The CCC Expedition required me to stay for a whole month in the base camp located in one of the most diverse coast along Sogod Bay. Napantao is one of the 22 barangays of San Francisco, a lowly coastal town in Southern Leyte. Remote and unheard of, out of the tourism radar even for diving.
My stay was brief but long enough to observe and experience the diverse marine life on its front waters. It was however, for my eyes only since photo shoots were not allowed or never part during the training and survey dives. In some way, it was a good opportunity to focus on the existing marine life in the surrounding reefs. Actually, a volunteer should be mindful and must stay focused, accuracy is necessary. In many instances, I was too engrossed on the lessons and actual exams underwater and so unconsciously ignored species in one way or another. Like, if the agenda was Invertebrates & Impacts I will easily ignore the fishes and other marine life; or if our aim was for the Substrates, my eyes will search for the corals, sponges, rocks, mud, so on. My eyes were out for the day’s mission – no more, no less.
Yet, I could not undermine the richness of the surrounding waters which has been my training ground and the scenery at the end of each day. I caught glimpse of them every time after our second dive for the day. If we have more time, we swam back slowly over the reefs, wiggled among the big boulders and watch the colorful corals and variety of fishes. The surgeons, a group of damsels over there, a pair of trumpet fish darting from behind, brown and yellow box fish, a swarm of blue fusiliers and the different chromis in colors. Then I encountered a giant hump head wrasse, it was unbelievably huge, it was roaming around perhaps looking for prey. I was just watching at a distance, it’s unethical to go near and disturb them. Indeed, one should have a tremendous respect even for the marine animals. Those giant spadefish that swam coyly every exit or approach in the channel, reminding me to relax and to take easy on a daily basis.
One morning, we woke up wondering that a luxury boat anchored in the front waters, only to find out it was a dive cruise spending whole day for the dives. And regularly, dive boats from Padre Burgos cruised to Napantao for diving bringing their guests, which for me brought home that surrounding waters is tremendously rich with marine life.
I will always think and believe that this coastal barangay is a legendary dive site and marine habitat. The soft waves riveting the blue waters and the golden hues of sunset at the end of each day were great reminders of God’s wondrous works. And there was much beyond the surface, the fish sanctuary and surrounding reef were filled with colorful marine life keeping in balance its marine ecosystem and sustaining the valuable resources of its community.
My dives during the CCC expedition led me to surprising encounters with marine critters, especially that their field base is nestled within Sogod Bay which is just one of the richest marine environment in the Philippines. We were having our second survey dive of the day doing outward for the fish survey, it was in pretty normal conditions, no current and animals were contentedly calm. I was scouring my side for the target species and unexpectedly this large shell came into view, I tried to come near but getting conscious that invertebrates was not our aim for the descent, time is always precious during survey dives! But the sighting was too rare to ignore, I tried to get Manon’s (our Project Scientist) attention – she was too absorbed as she was leading our mission. I pointed it out and she was surprised too! The intricate pattern of the its shell was just beautiful. We both came nearer and she signaled to record the sighting. That was my first encounter of a giant Triton in its habitat surrounded with other animals and I was wondering of its contribution to the marine ecosystem.
This invertebrate is an active predator and is known to aggressively chase its prey, which it detects through its excellent sense of smell.
The giant Triton is known for relatively high speeds, especially for a snail.
They feed on other snails and sea stars, most notably the crown of thorns starfish (COTS), Triton isthe only natural predators of this destructive starfish.
The specie was considered extremely important to reef health and is given legal protection particularly in Australia.
The giant Triton reproduces through internal fertilization, and the female lays her sticky eggs on the sand, where they quickly become covered with sand and other material, protecting them from potential predators.
Unfortunately, because of its valuable and attractive shell it is collected at many places around the world, they are often sold in shops or markets in popular tourism destinations in the tropics such here in Philippines. Gladly, that night during dinner as we were discussing the day’s activities, the giant Triton was nominated as critter of the day and was voted by majority!
NB. The giant Triton was sighted in Nueva Estrella Norte, a fishing community in Pintuyan, Southern Leyte where a marine protected area (MPA) was just established.
