein, and to maintain their natural conditions to the greatest extent possible.

The year 2022 marks the 90th anniversary of PA establishment in the country through Republic Act 3915 that was enacted on 1 February 1932. In line with this, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Department of Tourism (DOT), and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) signed a joint declaration to support the celebration of the Year of the Protected Areas or the YoPA Campaign, which promotes Philippine national parks.

The DENR, through its Biodiversity Management Bureau, and the Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN) of UNDP Philippines, in partnership with the DOT and DILG, are working together to promote protected areas under the NIPAS. They are also working with other agencies at the national and local levels to ensure effective conservation and sustainable management for national parks nationwide.