Part of the 819-hectare Fuyot Springs National Park, bordering the town of Tumauini, Ilagan Sanctuary is a nature park located in the foothills of the Sierra Madre mountain range in Barangay Santa Victoria, Ilagan City in the province of Isabela. This accessible reserve makes for a quick nature escape, if you happen to pass by Ilagan City on a roadtrip to or from Tuguegarao, for example. Among the natural attractions are limestone caves, waterfall hikes, and viewing endemic and exotic animals both captive and wild. This area is included in the buffer zone of the Palanan Wilderness Area, or Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park, hence, there’s a good chance for you to spot unique birds and animals along the trails, especially if there are only a few visitors and you hike quietly in the forest. For those looking for resort-style amenities, the nature park also has swimming pools, ATV rides, and a 350-meter long zipline. However, I think the natural attractions were more worth the visit!
Besides going on open hiking trails, one can also visit a number of caves within the wildlife sanctuary. There more than 12 limestone caves that comprise the Santa Victoria Caves, with only three of them currently open to visitors: Main Cave, Altar Cave and Adventure Cave. The dry, walk-through caverns are very easy to explore. You can even bring children along. They are known for their unusual rock formations and sparkling rocks. Believed to have been occupied by the nomadic Agta or Dumagat people in the past, they are also of archaeological significance.
HOW TO GET THERE:
WHERE TO STAY
Budget accommodations are available at the city center or centro of Ilagan. I stayed at no-frills and slightly rundown D’ Infinity Hotel at 24-A Paguirigan St, near the Mormon church. Rooms start at PHP 500. Tel. no. +63 78 622 3848. There are more options for accommodation in the bigger cities of Cauayan and Santiago. Find discounted rooms in these cities here.