The Unsung Beauty of Mati, Davao Oriental

The Sleeping Dinosaur
Once a year, go someplace 
you've never been before.
-Dalai Lama

There is more to Mati City than surfing and skim-boarding. In fact, while it is not as popular as Boracay or Palawan, you will be surprised to know that this destination hosts a number of idyllic, unspoilt paradise. I, myself was enthralled with its scenic and well-preserved spots when I went to this place for the first time. From water, air, and land, you will never run out of activities to do in Mati.

Mati is derived from the Mandayan word maa-ti, which refers to a creek that easily dries up even after a heavy downpour. Mati is the capital of the province of Davao Oriental in the southeastern part of the Philippines. Since it is facing the vast Pacific Ocean, huge waves that are perfect for surfing are expected during the northeast monsoon months of October to February, and thus, making this destination one of the country's surfers' havens at par with Baler, Siargao, and La Union.

How to go to Mati:
  • From Manila or Cebu, take a flight to Davao. Travel time is about an hour and 45 minutes.
  • From the Francisco Bangoy International (Davao) airport, take a taxi and tell the driver to drop you off at either of the following:
    • GMall (van)
    • Victoria Mall (van)
    • Ecoland Bus Terminal (airconditioned buses)
  • Travel time from Davao to Mati is about three (3) hours by van or five (5) to six (6) hours by bus. 
  • To save time, I highly recommend that you take the van, although, please prepare yourself for a one-helluvah-roller-coaster ride! Not advisable for those who easily gets motion sickness.
  • If you are travelling with a big group or if you have huge luggage with you, consider paying for the other vacant seats so you'll have ample space, or better yet, rent the entire van. Otherwise, the vans are relatively clean and comfortable. The bus, while it has more leg room, is a bit slower as the province imposes a strict speed limit for safety reasons.
  • On your way to Mati from Davao City, ask the driver to drop you off at Badas, where you will see the Sleeping Dinosaur's viewing deck. If you're lucky, the driver might be willing to wait for you as take some snapshots. 
Entering the province of Davao Oriental
Things to see:

Sleeping Dinosaur
Like a tame vertebrate embracing the calm waters of the Pujada Bay, the Sleeping Dinosaur is a popular tourist spot in Mati, and perhaps the most iconic. Try searching for Mati in Google and your first hit will most probably be the Sleeping Dinosaur. It is visible from a view deck in Brgy. Badas, a curvy, hilly portion that you will go through before you reach the town proper.

Sleeping Dinosaur
The "egg" on the foreground; Pujada Island on the background

Dahican Beach

Featuring fine white to cream sand and cerulean waters with a laid-back vibe,  Dahican Beach is famous for surfers, skim-boarders, and beach-bummers alike. For day trips and camping, Travelogues and the Trip Republic highly recommends the LGU-run Menzi Beach Park and Campsite. 

I must commend the ones who manage this site for maintaining its cleanliness and tranquility. The glistening shoreline is pristine and free of any trash--not even a cigarette butt, not even an empty can of Coke. Videoke and loud music is not allowed so as to retain the serenity of the place. So party peeps, I'm afraid this is not your turf. It's for those who would like to recharge and appreciate life's simple pleasures.

There are modern and sturdy cabanas, which are priced at Php 300 fro day trips and Php 600 for an overnight stay. There are tables for picnic, too, as well as clean restrooms and spacious function halls. Campers can pitch their tents at Php 150 (you should bring your own tent, or rent at a separate price).

The best thing about Menzi Beach Park and Campsite is that it boasts the widest expanse of pristine shore in the entire Dahican strip. I dare you to walk barefoot from end to end.

The beachfront at Menzi Beach Park and Campsite

The beach huts
Mayo Bay
Mayo Bay

The thrilling waters of Mayo Bay (the vast body of water that envelopes the Dahican Beach) is home to many species of dolphins. Best viewed at sunrise, the dolphins are said to have already finished feeding themselves during this time, and thus, they are hopping back out into the wild. Having to see more than a dozen dolphins happily hopping their way out into the open sea is surreal. Be prepared to lose your voice.

Dolphin Watching at Mayo Bay, Mati, Davao Oriental from Matet Garcia Reyes on Vimeo.

Mindanao Saga Flying Club

The highlight of our trip in Mati was riding an ultralight plane at the Mindanao Saga Flying Club. It took us two days to decide whether we will push through or not, but we gave in, in the end. It was my 30th birthday anyway, so it's about time to take the plunge. Challenge accepted! Oh, and did I tell you I have fear of heights?