Coral Cay Conservation is an internationally renowned and accredited conservation specialist dedicated to providing the resources to help protect coral reefs and tropical rainforests throughout the developing world.
Since 1986 CCC have run over 20 successful conservation projects in more than 10 different countries around the world involving more than 10,000 volunteers, training several hundred scholars and publishing more than 300 key scientific research papers.
Across the world, CCC have had several internationally notable accomplishments such as the introduction of several Marine Protected Areas including the creation of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Belize; The Danjugan Marine Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary for Negros, Philippines in 2000; The Limasawa Community Managed Marine Protected Area for Southern Leyte, Philippines in 2008.
Marine conservation and protection is undoubtedly becomes a passion for many, everyone is becoming conscious of the environment and for people who loves the ocean, always believe that it needs necessary care not only for the present but more importantly for the future generation. Inside me, I felt and thought that my effort for these issues was only a minuscule of what was necessary of the vast waters around us. The seventy percent water that comprises the Earth is unimaginable and sustaining this important resource from all forms of risks including global climate change is very challenging and gargantuan for that matter. The Earth is in dire need right now of human intervention.
It was in September 2017 that I stumbled from the internet after curiously searching on marine volunteer works, about Coral Cay Conservation (CCC) based in London, UK with a field base in San Francisco, Southern Leyte. So, I carefully browse the information from their website believing that their target participants were foreign nationals only, consequently inquired if they accept local residents for the programme. The reply was good news, scholarships are offered to local residents with matching screening and qualified divers were very welcome. The rest was history. I was accepted as a CCC Expedition scholar in October 2017!
It was only in November 2018 that I finally traveled to Southern Leyte for my engagement, the year was filled with challenging tasks and I was only available in the last few weeks of the year. Such a long wait, yet the excitement was coupled with apprehension as I would be working with total strangers in an obscure remote town I was not familiar with. I chose the long trip by land which was an adventure by itself, cruising to Visayas through Lipata and San Ricardo route was one of the routes I was searching on and wanted to do, long before.
I found it an advantage choosing the last batch team for the year, it was lean period and so it wasn’t crowded. The pace was fitting for me as I need to absorb the lessons deeply, the follow-up exams were not easy, both underwater and on computer. The lessons were to prepare the volunteers for the survey works, identifying the substrates, invertebrates and target fish species correctly so that only accurate data were provided for the study in establishment of marine protected area. The community were involved also and participated in gathering data and raising awareness for marine conservation understanding.
The four-week stay in Barangay Napantao was full – household chores, lessons, exams, dives – Sundays however, serves as off-gassing day as a rule. Our meals were venues for stories, accusations, confessions, jokes, or the critter for the day’s dive nomination, and laughter… 🙂 Seriously, it was hard work and definitely not for the faint-hearted, diving have standards and protocols, whether boat or shore dives. I gained thirty five (35) dives during the expedition including one night shore dive at the house reef, again I would say it was hard work. Yet, I was grateful I was given the chance to work for a cause for the marine world. Perhaps my contribution was too trivial, yet I learned so much more about marine life and environment, most importantly gained scientific skills. The encounters were memorable and truly enriching. Indeed, we can only protect what we love. Obviously, the CCC team and other volunteers made my stint possible and a rewarding one.
The bruises, stings, scratches and scars I got during the expedition will soon disappear and forgotten but the memories and gained insights will surely linger on. Surely, we can only have good intentions for what we love and for what we need to protect. It was a once in a lifetime experience and I am one proud CCC scholar!
NB.Photo credits to Mr. Gareth Turner, Field Base Manager during the period. The expedition base is located in Napantao, San Francisco, Southern Leyte within Sogod Bay.
For some time since I was hooked in the blue world, exploring a wreck has been a major highlight in my dive trips. Just as I love history, wrecks are akin to museums holding important artifacts, stories and information. What is more interesting is it is out there in the depths in silence, barely visited and untouched by human hands.
