Journey to the Enchanting Lake Holon: A Traveler’s Tale


Nestled in the heart of Mindanao lies a hidden gem that has captured my heart and imagination: Lake Holon. This serene lake, cradled at the summit of Mount Parker, a dormant stratovolcano, offers a glimpse into a world of pristine beauty, unspoiled by the hustle and bustle of modern life.

What is Lake Holon?

Lake Holon is not just a body of water; it’s an experience. As I embarked on my journey to this crater lake located in T’boli, South Cotabato, Philippines, I was immediately struck by its sheer tranquility and natural splendor.

Lake Holon View Deck
Lake Holon View Deck

The lake is renowned as one of the cleanest in the Philippines and is rightly declared a protected area.

During my visit, I learned that this lake holds a special place in the hearts of the T’boli people. It’s a testament to their commitment to preserving their environment. My guide, Mylene, shared with me the fascinating history of Lake Holon, revealing that it was named after the Americans who claimed to have discovered Mount Parker in 1934.

Lake Holon - View by the Lake
Lake Holon – View by the Lake

What sets Lake Holon apart from other destinations is its pristine waters and remarkable views. Surrounded by luscious forests, it offers an unparalleled adventure. Imagine waking up to calm mornings and spending quiet starry nights by the peaceful azure waters, all while being surrounded by vast greenery.

Embracing Adventure: Hiking and Camping at Lake Holon

For those seeking an adventure, Lake Holon is a paradise. With activities ranging from trekking and swimming to kayaking and cultural immersion with the locals, it’s a haven for adventurers and nature lovers alike.

Lake Holon Salacafe Path
Lake Holon Salacafe Path

The trek to Lake Holon is an adventure in itself. Starting from either Sitio Kule or Salacafe, the trek is a 2-3 hour journey, ideal for intermediate trekkers. The path took me through fields of tall grasses and corn, dense forests, and even a hot spring.

Although not suitable for dipping due to its sulfuric content, the sight of the bubbling spring amidst the natural landscape was a unique experience.

Lake Holon at Peak
Lake Holon at Peak

Upon reaching the lake, the view from the vantage point was nothing short of awe-inspiring. The lush mountains surrounding the clear blue waters of Lake Holon reminded me of the views at Mount Pinatubo, yet the serenity and purity of this lake were unmatched.

Embarking on the Adventure to Lake Holon

Hello, fellow adventurers! Today, I’m excited to share with you my journey to the mesmerizing Lake Holon, a destination that beckons nature lovers and trekkers alike. Nestled in the heart of South Cotabato, Philippines, Lake Holon is a pristine natural wonder that promises a memorable adventure.

Finding Your Path: Salacafe vs Kule Trail

Lake Holon is accessible through two distinct trails: the Salacafe Trail and the Kule Trail. My adventure began with a choice between these two paths.

  • The Salacafe Trail: This trail is the longer yet easier option, taking approximately 3-4 hours to reach the lake. It’s perfect for beginners or families seeking a less strenuous journey. Don’t be fooled by its ‘easier’ tag though – it still involves a straightforward assault from the start until the descent to the lake.
  • The Kule Trail: On the other hand, the Kule Trail offers a more challenging trek. It takes about 5-6 hours to reach Lake Holon, presenting a tougher route with the best views, including a stunning 360-degree panorama of the lake. If you choose this trail, remember to be at the tourism office before noon, as hiking through Kule isn’t allowed after lunch.

Note: Guides are mandatory for both trails and can be hired at the tourism office in T’boli.

Reaching the Gateway to Lake Holon

Your journey to Lake Holon begins in either Davao or Gensan. From Davao, take a van to Marbel, then another to T’boli. If you’re starting from Gensan, a direct van to T’boli is available. Once in T’boli, register at the tourism office and hop on a motorcycle (habal-habal) to the respective trail registration sites.

Things to do at Lake Holon

Nestled in the peaks of Mt. Melibingoy in T’boli, South Cotabato, Lake Holon is truly a gem. Often referred to as “The Crowned Jewel Of The South,” it offers a paradise-like experience with its calm mornings, quiet starry nights, and peaceful azure waters surrounded by vast greenery.

The warmth and hospitality of the T’boli people add to the lake’s charm, making it a unique destination.

Engaging in Lake Holon’s Adventures

Trekking and Camping

Lake Holon, one of Mindanao’s hidden gems, offers exhilarating trekking experiences. There are two trails to choose from: Salacafe and Kule. Salacafe is a 3-4 hour trek suited for those seeking a less challenging path, while Kule, taking about 5-6 hours, offers a more rigorous adventure.

