Needless to say, vacation at Cape Cod costs a fortune, this exotic place definitely demands a price. But the Lord provided for everything through the generosity of my sister and family including the children. After more than two decades of waiting, I finally made it. Indeed, there is always a right time for everything!
The few days we had at the Cape was about getting around, while we were staying south of Chatham which has its own waterfront we spend more time at Wellfleet. My sister’s family revisited them to show me around, the children grew up coming in these spots almost very summer. Definitely, it was part of their childhood memories and always a joy for them to be here.
The Salt Marsh is one good find at Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, we started the trail from Uncle Tim’s Bridge crossing the Duck Harbor Creek to Hamblen Island overlooking the mudflats, where few birds took refuge and perhaps searching for shells, crabs and grasses for feeds. Then found a horseshoe crab by the side trails, unfortunately it was lifeless. It was my first encounter of such specie, it’s not edible though. There‘s small clearing near the bridge ruins at the creek, where one can sit and watch the view which at the time was all green, the rushing waters was also an attraction. Crabs, shells and other crustaceans dwell by the tidal marsh, a natural habitat for them. The locals on the area supported by the government have endeavored for its protection and preservation.
The Cockle Cove Beach was just near our Air B&B abode in Chatham, for me it was more than just a spot for pleasure. The beach was just a short drive with my niece and nephew and fortunately the parking was free when we went there! The warm waters from Nantucket Sound is perfect for swimming but there were no beach-goers, only few people were there taking lessons for SUP and windsurfing.
Yet, I was more interested of the seagulls hovering, unbelievably flying low with few landed along the sand picking with the sea weeds, it was surprising they stood their ground while we passed by looking for shells. Just few meters above was Mill Creek where we sighted thousands of hermit crabs and other crustaceans inhabiting the mudflats, a multitude were crawling by the creek side. The cove is without doubt part of sanctuary network in the Cape, series of restoration efforts were mobilized also due to sand erosion in the area.
Cape Cod is hook-shaped peninsula of the US state of Massachusetts, is a popular summertime destination. It is characterized by quaint villages, seafood shacks, lighthouses, ponds & bay & ocean beaches. The bulk of land on Cape consists of glacial land forms, formed by terminal moraine and outwash plains. Its historic, maritime character and ample beaches attract heavy tourism during summer months.
Cape Cod Map courtesy of Wikitravel
This beautiful destination aside from being historic dwelled so much at the back of my mind since time immemorial. My sister always told me stories about their summer trips – with her family tagging along the kids, with friends and their family, sometimes with friends of friends – they went there every year. Practically, it’s their second home. Setting foot at the Cape is a dream trip to me.
After much prayers and discernment, I scheduled a US trip to visit my Sister and her family and to offer myself a little consolation. Since the trip fell on summer, the Cape Cod dream was few steps closer. And, it happened since my sister’s vacation was scheduled just few weeks before I go back home!
My blue heart was attracted to Cape with no reservations – the great Atlantic waters was for me un-chartered. It was playing a lot of thoughts just to get a glimpse of this large body with its rich marine life. Cape territory is divided into 15 towns with many villages all of which are practically have waterfronts. Beaches abound naturally…
The Nauset Beach in Orleans is just one of those pristine coast line that are too perfect for summer events – be it sunbathing, swimming, skim boarding or just sitting under beach umbrella and watch the horizons beyond. It was far beyond compare to our beaches, definitely it’s clean and free from structures and obstructions. It was naturally maintained.
When we got there, it was already filled with beach-goers we had to find a strategic spot with unobstructed view of the waters. The sun was already scorching and decided not to swim, my sister said the waters too cold for her even it is sunny. Lounging on my beach chair was comfortable enough. The sunny skies and blue waters were nothing different back home, I was wondering what was beyond the surface. At a distance, we saw a head or two of seals bobbing up the surface, its either getting away from predators or looking for prey in shallower waters. Few sea gulls flew over humans perhaps looking for food scraps while few also flew over the waters perhaps eyeing for fish.
Newcomb Hollow Beach is located at northernmost of Wellfleet, it featured a scenic stretch of ocean beach backed with stretch of sand dunes. It is pristine just like other beaches in the Cape and its blue waters were truly inviting not only for swimming but also for surfing as there are bars for waves breaks commonly for short boards.