I believe there are places meant for another visit, those kinds that you will never get tired coming over and over again. For me, Coron lured my inner senses more that its pieces of paradise on the surface – but the secrets in its depths! We explored almost all of the wrecks in Coron Bay, yet there are still reasons to be back in Calamianes. So, last October I took leave from work, booked tickets, packed my gears and head to Busuanga undaunted of the coming typhoon. Leaving office earlier than usual, taking things slow, having booked for the late night flight. I was alone in the shuttle heading for the airport, which I found comforting as I watch the night scenery on the road to Laguindingan silently. Even at past 10PM, the terminal was still teeming with people.
Welcome to Busuanga
I had a long wait for my flight the next morning, the cheery weather welcomed me as the Dornier taxied on the airstrip amidst the greeneries of the Yulo King ranch. But I had another long wait though for Angel whose flight was in mid-day. Unlike our previous trips, we headed for Brgy Decalachao which is about seven kilometers away, the northern part of the town. Our hosts in The Riverhouse welcomed us warmly, Mr. H’s reception trick was kind of ceremonial and perfectly gave us warm smiles as we step on watching the grand view form the terrace! 🙂
The remaining hours was for some good rest to compensate for my sleepless night, our large comfortable cottage was just perfect then. Our sumptuous dinner was even more to our liking. So, it was sleep and eat kind of relaxing for the rest of the day, such indulge. I felt spoiled in some way. The Riverhouse was a perfect refuge in our get-away. I might add that the lavish environs engulfed me – mangroves, river view, mountain view over the wide horizon, lush vegetations and peaceful silence. The stillness of the night peppered with cicadas singing, more beautiful and relaxing than the booming videoke in the downtown area. 🙂
Pure, Idyllic and World Away
The next morning was cloudy but not a deterrent for our exploring the quiet and laid-back side of Busuanga. Wrecks always thrilled me and I was hoping for discoveries again as I always expected. The port was just down the house garden over the steep pathway, our small boat was already waiting for us when we got there. We had a river cruise over the vast mangroves, the tranquil scenery was a good start as I remembered my childhood days in the Agusan River back home. Towards the river end to the open sea was the immaculate dive boat of Dugong Dive Center docked near a coastal community, we transferred, met our DM and finally headed for the bay. The other side of Luzon was greatly disturbed by a typhoon but our location was perfectly calm, the waters flat and mild breeze blowing.
The only wreck in the area lies near an uninhabited Dimalanta Islet at the north coast of Busuanga, Kyokusan Maru which is a 136 meters cargo ship of the Japanese imperial army was like the others, it sunk in September 1944 now lying more than 70 years underwater. Other ships anchored in the area was believed to have remained afloat and managed to escape the raid of US troops. This wreck was sunk on the north side of Busuanga Island and, because of its distance to the other wrecks the Coron dive operations don’t make this trip very often. The wreck lists about 10° to starboard and has a compass bearing of 160°.
Our first descent was at port of the wreck, going down to the mast at 16 meters now fully covered with corals, over the deck area and to cargo room. I barely noticed the fish life except for the giant bat fish that tried to get near us. You can still see the remains of trucks and cars in the cargo holds. The wreck is still almost intact and quite easy to penetrate. We found the fossilized truck, its chassis, and tires; we inspected also the machine gun platform fossilized and full decorated with corals. We went our deepest at 31.6 meters lingering over the deck area covered with corals. I have always loved the mystery and the stories behind this piece of history. Although I still wanted to linger, my 43 minutes was good enough considering the depth, I signaled for surface when my NDL went down to 2 minutes!
Our surface interval was spent for our light lunch and hearing the stories of our DM. It was a relaxing break embracing the stillness of the surroundings.
Our last descent was still at Kyokusan Maru exploring its bow end, as suggested by our DM taking advantage of the flat waters, going to another site could be with choppy conditions. They always recommend at least two dives in this wreck to cover at least major attractions, it depth can never allow longer bottom time. Going down again to the mast and went inside a hole in the right wall into some dark chambers. We lingered over the bow area all covered and fossilized with corals, some bivalves quickly snapped close as we passed. We sighted few nudis, puffers, chromis, damsels, anthias, crinoids and feather stars. We lingered until my NDL was down to 1 minute! I had forty minutes at 31.6 meters as deepest. 🙂 The two dives had been another discovery and learning opportunity, again it was a mind blowing experience.