With Pilot Tico of Mindanao Saga Flying Club
The ride was a scenic 15-minutes flying over Dahican and Masao. The views are priceless. Scary but worth the heart attack, I must say! Tico, the pilot, was very professional, and so I was comfortable (and yes, hmmm, calm???) throughout the flight. Make sure to ask them to have your video taken via their own action cam, and bring one more cam for taking aerial shots.

Aerial Views of Dahican and Masao

Dahican Beach
Blue Bless Beach Resort

A fishing boat on Mayo Bay

Waniban Island

Within the calm Pujada Bay is the idyllic Waniban Island, a small patch fringed with white sand and rich marine life. The island is privately owned, so there is an entrance and cottage fee imposed. You may rent a boat from the resorts in Masao (be ready to shell out more) as well as from Brgy. Tamisan, where boat rentals are way cheaper. From Brgy. Tamisan, it will take around 20 minutes to reach Waniban Island.

Waniban Island
Our boat
Contrary to what I have read online, the boat we rented from Brgy. Tamisan was big and doesn't seem to look like a fishing boat. It is also complete with life vests and two boatmen to boot.
Still in Brgy. Tamisan
Approaching Waniban Island
It was a bit hazy when we arrived at Waniban Island but that did not hinder us to see its natural, alluring beauty. The water was bright blue even if the skies were gloomy, and sand, glistening white.

We did not waste time and explored the underwater scenery right away. The current was a bit unforgiving, so we were only able to explore the shallow reefs. But from where we were, we could already see the deep wall teeming with vibrant marine life. I guess we should try diving here next time. On my 35th birthday, perhaps? ;)

Under the clear waters of Waniban Island

Not too far away from Waniban Island is Pujada Island, though we were not able to visit this due to the strong winds and huge waves. Sir Jun Plaza of Amihan sa Dahican recommends that we go back in August so we will be able to see the corals in full bloom. 

Amihan sa Dahican

Skimboard or surf at Mati's pride, the Amihan sa Dahican. Home to the award-winning Amihan Boys, Amihan sa Dahican is a quaint campsite managed by Sir Jun Plaza. If you don't surf or skimboard, you are still welcome here to camp or immerse with the Amihan Boys (and girls). We had the chance to spend a night here and have a boodle fight with the Amihan Boys. Not for anything else, but I actually feel this was our best meal in Mati. It is nice to hear inspiring stories from them, actually, while sharing a simple meal using your bare hands. Here, you travel like a local; not like a boss. Walang keme.

Just like Menzi Beach Park and Campsite, Amihan sa Dahican's place is very well maintained--no trash, no loud parties. Just pure beauty of nature and the relaxing sound of the water. No alcohol and cigarettes allowed party peeps! Amihan sa Dahican also serves as a hatchery for pawikans (green sea turtles). 

Sunrise in Amihan sa Dahican
With Lai of the Amihan Surf and Skim team
Our suites for the night

Boodle fight with the Amihan Team
Eat like a local
Subangan Museum

To have a capsule view of Davao Oriental, check out the Subangan Museum, the region's largest and one-of-a-kind museum. Unlike other museums, Subangan has a contemporary vibe that entices anyone who gets a peek. Inside, you will be able to see the many different facets of Davao Oriental.

Davor, the whale
Welcoming guests at the reception is a giant fossilized skeleton of a sperm whale. Named Davor, the sperm whale was found dead along the shores of the municipalities of Governor Generoso and San Isidro in 2010. To date, it is the 7th largest fossilized whale on display in the world.

A screen shot of the video explaining the story of Davor

 If South Cotabato has T'nalak, Davao Oriental
 has Dagmay, an abaca-woven clothe with intricate designs.

Adjacent to the museum is a souvenir shop which features handicrafts and keepsakes perfect for pasalubong. As usual,I brought home a ref magnet from here as a souvenir.

The Baywalk

A reclaimed area, Mati's boardwalk is a frequent venue for city- and provincial-wide festivities. When not crowded with such events, the baywalk serves as a laid-back strip perfect for just strolling around. The sea

At the Baywalk
Besides the many attractions that you can find in Mati, Davao Oriental, there are definitely some things that will make you fall in love more with the place--the hospitality of its people and the scrumptious local gastronomic delights, of which I will write about next.


Daghang salamat to Mati City Mayor Carlo Luis Rabat, Ms. Jing Rabat, Sir Dashiel Indelible, Jr., Marvin Bandigan, and Sir Jun Plaza for making our stay in Mati a memorable one.

You may check out their website at


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  1. Aerial view of Mati is quite interesting. How much do you spend for that 15 mins flight? Want to experience it as well.


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