It was just too interesting to try swimming in an Atlantic surface, the water is cold according to my sister but the blue waters with soft waves were just too enticing. The good thing was my nephew and niece joined me for the swim, being out of waters for almost ten weeks it was some sort of deliverance from sea sickness, I was like hyper ventilating! And again, its waters was also rich with marine life as sharks are patrolling the area for preys. There were times when closures of the beach is necessary if a number of sharks sightings were observed. There was a recent shark attack in this beach just when official summer was over. (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/newcomb-hollow-beach-wellfeet-massachusetts-deadly-shark-attack-today-2018-09-15/)
It was in Fourth of July when we visited Duck Harbor Beach, still in Wellfleet. You need to pass along a stretch of sand dunes, thankfully the parking was free though you need to be early before it gets full. It was dusk and we were in for a glorious display of colors of sunset, the sky was clear and we could saw faint image of the Pilgrim Tower in Provincetown from the horizon ahead of us. Just when the whole country was celebrating this big day we were out there walking along the shore and later sitting in our beach chairs watching the changing hues before us. It was just relaxing!
Spontaneity… It sounds exciting to me especially if it is about travel and my last dive trip in April was one. Although my mind was set to revisit Pandan in Antique province to conquer the ever elusive Maningning Island, we succumbed to Sipalay City as alternative destination. Our DM was not available and the weather was unstable. It was another long trip as it was necessary not to waste my ticket to Iloilo City from Cagayan de Oro. Took the early ferry to Bacolod, endure the long bus ride to the southern most town of Negros Occidental, until finally we had the tricycle ride to Punta Ballo at our refuge in Artistic Diving Beach Resort. The long day was filled with good tidings though, the morning rainbow while in Iloilo pier and the afternoon rainbow at the white beach were enough to cheer us up and took it as a promise of wonderful trip just like in the past.
Taking refuge in a dive resort while diving is always advantageous, there is no rushing to commute going to the site and there’s no need to carry heavy wet gears back to camp. Artistic Diving Beach Resort sat along the west coast with an idyllic white beach, so the sunset always beckon at the end of the day. It has at least 14 dive sites including wrecks, and is just nearby Campomanes Bay. After eight months we were back, there was much to explore and we barely covered this unassuming city in our last visit.
Dive and Swim
After attending the Sunday mass at the city center and taking light breakfast, we gathered up our gears and met up with DM Dick at the shop. And again, it was an exclusive dive for us! We aimed for MS Jojo for our first descent, it was a short twenty minutes boat ride to the bay. This boat was a small cargo ship for copra and other produce that sank in early 1980’s, they said exploring the wreck is somewhat tricky. It can be murky down there even during sunny weather, and so we were hoping that we could get at least a glimpse of the wreck. We back rolled and hold on to the buoy line together descending slowly until at 20 meters we saw obscurely a huge mass. We were very fortunate that visibility cooperated us and we tried not to disturb the water hovering carefully trying to cover as much as we can. Perhaps I was so distracted, I only saw a lionfish but never the spadefish that normally dwells on wrecks. We lighted our torches but there wasn’t much to see, penetration was not allowed inside the wreck, the entire hull was still intact. We were biding our time until my NDL went down to 1! I signaled for ascent feeling sorry that it was too short and was just indeed a sneak peek underwater. Later, I learned from my computer of my bad profile, I still had 90 bars of air with my deepest at 32 meters after a bottom time of 36 minutes.
After an hour for our surface interval, we geared up again for our next descent at MiamiBeach which was a lot nearer from the diveshop, it was another boat dive. We descend the slope while maintaining our left shoulder towards the reef. We caught sight of an artificial reef of concrete slabs filed on top of the other. Indeed, it became a shelter and refuge of variety of reef fishes, we saw like two or three mounds of slabs all filled with fish. There were glass shrimp, violet hairy shrimp lurking in soft corals and juvenile lion
fish. There was a field of corals decorated with wiggling fishes, floating around wandering the waters. I sighted a COTS taking refuge under the corals. Just when we are about to ascend, we noticed a large lobster with its wiggling antlers. I still have 100 bars air with bottom time of 56 minutes with 26.9 meters as deepest.