We had our river cruise again when we got back to our house.
Diving on a WWII wreck helps us connect to our heritage and gain insight into our past. When our favorite diving environments host a piece of history, it’s our duty as a scuba diver to honor this gift. It is fortunate that in the country’s depths lies and had share of WW II wrecks, not all sites held such piece of history. Our affair in Coron has not ended, other wrecks lie farther (like at Black Island) and it is a reason to be back again.
Transport to the north is rare and expensive, public utilities from Coron have specific schedule which likely are filled from the town
Decalachao Port is for boats heading to Club Paradise in Dimakya Island and El Rio y Mar in San Jose – two exclusive resorts in the area.
There are two available dive shops in the area – Dugong Dive Center and Club Paradise.
Whale shark is one of my favorite specie, humongous but never harmful it is aptly called as the gentle giants. The chance of an encounter is too rare as they are deep dwellers unless you visit specific identified sites as their stations. Most importantly, the season of their occurrence must be considered. Donsol in Sorsogon is one, and it took me almost four years to push my plan, the desire was too great to ignore.
Snorkeling for me is so calming, floating on the waters and watching down the marine life vividly with my mask without holding my breath. No rushing, as I float up vertically or horizontally. Generally, I found snorkeling to be relaxing, no known pressure – just enjoy the water, the marine life, and the view!
Jump, Fin, Look Down!
After a day of wonderful dives in Legazpi, I was still in high spirits for another water adventure the next day. Angel joined me in this tryst again, the drive was smooth but we arrived past 7am already at the Tourism Center. It was fortunate, Pacific Blue referred me to a Butanding Interaction Officer (BIO) and I believe he was a good find.
It was already past 10am, when our boat left for the search and I wondered what took us long. We were joined with four foreign nationals – three gals and a guy – we were a bunch! 😛 I guess the Tourism Office joined us with good swimmers, as we signed up as diver & swimmer, so the long wait! We head for the open sea and indeed, there were many boats already when we got there. All boats roaming the area, some people floating on the waters. I was thinking if the whalesharks would ever appear with all those turbulence!
We keep roaming for over an hour and everybody got bored already, until our spotter signaled and our BIO motioned to prepare. The instruction was if he shouts Rock n Roll!, we must all jump to the water with the boat still moving! Fine, but my concern was, what if I get to the machine propeller as I swim! We all lined up sitting side-by-side at the bow preparing for the jump and adventure. Well, we had four jumps during the three-hour search!
The first sighting was ecstatic – at first I swam so fast when the BIO told us to look down, there it was – a humongous fish moving in grace. Directly over it about five meters, I swam and followed her until it disappeared. It was amazing! Everybody was thrilled.
The second one was real big, about 10 meters. Swam directly over her in whole stretch, it was another fining vigorously fast. It wasn’t long when it outdone my race, but I watch it again with pure admiration. The BIO called her “Kulot” due to its curly dorsal fin.
Next was a smaller one, at first I had her side view and saw her opening her wide mouth! Then swam with it again viewing it in full stretch.
The last butanding sighting was another big one, it appeared just fifteen minutes before the boat left the area. It swam fast when we caught glimpse of her, then swam quickly in opposite direction to see her in full, swimming with grace
Indeed, snorkeling with the butandings requires agility and endurance and some sort of reckless abandon. When I did my jumps, I forgot about safety and finned with all my strength to swim fast not knowing the exact direction! Finding the butanding and watching its splendor, I wanted to stop and just gaze in amazement and absorb its beauty. Just like what we did in Tubbataha. But it wasn’t like that, I need to fin more to accompany and synchronize its moves, so as not to lose the butanding quickly. The momentum evokes energy and strength for the rigors in swimming with the gentle giants. It was worth it, it was really worth it!
Notes: It was in March 1998 that Donsol became world-class tourist destination and now known as the “Whale Shark Capital of the World”. Interaction with the whale sharks is regulated by the local Department of Tourism (DOT) office. WWF guidelines are generally observed to protect the sharks. Rules include limiting the number of swimmers per boat to six, no scuba divers and staying further than three meters from the sharks.
