Mount Apo National Park


Mount Apo National Park was established to protect the Philippines’ highest peak, 10,311-foot (3,144-m) “snow-capped” Mount Apo on Mindinao (the “snow” is actually a thick white sulphur crust). Of greater interest to naturalists nowadays are its wild inhabitants—especially the spectacular Philippines monkey-eating eagle, known here also as haribon, one of the world’s most redoubtable avian predators and most endangered. More than three feet (1m) tall, with a two-yard (2-m) wingspan, it can capture and consume mammals larger than it is. A single eagle can claim and defend a 25–40-square-mile (70–110-km2) territory. To see one of these magnificent birds in the wild is unforgettable, with its piercing eyes, wild feathered halo, and lordly bearing. Itsshrieking cry often is issued from a tall treetop near its enormous nest, usually built on a clump of treeclinging air plants, or while it is circling high overhead.

The park’s 281 square miles (728 km2) of wild, lush tropical forest full of orchids, giant pitcher plants, and wildflowers, with hot and cold mineral springs, rushing mountain streams and lakes, hidden waterfalls and sulphuric craters, are where this magnificent bird, perhaps 100 still in existence, could make its last stand—though many feel the species is doomed unless the park can be enlarged. The bird also is threatened, as is the park’s whole richly diverse ecosystem, by illegal logging, forest fires, agricultural encroachment by settlers, and plans for a massive geothermal energy project with three modular power plants here, opposed by native peoples and environmental groups but still under consideration.

Several walking tracks include three to the top of Mount Apo—a challenging climb requiring a guide and usually several days, best in March–April, with unsurpassed views of some of the most breathtaking scenery anywhere, and splendid vegetation. Climbers may see birds such as Philippine hanging parakeets, white-bellied woodpeckers, amethyst doves, Mindinao scops owls and eagle owls, rufous-bellied hawk eagles, wattled hornbills, celestial blue monarchs,and Philippine and fire-breasted flowerpeckers. Mammals include sambar deer, wild pigs, and long-tailed macaques.

Park foothills are accessible via good roads 16 miles (25 km) west from Davao City, which has busses, also from Cotabato. Lake Agco has a campsite and cabin (bring your own food). Overnight stays can sometimes be arranged in private homes in nearby Tudaya.

Well worth a visit and support is the Philippine Eagle Nature Center, which breeds and cares for the endangered bird a short distance from Davao in Calinan. Jeepney transport to Calinan is available in Davao.

 

 Estuarine or Australian saltwater crocodiles, world’s largest reptiles and most aggressive and dangerous of the crocodiles, are superb swimmers, known to travel 600 miles or more (1,000 km) by sea. Some ocean-going adult males, up to 20 feet (6m) long, weighing up to a ton (1,000 kg), have barnacles on their scales. So despite their name, they’ve reached and settled throughout Southeast Asia and are equally at home in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Thailand.

Estuarine or Australian saltwater crocodiles, world’s largest reptiles and most aggressive and dangerous of the crocodiles, are superb swimmers, known to travel 600 miles or more (1,000 km) by sea. Some ocean-going adult males, up to 20 feet (6m) long, weighing up to a ton (1,000 kg), have barnacles on their scales. So despite their name, they’ve reached and settled throughout Southeast Asia and are equally at home in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Thailand.

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