Camping at the Base of Lake Holon
Camping at the Base of Lake Holon

The trek involves navigating through tall grasses, corn fields, and lush forests, providing a delightful experience for intermediate trekkers.

Swimming and Kayaking

One of the lake’s highlights is its clear blue waters, perfect for swimming. Several spots, like the water outlet, are ideal for a refreshing swim in the lake’s tranquil waters. The clarity and purity of Lake Holon’s water offer a stark contrast to other volcanic lakes, making it safe and inviting for swimming.

Lake Dive at Lake Holon
Lake Dive at Lake Holon

Cultural Immersion in T’boli Villages

Visiting the T’boli villages near Lake Holon is a cultural treat. The Ehek Lemsnolon Community Group in the village of Lemsnolon showcases traditional hand-loom weaving and beaded jewelry.

Visitors can also experience indigenous dance and music, enjoying performances by villagers in traditional attire, and dancing to the beat of t’nonggong and kulintang.

The town of T’boli, although less recognized than Lake Sebu for its cultural significance, offers an authentic and less touristy experience of the T’boli culture.


While specific information on birdwatching at Lake Holon, including the sighting of the Philippine eagle, wasn’t readily available, the lush forests and diverse ecosystems around the lake suggest promising opportunities for bird enthusiasts.

The area’s protected status ensures a thriving habitat for various bird species.

Preserving Nature’s Masterpiece

Lake Holon is not just a place for adventure but also a nature sanctuary. As a protected area, visitors are encouraged to respect the environment by leaving no trace and taking only memories.

The commitment of the local community, especially the T’bolis, to preserving this natural wonder is admirable and serves as an inspiration for all who visit.

Your Essential Guide to Planning a Trip to Lake Holon

Booking Your Adventure to Lake Holon

Embarking on a journey to Lake Holon requires some planning. Firstly, you need to register in advance due to the visitor limit of 200 people per day. This step is crucial to preserve the lake’s natural beauty and ecosystem.

Choosing Your Trail

Lake Holon is accessible via two trails: Salacafe and Kule. Salacafe is the easier route, taking about 3-4 hours to reach the lake, while Kule is more challenging, requiring approximately 5-6 hours. Depending on your hiking experience and fitness level, choose the trail that suits you best.

Guide and Porter Services

For a smoother trek, hiring a local guide is advisable. If you’re a solo traveler, consider joining other groups to share the guide fees. Also, if you prefer not to carry your gear, hiring a porter is a convenient option. Remember, the Kule Trail can be particularly challenging, so assess your physical fitness accordingly.

Camping by the Lake

Lake Holon offers a unique camping experience. There are no commercial accommodations at the lake, only a campsite where you can pitch a tent. Facilities are basic, with small bathrooms and toilets.

It’s an opportunity to connect with nature, away from the hustle of modern life. However, do manage your expectations and be prepared for a rustic experience.

Essential Gear and Rentals

If you don’t have camping gear, you can rent tents and other equipment at the tourism office. It’s vital to bring your food, water, cookware, and other essentials. Although drinking water is available at the campsite, it’s best to come prepared. Also, pack a jacket as nights can get quite chilly by the lake.

Staying in T’boli: Comfort After the Trek

After your adventure, consider staying at Sars Paradise Resort in T’boli Poblacion, known for being a base camp for trips to Lake Holon. The resort offers rooms, a swimming pool, and a function hall, providing comfort after your trekking experience.

Budgeting for Your Trip

An overnight trip to Lake Holon, including the trek, camping, and basic amenities, would cost around P2500-3000 per person. This estimate includes entrance and environment fees, campsite ground rental, transportation, guide and porter fees, and tent rental if needed.

Tips for a Successful Trip

  • Start Early: Start your trek early to avoid the midday heat and to have more time to enjoy the lake.
  • Pack Light, Pack Smart: Bring essentials but try to pack as light as possible. A dry bag is recommended to keep your items safe during unexpected rain.
  • Leave No Trace: Practice LNT principles. Collect and take your trash back with you. A refundable garbage fee is collected at the tourism office.
  • Expect the Unexpected: Weather can be unpredictable, so be prepared for rain or cold nights.

Lake Holon isn’t just a destination; it’s an experience that combines adventure, natural beauty, and a touch of raw wilderness.

Whether you’re a seasoned trekker or a casual hiker seeking a unique adventure, Lake Holon offers an experience that resonates with every traveler’s soul. Remember, it’s not just about reaching the destination; it’s about embracing the journey!


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