It was as a quick decision to have weekend dives in Mantigue Island and I was grateful for my mentor who is always there to cater to my requests, it was too easy for him as they opened an outlet in Camiguin Island. As my trips to the island were always with companions – with friends, family or even with work mates, this time I went alone for my much needed dives. The desire was just too great to ignore, I want to explore more and meet again remarkable creatures in the island’s depths.
Arriving Balingoan port before 6am, there was a long queue already for the 2nd trip ferry – a scene like Holy Week when all people flock to the island. But it is still summer, so it’s not unusual that many people will cruise for the official summer destination in Northern Mindanao. My DM with instructions from my mentor was picking me up at Benoni port so there wasn’t much to arrange but be on board on the earliest ferry available.
Revisiting Mantigue Island
Decades ago, this island seemed so remote and in the late eighties DA people recoil from the mere mention of this place. We lost lives during a project visitation with no less than the head of the regional office, it was a traumatic incident not only for those who witnessed the tragedy but also for the whole Department. The story is now hidden in the past, just recently the island has been developed and now a nature park of LGU Mahinog – which is a commendable undertaking of the local government.
Our first descent was a shore entry on the sanctuary going west, the shallows were covered with sea grasses until we went deeper on a sandy slope. The reef was covered with soft and hard corals, invertebrates and had an active fish life. Big snappers, anthias, herd of oriental sweetlips, clown fishes, damsels, angels and Moorish idols. The big frogfish was a real big bonus! After 56 minutes we wade back into the shallows fro our interval, having 29.3 m as my deepest.
We wade back again for our next descent going east of the sanctuary, the site is indeed blessed with marine life – nemos, sea stars, anemones and corals even on the shallows. The reef was decorated with sea fans, crinoids, basket sponge, colored soft corals, sea cucumbers, variety of anemones, finger leather corals. I was hoping to encounter again the large school of jacks, but only few was in view and quickly went away. My DM caught sight of a turtle, we tried to follow her but shy away. We swam back into the shallows after 67 minutes having 28m as my deepest.
My last descent for the day was in Black Forest, so the small boat brought us to the other side of the island, at past 2pm the waters started to be choppy. It was a sandy slope alternately decorated with hard and soft corals with variety of fish species around – boxfish, puffer, anthias, angels again, snappers, sand perch, goatfish. I lingered for few minutes on wide coral area with colored fishes hovering on top – lovely sight! My dive computer gave me flashing signals, I got erratic profile and have to maintain my depth for awhile. We swam until we got back to the sanctuary and ascend after 61 minutes having 26.2m as my deepest.
Camiguin on the Surface
One thing I love with this island is that it has still maintained its laid-back atmosphere and the locals are always friendly. It’s good to be alone as I got to discover new things, now I know that it’s not expensive to get around as tricycles can be your mode of transportation in going down town. The next morning from the diveshop in Catohugan, Mahinog I went to Mambajao for two rides which only costs P 20.00. From the church after attending mass, I walked around to look for a Vjandep outlet (for the famous pastel) near the market. I walked again under the noon sun and asked around where to get a tricycle back, I was told to turn the next corner and the terminal was just under the big old acacia tree! Far cry from previous trips where I was with groups, we need to hire transportation which was some kind of expensive or if work-related, we would request from our local counterpart.
That same old charm I love in Camiguin is still there, it’s one of those local destinations that never ceased to fascinate me. And now with easy access for my dive quest, I sure will be back again. There are more sights to discover in the depths!