Trek, Swim and Sunset
We ended our dives early enough to explore more of the city which were missed in our last trip. One good thing about Sipalay is its remaining idyllic and still devoid of distracting structures that seemingly hide the natural beauty of locality.
We hired the trike we had in the morning when we went to church, for our afternoon get-away. Somehow, the locals always knew what to see, where to go next and what not’s. Our first stop was at Perth Paradise Resort, we went around the floating catwalk wondering those hills on the waters like fjords. We climbed the steps up the topmost level at the pool admiring the stunning view. The afternoon was scorching so we didn’t linger on but instead left hurriedly and sped off to Tinagong Dagat which was indeed hidden. It was all trek from the gates, crossing the rickety hanging bridge and climbing up the hill to the viewing deck. The view was stunning again, the green mountains over the blue waters – it was all glorious!
There’s one remote beach that tickled my curiosity since I first came in Sipalay but unfortunately left hanging for next visit. I was imagining the reddish horizon over the waters as the sun sets. Unbeknownst to us, going to Sugar Beach was not an easy one. The dirt road was potholed so the ride was a bumpy one as we sped off to catch the colorful sunset and finally hopped to a short boat ride crossing the river to reach the area.
And indeed, everything was crude – place was utterly untouched by modernization. We were able to explore a bit as we waited for the sunset, and swam enjoying the warm afternoon waters. Purely idyllic, almost devoid of people and there was no rushing as we watched the horizons turning from golden, to fiery reddish, orange until it mellowed to pinkish. Such wonderful display of nature. It was already dark as we rushed back to the city center and finally, to the dive resort.
If given a chance to be back south of Negros Occidental, it would be Sipalay, the rural and picturesque attractions coupled with diverse marine life is a perfect combination. It could only take a rich underwater world for me to love a city or a “punta” for that matter!
It was a quick decision to revisit one of my favorite destination in Cebu province, initially we were aiming for an offbeat town in Southern Leyte but unfortunately, the lone local dive shop was fully booked for that weekend. We made quick arrangements on our favorite hostel and dive shop in Moalboal but then again, all were fully booked. We ignored the hindrances though, coming to this favorite town southwest of Cebu was a joy. My last visit was yet in June 2014!
The last minute changes made me scrambling from a quiet lunch with friends, it was already past 2pm and everything else went as a whirlwind – tickets, packing, gears assemble, so on. By 8pm, I was already on board the boat sailing for the night to Cebu.
Travelers always trust things will work out well as you arrived the destination, and it sure did. As long as you are open-minded and make most of what is available at hand. One last bahay-kubo was the lodge for the night and our friend DM at Cebu Dive Center offered us one dive in their house reef for the coveted sardines run, it was good that one dive guide was available for that afternoon. The arrangement worked well and it gave us time to see other sites. 🙂
White Beach (Bas Daku)
For the many times I went to Moalboal, I never got the chance to visit the area and Torsten (of Moalboal Backpackers Lodge) described it as a wonderful spot to relax and watch sunset. It was low-tide when we got there, the shores was wide and long enough for the walk but unfortunately it was too crowded. So, we had the walk, sat at the beach, watch people, watch the sunset and in the end, had a dip and quick swim in its warm waters! 🙂
The town of Samboan is 60 kilometers away from the lodge and almost two hours bus ride, so we woke up early for the trip south. Indeed, the early bird catches the best view! There was no crowd, no noise just the sound of the gushing waters! Yes, the short walk and climbing the four levels was a sure test of agility and strength. I love the early trek and swim at its basin with the majestic falls behind us. It was a wet morning adventure! 🙂
Being with the sardines was a joy!
Completely lost in their midst!
The swarm is getting larger!
DM Cameron (of Cebu Dive Center) was just good-hearted to arrange with another diver for our afternoon dives, one dive was truly not enough for me but it was better than none considering the long trip. The afternoon waters was turbulent as it was moving for the high tides, it was hard to keep steady as we wade for our entry. At 15 meters though, we had a grand show of million sardines. It clouded above us, as we swam coyly in the warm waters – so beautiful and surreal! It was amazing, a nature’s wonder that can not be explained. For a time the swarm was in the deep in Pescador Island, but now it’s in the shallows right next the shores. Maybe, the fishes knew that they can survive well away from the predators. Yes, the spot is a protected area and fishing them is illegal! I knew I will get back in Moalboal for the sardines again and again.
