Everyone is slowly, with caution and being very measured and very careful emerging out of their cocoons, now looking around and figuring out what they can do. I guess for travelers like me, there has been lot of plans especially for trips – places to visit or revisit and activities to do – all of which everyone is dying to savor once again. For me, I’ve been missing the trips and the randomness of being on the road.
Slowly, I’m preparing myself to get back into the groove, those that would lead to where and what I love – the depths! Also, I’ve been longing for those treks and being on top of heights. Few of my planned hustles in the next semester is now in order, and I can’t wait! 😊
Dive in Mantangale and Camiguin
I have been dying to be back in my element, it’s unbelievable that it’s been two years since my last dive. So for my quickie trip, my go-to abode for diving will always be Mantangale, Balingoan. And more than just for the dives, the place is perfect for other activities to unwind after a long week. One can sit quietly by the beach watching the horizons colored in perfect shades of blue, with the island born of fire at a distance!
Speaking of island, my favorite island of Camiguin is a haven for diving with thirty (30) dive sites all over, some of which are hard to beat. Aside from its natural wonders – falls, volcano, hot & cold spring, white beach, soda spring, so on – visit to the island is not complete without diving in its pristine reefs.
Busan Grande group has always been favorite get away, especially in those times when I just want for some quiet sojourn. A place where one can find comfort surrounded with blue and green waters while listening to crashing waves, yet secluded from great structures. Most importantly, its inhabitants are organized communities that are involved in protecting and preserving their invaluable resources. They perfectly understood that nobody would do it for them except themselves and its protection is their ultimate mission if not sustain this nature’s gift endowed for their livelihood. The coastal communities around the islands believed in their heart that natural resources are always worth the effort in its preservation and protection as legacy for the next generation.
Sohoton Grande Tours
SAVE Sohoton Org.
Mobile No. 0963 926 1426
Go Climb Once More
Just few days when I get back at work, my trekking group welcomed me with a trip plan and what a joy! So they were saying after 2ndQ hustles, we will go for a camping trip, They will make the necessary arrangements with friends in South Cotabato. The good thing is, I’ll tag along with them just leaving everything to their command.
Lake Holon trails just opened again for public after a lull during the pandemic, it was launched last March 12 spearheaded by Tboli Tourism Office and this was good news for all. Actually, it’s like shooting two birds for this trek, climb Mt. Melingoy (Mt. Parker) and camp at Lake Holon. Another nature’s surprises await for this trip!
Coming back in this little paradise always felt like coming home, this is my residence for diving and will always be. More than a decade ago, this was where I braved the rigors of basic scuba skills. Donning the gears and with that sweet breath of oxygen underwater for the first time in its waters, was unforgettable. The staff always welcomed me like I am a family. The homey comforts in MADRI was just perfect for our year-end (2019)dive escapade.
That weekend was perfect timing as the dive resort was not crowded, and it was relaxing as there was no need to rush to Mantangale. Sir Dodong assured that tides would be right for dives by midday, thus our commute was just in right pace. We chanced again Russians for that day, a couple from Moscow who was still arriving to join the day’s dives.
As we waited for take-off, we had pleasantries with Sir Dodong, and had my regulator for some safety check as its mouthpiece too was due for replacement. The cheery weather was perfect with blue skies as we watched Camiguin Island over the horizon. A sight to behold, so mesmerizing! Relaxing at the dive shop with this view is such a wonderful gift of nature.
The Russians joined us finally at the shop and we rushed for the boat after we geared up. In less than ten minutes, we anchored for our first descent. The surf was bit up drawn by the tide, our descent went smoothly unto sandy slope. The spot is haven for Christmas tree worms, they were all over massive corals in various colors. I had fun watching as they flop down instantly but few stood their grounds. There were lot of linkia laevegata scattered around, culcita, choco chip stars, fish juveniles over the corals, damsels, chromis, angels, bannerfish, moorish idol and anthias in varied colors. We found some trashes though, mostly sachets of coffee and milk, fishing lines and nylon rope which I neatly rolled and tied up to avoid tangles. There were craters as we roamed around and spotted an alibuag too! I noticed a hairy shrimp over the anemone cohabiting with clownfish. As we roamed, we passed coral field with lots of fishes hanging over, those mysterious crevices too, chances are critters were just lurking in the dark. This lowly uninhabited islet looks ordinary and desolate but you never knew how diverse it could be deep down!
We ascend after 52 minutes with my deepest at 28.7 meters, with nitrox 30%.
After a relaxing lunch, we prepared for our last descent at the house reef –always my favorite here in Mantangale. The surf didn’t wane, it was necessary to hold the rope until the bouy. Yes, descending to the shoal needs a line or you could end up somewhere else! Halfway, the resident midnight snapper started darting around as if to welcome us. It’s a lot bigger now! As soon as we got on top of the shoal, a large swarm of fish came around and I guess the resident creatures have gotten used to human visitors. The rhythm of colors as they swarmed and wiggled on this shelter was a sight to behold, its perfect diverse environs is a nature’s wonder. Black corals abound, so with soft corals, whips, feather stars and more. We found nudis, giant clams, scorpion fish resting on table coral, lionfish, and moray eel! We went around, this time I went slow so that after a full circle it would be time to ascend before my NDL gets done. Other divers were gone ahead including Sir Dodong, while our guide went up halfway and waited for us. I have wanted to spend my last available minute before I start to ascend, so when my NDL was down to 1, signaled Angel for ascent and slowly as I could went up still looking down the mound. I went 33.3 meters with 49 minutes as bottom time, still with 30% nitrox.