Swimming with whale sharks, locally known as “Butanding”, was featured as the Best Animal Encounter in Asia by Time Magazine in 2004. Whale sharks can be seen between November and June, with presence peaking between February and May.
NB. Sorry my uw cam was totally useless, swimming too fast I can’t get a chance for a snap! The above whale sharks were sighted in Talisayan, Misamis Oriental during our dive lessons in May 2007, courtesy of MADRI.
Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you. ~Frank Lloyd Wright~
Moalboal is one of my favorite dive destinations, despite the disappearance of the phenomenal sardines run in our last visit more than two years ago I have promised myself to be back once more with my dive buddy. The itch was pestering me again since last year especially with the comeback of its marine life phenomena, the anticipation of the return was consuming! The plan involved not just the perks in Moalboal but also the charms of Osmena Peak and the anticipated return to Kawasan Falls after five years. It was another package of adventure – from the heights to the depths! The long weekend in June was all perfect, I just needed a break from work pressures.
Dalaguete for Osmena Peak
We sped off for Moalboal after a quick stopover at the diveshop in downtown Cebu for Angel’s reserved gear. We were just in time as the van was almost leaving as we got to the terminal, summer’s end gave us a cherry warm welcome in the queen city of the south. The trip was long but the sceneries along the way were enough to absorb my attention. I never get tired passing these southern towns – the old churches, old squares and those big old acacias lining the road! It was first things first – drop off gears at our lodge and see our DM for our Sunday dives. Our friends in our favorite backpacker lodge were there to welcome us, and meeting the new Manager of our favorite dive shop was just heart-warming for the comeback.
We passed by towns of Badian, Malabuyoc, Ginatilan, Samboan and changed bus at Bato to proceed to Santander, Oslob, Boljoon, Alcoy and finally Dalaguete – it was dark already. We walked and asked around for our lodge and we were accordingly accommodated. The simple room at Pink House was comfortable enough for an eight-hour overnight, sufficient for a good night’s rest to brace us for the next day’s quest.
Certified organic cabbage – insect holes visible
What a view!
The jagged hilltops on the right side
The next early morning, in a street corner across the old town hall, we found a helpful Manong who carried us with his motorbike to the foot of the peak in Mantalongon. The communities we passed by were already in motion for their daily bustle. The cool morning breeze and the rural scenery was a great start for the climb. We passed by school children on their way, the vegetable farms & backyard gardens and the bagsakan center, where there were ongoing packaging of produce , hauling and the usual trading that accompany with it. It was all green and refreshing.
On top of Cebu! A father and daughter scene. Love the cottony clouds!
On top on one of rocks formation…
Serene morning on top of the mountain…
It took only about twenty minutes to climb the peak, but our guide misunderstood us and after walking for thirty minutes wondering where the jagged peaks are – we walked back for the summit which was just behind us. There were climbers already when we looked up, the climb was not arduous but enough to pump more oxygen for the heart! Indeed, the view on top was breathtaking – 360 degrees view of green jagged hilltops, the vast ocean decorated with Badian Island yonder and the blue endless skies!
But again, the litters along the trails and on the peak itself were purely disgusting. I picked up a large plastic bag and gathered up all the trash inside. A sad reality – the influx of tourists is always accompanied by unsightly trash. It was an opportunity for a clean-up climb/trek for us.
Badian for Kawasan Falls
Bukal Springs – the first layer of the falls
The second layer of Falls where we soaked-up ourselves and had our lunch
Small falls perfect for massage!
Charming in a different way
Just refreshing! After trekking the trails through the ranges in southern Cebu and traversing the hills in search of Kawasan Falls, the longing for that cool and fresh water was our inspiration to walk past down the winding roads. On the way, we picked up trashes and had a large bagful of litters. After four hours and walking sixteen kilometers, we reached Bukal Springs, the first layer of the falls. After five years we were back reaching in a different entrance and perspective, accompanied with new discoveries.
We walked further the trails and had the needed stop in a hut – it was past 12 noon already and we were famished. Believing it was the resort we visited last time, we were surprised of the changes in the spot – well, it’s been five years!