The brief get-away was a carouse but never in a noisy and lively way as in a party, but it’s about enjoying nature’s gifts in it’s most simple, relaxed, spontaneous and unaffected way. The wonderful dive was just I needed during the Moalboal visit. After we bade goodbye to our host, we left for the city thankful that our traspo connections went fluidly.
It was late when we arrived downtown Cebu, rushing but still had enough time for a relaxing dinner at La Maison Rose. C’est la vie! 🙂
NB. All photos courtesy of my favorite dive buddy.
It was a random decision to book dives in Samal to quick start 2018 dive trips, it was like a homecoming after few years of skipping the island. And it was heartwarming that DM Maeng of ScubAqua (formerly Davao Scuba Dive Center) is still there to cater us. It felt nostalgic recalling memories in my prior years’ dives with them, unfortunately new dive guides were engaged for that weekend. That same warmth and kindness that I cherished before comforted me during the trip.
The cheery weather greeted us for our cruise to the island from Sta. Ana port, the boat was full-packed with guests – only few were divers though, most were aiming for the beach either to just swim or snorkel. We were assigned to DM Toto for the day together with a newbie American diver, it was reassuring since we were not crowded and we could have more time to slow down and be mindful as we went through the reefs.
Christmas tree worm
More christmas tree worm
Our first descent was in Coral Gardens, we sank unto a sandy slope filled with corals decorated with wide gorgonians but we stumbled upon few crown of thorns star (COTS), I frowned watching them as the waters shall get warmer during summer, in no time they could multiply and eventually will devour the corals. I glance over a branching coral that was turning whitish – I was wondering if it was bleaching! A sea cucumber had a minute emperor shrimp on its back probably feeding from parasites, some sea star, worms, clownfish over anemones, and a variety of juveniles spreading above us as we went around. Then a blue ribbon eel appeared from its burrow gloriously stood its ground as I took some snapshots – always fascinating as it darted but never leaving its hole! Then we lingered over the colorful coral field just feeling the warm waters hopping over the reef hunting for critters, until we had our safety stop as we got under our boat for our ascent. I still had 100 bars after 58 minutes lingering over the gardens!
We cruise a bit to Babu Santa beach for our safety stop, there were few changes since our last visit but thankfully it is till devoid of concrete and permanent structures, it has still its wide beach with few huts for guests, with its blue and clear waters!
We cruise once more heading for Talikud Island for our last descent at Mansud Wall, it was past 4pm already and thankfully the viz was clear and there was no current. We descend with our left shoulder towards the wall, the reef is filled with soft and hard corals, wide sea fans and obviously bursting with marine life. There were nudis, COTS (!) again, lots of juveniles – anthias, damsels, chromis, wrasse, fusiliers and lot more. They spread before and above us as, watching them peacefully swimming was a great consolation – there was pure silence. We had gathered trashes as we went around, and we lingered again over coral field for our safety stop until we ascend after 54 minutes. We cruised back to Sta. Ana wharf feeling refreshed after the dives! 🙂
Blue ribbon eel
This little piece of paradise has been renamed to Island Garden City of Samal (IGACOS) but for me, it is still Samal Island, in the early days popularized by Pearl Farm but now there are a number of resorts all around this small city. It has remained bucolic and unassuming yet booming and blooming for all of us to revisit, explore and enjoy!
In the early days of this intoxication, Samal waters was a favorite and has been our playground. My dive buddy earned his open water certification through Davao Scuba Dive Center.
Davao City, my entry point to Samal island is 8-hour drive from Cagayan de Oro
ScubAqua is probably the cheapest with PhP 1500.00 rate for 2 dives inclusive of equipment, boat and dive guide. The shop is conveniently located at Sta. Ana wharf.
Staying in Davao City rather than in the resorts in IGACOS is more economical, also the city has much to offer to your liking.