We speed off over the afternoon surf to the shores, with happy smiles as we unload to the shop. Two wonderful dives in one of our favorite sites. Just enough to warm my diver’s heart.
After for more than a decade of diving pursuits, MADRI will always be my go-to abode. Essentially relaxed, not crowded, environment-friendly and not distant from my base. Ma’am Nana is just a text away, always ready to accommodate my request even sometimes an exclusive dive for me if there were no other guests. How blessed to have stumbled this happy place for my diving escapades without traveling far! Absolutely, there will be more diving trips here in this homely corner of Balingoan, MADRI is always worth coming back!
I am a firm believer as a diver, that the underwater has always surprises in store so that a certain spot can give one different sightings every dive. The underwater realm is a stash of dynamic organisms, today and tomorrow’s encounter is never the same. A decade of diving has taught me so, the wonders of marine life can never be exhausted.
Indeed, coming back again in any dive sites gave new encounters which can never be compared from the last. Let it be marine creatures, new acquaintance, locals, or even circumstances where one can reflect lot of good things are always in store in every situation. My dives this year were few, yet our destinations were undoubtedly our favorites and probably few of the best in the country.
It was a last minute decision to return in Moalboal last October, as usual I had the last word where to go as there was no previous plan. I needed to go away a little farther and it was a random choice to revisit South Cebu. We were so blessed that our arrangements went smooth – our home Moalboal Backpackers Lodge for the accommodation, and Savedra Dive Center for the dives.
Isla de Pescador
Our 5am bus trip from the city allowed us a very early arrival in town, giving us ample time to relax and prepare for the dives. The town was all in motion as we got in Basdiot, weekends like any destinations are full and bustling with tourists. The cheery weather lifted my spirits, forward looking for wonderful encounters during the day. We were welcomed warmly at the diveshop, the wall chart indicated that we belonged to Lyndon’s (DM) group on our first dive at Pescador Island!
Aboard the Seastar, we sped through the surf, the lowly island looming before us as we got nearer and in 15 minutes we dropped anchors. Few boats already moored indicative of other divers ahead of us. Our DM briefed us of the current, so from northeast point we should drift to the northwest but first we need to cross against the current until the wall, navigating with our right shoulder against the wall. I informed Lyndon that I wore a brand new wetsuit and it might affect my bouyancy, he assured that he would bring extra weight in case it is necessary. And it was fierce indeed, I have always avoided swimming against current. It was exhaustive!
Every inch beyond was filled with so much life – from echinoderms, hard & soft corals to swarming variety of fish – there was so much colours! I kept myself close to the wall as I searched for some critters just floating until we got to the Cathedral! It is a cavern with holes, and getting inside with keen eyes you were like staring a large monster face! We linger a little longer inside just watching the illuminated holes, trying to absorb its grandeur, how magnificent! There was a stonefish, giant clam, bivalves that snap as you got close, and a lot of linkia laevigata. There were turtles and we found a huge one sleeping on a crevice, while we left it alone, unfortunately another group of divers came and poke the poor animal. 😦 The wall has few caverns and lot of crevices that were undoubtedly shelter of various critters. We ended up at the northwest end of the island, actually half-circled Pescador. Thankfully I didn’t have trouble with my new wetsuit. Maybe if we got to dive here in the future, we will reverse the route to get the full circle, without the current of course! 🙂
We cruised back to mainland and while halfway on the waters, to our surprise a pod of bottle-nosed dolphins appeared and sailed alongside our boat! They lingered for a little while to everybody’s delight, until finally we sped our way to the shores with all our smiles. The warm sun, sea breeze and salt waters spraying on us was pure delight.
Since I first came in Moalboal decade ago, we always aimed for the sardines and this trip was no exception. The house reef was listed for our second dive in the afternoon, and it was an exclusive dive for us! Our surface interval was more than enough for our quick bites and relaxed a bit longer before we got back at the dive shop, just a few meters away from our hostel.
We geared up excitedly but our DM changed the plan due to the afternoon current, instead of a shore dive we shifted for the boat. So, we sailed shortly to Panagsama Sanctuary and descend there and drifted for the shoal eastward immersing in the warm afternoon waters. We maintained our depth in the shallow reef along the Basdiot shores scouring the bottom for trashes. We gathered some plastic debris, thankful there wasn’t much when the area was filled with many settlers and establishments just few meters from the shoreline. In spite of this, there was much marine life in the area – sexy shrimps lurking on soft corals, ornate pipefish, nudis, lobster and juvenile frogfish! We drifted until we got into swarm of big eye scad, there was lot of them swerving and shifting direction as we moved along. There were other fish specie that came in schools also, and to my mind they knew and learned that being in cluster commanded force and they were less threatened.