We spend some time on the raft under the falls – soaking ourselves to our heart’s content. It was truly refreshing! Still wondering for the changes of the area, we ended our dip to continue the trails down the highway. But to our surprise, the front layer of the falls was all down there in its splendor! There were more people and guests, and the structures were exactly the same we had five years ago. It’s the same Kawasan we knew – the massive falls, the foliage around the cliffs and the wide pool of aquamarine waters beyond the gushing falls! We lingered for few minutes trying to absorb the marvel of nature’s wonder.
One sheer discovery – Kawasan Falls has three layers, each with different charm and spectacle!
Moalboal for the Phenomenon
The next morning we promptly rushed to Cebu Dive Centre at 8:00am earlier than the appointed time, Cameron – a Briton, the new shop manager deals client seriously but friendly – the professionalism I am expecting from PADI shops. Although we were earlier hinting for Pescador Island for the sardines, he simply dismissed that the run have transferred at the house reef which is easily accessible by shore entry. Cameron, arranged three descents for the day that includes Pescador!
We cruised shortly north east of the island, the site is notoriously rough so it is necessary to be early. I was silently thrilled after the short briefing from Danny, knowing that we will penetrate the cathedral – cavern diving again! Indeed, the water was choppy already when we got there. I was last for the entry and Yoyo’s assistance was just needed, the current surface was already strong. Pescador is simply amazing, noted for its mushroom-like formation it held many surprises and its rough surrounding waters added appeal for divers.
The hole as the left eye (facing us)
This is the right eye
We exited in this hole
Indeed, we feasted down under and completely fascinated by array of rare sightings in the depths. We entered the cavern in one hole and had a magnificent view of the cathedral’s holes – while inside in a distance, the lights outside illuminated a human skull. Two eyes, nose and mouth – in an abstract scene, only the focus minded will see. It was like coming face to face with a giant monster underwater. It was rare sight not to be missed! We exited in one of the hole resembling its right eye. There was moray eel, electric clams, banded pipefish, ornate ghost pipefish, puffer and yellow frogfish! We lingered for the rare yellow froggy hoping it would yawn, but it didn’t. There were juvenile tropical fishes, anthias hovering over corals and variety of hard and soft corals. We ascend after 53 minutes with my air at 70 bars.
We escaped the raging waters in Pescador and had our second descent at Visaya Reef. Again, we were not disappointed – we silently roam the slope combing the corals. We sighted cleaner shrimp, trumpet fish, some nudis, puffer, scorpion fish, and the rare emperor shrimp and pygmy seahorse! We swam more and found a resting turtle with a remora, I have to tug Angel’s weight belt to get his attention. It is his favorite specie! Well, he approached and ended chasing it again for photos. We ascend after 51 minutes, my air still at 100 bars. We cruised back for the diveshop, our lunch served as our surface interval.
Nature has its own works, the transfer of the sardines was one. More than two years ago I was perturbed that it was gone and was silently hoping it would be back in its own right time. Now, this phenomenon graced the shallow waters of Bas Diot just near the shores. I agree with Danny and Yoyo that the sardines are safer in their new abode, the shores are patrolled and nobody could fish them. They could freely swim without fear of predators. Larger fishes would rarely come ashore!
Donning my gears on water, we readied for our last descent to experience once more the phenomenon. Not far, we were at 15 meters and as we looked up, the large herd darkened above us, probably just five meters from the surface. We swam getting a good view and the whole stretch was literally decorated with the fishes grouped together – probably millions! It was such a rare sighting. We literally got the whole stretch covered, immersed in the afternoon waters swimming coyly, feeling the serenity of the waters. I belong with the marine life, as if I was one with them in spirit. There were at least eight sightings of turtles randomly darting in our view adding more splendor to the scene.
Millions of them together!
One disturbance and they scatter only to be back again
The sardines run is like a mighty storm!
