Whenever one is asked what is there that General Santos City has to offer for travelers seeking adventure, the first to instinctively come to the mind is the fishport.
After all, this city did not get its moniker as the Tuna Capital of the country for nothing.
Largely located in a humid plain that is exacerbated by the heavy hot sea breeze, the first thing that comes to the mind of a visitor is to hie off to faraway beaches or mountain resorts.
Or beating the afternoon heat with a visit to the mall.
But are there no other places to cool off without going out of the city?
Go look for mountaineers and trail seekers and they will tell you that in less than an hour you can cool off you heels and get some chills without somebody ripping off your pockets and wallets.
Up Sanchez Peak or Leyson Hill Park, one can enjoy afternoon breezes like they should be and have a panoramic view of the city’s skyline when dusk envelopes the horizon and the city lights begin to flicker.
Group junkies and outdoor geeks can camp overnight where the temperature drops to 12-19 degrees Celsius.
If one is a professional photographer, these twin sites are excellent for pre-nuptial and concept photo sessions. On a clear night, one can shoot the Milky Way using long exposures. Be sure to bring a tripod though. And always be ready to protect your equipment in case it rains.
Best time to be at the top of these hills is between 4pm and 7am when you can shoot the photographers’ golden and blue hour delights.
And the thrill will not cost one over P300 per head (to include food and other stuff).
Sanchez Peak is said to be the highest elevation in General Santos City rising up 800 meters above sea level (asl). It can be reached through two points by trail – through Balakayo in Conel or Balsinang in Olympog – or by utility motorcycle that reaches the top.
At the apex is a little house owned by Jun and Mising Sanchez who will gladly cook a free-range ‘native’ chicken for P250 and collect P20 for entrance and camping fee.
As there are not cottages to be billeted, an outdoor tent is a must for adventurers who wish to spend and enjoy the night.
Leyson Hill Park
Some 4 kilometers away atop Nopol Hills is Leyson Hill Park.
It is nearer the city and is slightly lower in elevation at 501 meters. But it offers a clearer and closer view of the city.
It is more accessible and can be negotiated by 4-wheel drive vehicles.
Unlike Sanchez Peak, Leyson Hill offers more than just camping at the top. With some forest covers still untouched, games abound the ravines with monkeys, wild boars and wild dogs hiding deep but away from sight of humans.
At dusk, however, huge fruit bats begin to appear in the skies for their nocturnal hunting.
Acoustic performances to cap a ‘KatKat Nopol’ weekend adventure are now occasionally being organized by Martin Leyson who manages the family-owned hill park.
Leyson Hill can be reached via Mabuhay Road. One can securely park his or her vehicle at the foot of the hill and trek or ride up the site. The distance from the foot to the peak can be negotiated in one and a half hour at a pace urban trekkers are likely to adopt.
Otherwise one can ride a motorcycle or, on occasions, an off-road jeep or 4-wheel drive pickups.
Both however charge P200 round trip per head.
Camping fee is P100 per head.
Mayor Ronnel Rivera said these accessible but largely untapped attractions can help the city find its own niche in the tourism market.
He has ordered the city environment and natural resources office to protect and preserve the areas.
“Not all urbanized cities have these kinds of attractions,” he said.
How to get there
There is no established protocol going to Sanchez Peak but the city government is encouraging trekkers to coordinate with local barangay where the adventurers commence their trail.
The city government recently held a meeting to address concerns over litters and trashes left behind by mountaineers and trekkers.
To get to Leyson Hill Park, parties can call 09088103747 for bookings or through Facebook Account @Katkat Nopol. They also accept reservation at JGG ticketing office corner Champaca and Kadulasan Sts.