I kept looking up until in an instant a dark patch clouded over us, the sardines shoal was upon our very eyes! Like a magic but for me, it’s purely mystical. I know I will never get tired watching again and again such incredible marine sight. 🙂 How majestic are His creation!
We kept floating mindful too of other fish in our midst, there were five barracudas that tried to invade the swarm but wasn’t able to penetrate at all. And how marvelous that they could go that shallow, barracudas are generally deep sea dwellers! We still linger floating until we reached the end of the stretch, Lyndon signaled accordingly to turn around and went against the mild afternoon current. Angel and I immersed much longer finning coyly with the massive sardines’ swarm above us, engulfed myself few more moments of wonder until our DM signaled for surface which we both agreed. We ended up at the front of the dive shop entrance channel. Angel helped me with my fins as we walked back to the shop with our gears on. I guess even with the current I still felt energized with such wonderful encounter, it was for me another relaxing experience with the phenomenal sardines. I could only wish they would remain to have Panagsama as refuge, shelter and home forever.
We capped our day with a big dinner in Marina, yet many times our encounters for the day came into our chats until we retired for the night.
Moalboal will always be our favorite destination for diving, its wonders endlessly captivated my soul. That brought home how amazing the marine world is and why it’s worth protecting the rich biodiversity we have in the country or this planet, for that matter.
Leaving Cebu City at 4:30am by bus, one can reach Moalboal before 8:00am still having enough time for 2 dives during the day
Tricycle to Basdiot costs P150.00 for special trip, otherwise P20.00/pax for ordinary trip
Be sure to book your accommodation and dives before heading to Moaboal to avoid trip hassles
Sardines Shoal can still be encountered through snorkelling
Pescador (which literally means fisherman) got its name being refuge of fishermen during inclement weather.
Obviously, Camiguin Island is one of my favorite destinations for diving, aside from being accessible and cost saving, the sites are arguably teeming with marine life and less crowded from divers. Jigdup Shoal has been a far dream, it was not a usual “go to” site actually, to my mind I presumed it was for hard core divers.
There is always something new in my favorite island even if I come here again and again. We never thought we could dive in the shoal, it lies in the open seas and any changes in tides, current or waves can be risky. The DM told me that couple of days back the skies were overcast and the surfs were up, so he was hinting for Mantigue Island again for our scheduled dives.
The cheery morning greeted us as we cruised for Camiguin from Balingoan – beautiful sunrise, clear skies, calm waters – exactly what we needed for the day! I was smiling and hoping at the back of my mind for the shoal. 🙂 Indeed, when we arrived at the diveshop, the DM announced for the Jigdup Shoal trip!
We wasted no time as we cruised for the shoal, situated in front of Bohol seas. The wide, blue waters was unbelievably calm, so perfect for our dives! Again, the God of the seas favored us in that weekend sojourn. Our first descent was in Black Forest, the briefing limited us at 25 meters depth with maximum of 45 minutes. I guess our DM had repetitive dives in the past days, so keeping safe his profile. The rich diversity of marine life was not surprising, the healthy waters was decorated with hard and soft corals and teeming with fish life. Floating around in the midst of marine creatures felt like home. It was so engaging I fell into more than our limits without noticing my depth. But being back in the waters after six long months was what I needed, I was aching for peace and serenity I can only find in the waters. It was unfortunate as I went around I found a fish trap waiting for prey, I felt bad just seeing them. In no time, I hold on to Angel to steady myself for our safety stop until we surface up. I went 32.2 meters and we had 56 minutes bottom time, way beyond the given limits.
We spent our surface interval lounging on our boat amid the blue waters. The good thing was we are all alone in the shoal, at a distance I can only saw few fishers on their small boats treading for some catch. The blue skies and blue waters was so calming.
I left myself under the sun for few minutes just watching the horizons.
Our second descent was in The Wall, which was just nearby and was richly decorated with critters. There were nudis, feather stars, giant clams, perennial anemone fish and lots of juveniles. We were hoping for white tips or mantas but we were not lucky. We sighted a turtle gently swimming away from us, pointing it out to Angel – his favorite specie. We swam and floated in the warm afternoon waters making most of the last few minutes, until we had our safety stop in the shallows. Hopping up on the corals searching for critters, we found a black shell on the sandy bottom, lingered awhile touching until it becomes all white! We lingered more until the DM gestured for surface. At 78 minutes bottom time, it was longer as we have planned. As usual, it was surprisingly good!
We cruised back to the island grateful for the dives conquering the Jigdup Shoal. Camiguin has always in store few surprises feeding my soul, and it was such pure joy!
We were hoping to avail of perks during the Camiguin Dive Festival but nil, registrants need to appear at the DOT Office located in Mambajao, our dive shop was in Tupsan few kilometers away before town proper.
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 goliath grouper, 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.