Angel was just nearby, it was necessary as I don’t have dive computer and we both agreed not to get lost. Unexpectedly, he held my hand and looked in my eyes. As if saying, “It’s beautiful, do you like it?” I looked back and gripped his hand affirming, wanting to smile but can’t. We both love the sardines run, how can anyone ignore the exquisiteness of creation? How can anyone disregard the treasures in marine life? We swam back to shores after 50 minutes still enthralled of the sardines and turtles.
We capped the day having sumptuous dinner at Marina – a sister resto of La Tegola Cuccina Italiana back home, one of our favorite in town!
Climb, Trek, Swim Adventure
For sure, there’s more in southern Cebu – dive sites in Badian and Oslob; beaches in Dalaguete and Alcoy; old churches, museum, town halls; and pristine white islands. But again, it was about seizing moments and doing what one love most. I adore the mountains and my incessant passion for the depths is unrelenting. The three-day trip was a perfect climb, trek and swim quest rolled in one – coupled with new learning and discoveries. Yet when we head home, we agreed for another return. It’s pure madness I guess – a kind of madness that keep my sanity because it is with nature that I find my equilibrium!
NB. Underwater photos courtesy of Angel using Lumix TS2 with Ikelite casing
My quests in the blue world were not without challenges, some phenomenal but mostly intriguing. Summing it up I enjoyed every bit of these experiences, always coming home with renewed spirit and increasing admiration and love for the depths. It meant traveling far, passing a night at the airport, spending fortune, neglecting comforts, entrusting my life to strangers and extending limits of my self-imposed modesty. Sometimes it was surprising I have gone that far. The scale of challenges is increasing. Yes, I have gone that far.
My search around the country is still on-going and few of them stand out for their mystic and charm, like sucking senses and left a diver fazed in wonder. Here are few sites that captured my heart and curiosity, it felt like I can’t get enough from my descent on its depths.
Pescador Island, Moalboal This lowly island held surprising secrets, the phenomenal sardine’s run will stir your curiosity how these millions of small fish come together and synchronize for a tornado. It is so tempting to come and be amongst in their assembly and get lost in their midst!
The Canyons, Puerto Galera
Swept off by the current!
Hole in the Wall!
Rich in marine life…
Dropping at Escarceo Point, drifting fast with the currents passing field of colorful acropora corals, and race over several drop-offs to reach the Hole in the Wall. Steadying for the entrance, I was completely surprised as I was sucked in the hole in a split second! There, the Canyons teeming with marine life.
Akitsushima Maru, Coron
There is that rush what’s beyond!
A cannon ball hole?
Who’s afraid of the dark?
All the World War II wrecks concentrated in Coron Bay gave me that rush for the penetration but Akitsushima is different. She is simply beautiful, one of the few true warships among the wrecks. We penetrated chambers, crevices, holes and square openings. Mysterious and truly engaging, the dark and its secrets and historic value held so much attraction to me. Its externals is teeming with fish life, remnants like broken crane, canon ball hole, artillery and funnel. It is an advance dive due to depth and currents.
Monad Shoal, Malapascua
Watching a flock of quirky thresher sharks swimming before me on early morning was one of my unforgettable underwater experience, I almost cried in amazement! I can sit at the viewing edge and watch them until they are gone. Threshers are deep inhabitants but a herd always gathers every morning at the shoal to be cleaned from parasites and algae on their bodies by wrasses, more of a symbiotic relationship as these wrasses were fed from the sharks. Monad offer guaranteed sightings everyday on early mornings!
Banaug Shoal, Mantangale
Denise pygmy in corals!
Resident scorpion fish
The shoal is about 22 meters depth from the surface but this underwater hill can never be outdone in terms of diversity in marine life. The swarm of damsels, red snappers, angels, sergeants, wrasses amidst hard corals and tangling soft corals, it is always as colorful as it was. Moray eel, stone fish, leaf fish, lion fish, nudis, sea stars are just few that inhabit the small hill. It is always tempting to go deeper to explore what’s beyond. This may not be in the diving map but its richness can be at par with exotic dive destinations.
Have you tried diving from any of these sites? I’m still in search for sites and I know I will never exhaust them in my lifetime. There is yet a lot of secrets to unravel right here in my home country.
NB. All photos courtesy of Angel using Tough 8000 with PT 045 casing