Round Clam

P1050656In the corner of my eye, sighted this unique bivalve slightly open camouflaging among marine plants. It has unusual form unfamiliar to the best known bivalve such as oysters, clams, mussels and scallops. Just like its sisters, this lowly specie sits in a corner waiting for its prey.  it has round valve shells, though its hinge is somewhat hidden. It quickly closed up at a faint shadow and movement.

There are over 30,000 species of bivalves including the fossils one, all of them live in the water, most of them in the sea or brackish waters. Have you ever encountered this round clam?

Endless Summer in Anini-y!

There are places that are meant for a return, exactly a year after a quirky trip to this town in the southern tip of Panay Island, I was back to dive once more its unspoiled depths. This town is not known in the diving map but my two deep dives last year inarguably convinced my innate sense that it was worth for more descents. Although I wasn’t in a rush, my beloved dive buddy’s persuasion ended with my ticket bookings for Iloilo and arranging reservations at The Divehouse – my home in Aninni-y.

Getting there on a morning was perfectly better passing the heritage towns and catching glimpse of the wide blue sea as we rolled off on the coastal road. Far from the night trip I had last year, when the dark night hid the rural scenery. Arriving early in our refuge at Siraan Spring Resort gave us ample time to explore the town which includes snorkeling in the turquoise waters of Nogas Island – for over an hour! Just floating, relaxing and watching the marine life silently with my dive buddy, and the mermaid in me was rejoicing. The gleaming white beach, the warm sun and blue waters was a perfect picture of summer, even if it was already end of August.

In our diving day, our unexpected warm-up pumped-up more energy for us, we walked three kilometers to the next barangay to attend the Sunday mass! The morning breeze, mild sunrise and rural scenery were good enough for the hike.  The adrenaline prod us rushing to the diveshop, we were expected at 8:00am. DM AJ welcomed us warmly, the smell of the kitchen and the sight of the long, heavy, wooden dining table reminded me of home.

Rich unspoiled marine environment!

DM AJ arranged our first descent at Mamam, a deep dive with those tricky swim throughs – I can only remember my wonderful sightings last year. So we sailed westward with our dive guide Paldon leading, we were joined with two divers from Iloilo. We dropped anchors after a little detour to Nogas Island dropping off a couple guest, after more than thirty minutes trying to find a favorable spot. We descend to a white sandy slope, the viz was somewhat hazy. In a while we found the rocks with those tunnels just enough for a person to swim. It felt playful like doing some hide and seek over the rocks, but I miss the giant jacks which the others crossed path in the tunnel, including Angel. We found angels, moorish idol, cardinals and wrasses, I noticed clown triggerfish swimming along nearby but wiggled away when it noticed me. There were few nudis too and variety of corals. I was hoping to see again the school of silver barracudas and the leaf frogfish but none appeared. I think early mornings are best to find them as they trouped for early preys! We lingered a bit more circling the area until we slowly hover up for ascent after 41 minutes conscious of my NDL, my deepest at 28.6 meters.

Yellow breams contently swimming among the reesf…

Our surface interval was utilized for checking out from our lodgings and a bit of lounging at the dining area exchanging pleasantries with DM AJ, Owie and RJ while preparing for our next descent with them. DM AJ finally got the chance to guide us tagging with him his Japanese diver guest. We were a bunch, all my companions are guys but after some time I got used to it already, my dive buddy’s company is always comforting. 

The ubiquitous clown fish always adds color over anemones!

We sailed off Nogas Island aiming for Malou’s Rock for our last descent after a short briefing from DM AJ, the warm afternoon waters ushered us to a sandy slope with big boulders bringing us to a wall. We tread the waters with the wall on our left shoulder, drifting as we passed the thriving marine life. Colorful juveniles hovering on corals, yellow breams parading in herd alternated with sew whips and colorful crinoids. There were trumpet fish, sand perches, triggers and scorpion fish! Invertebrates also abound, the obscured bivalves of different species silently lurked in corners abruptly closing in a faint shadow or movements. There were few nudis and even flatworms that adorned the reef. We signaled for ascent after 50 minutes, my deepest was 26.5 meters. I guess I feel more comfortable having back my dive computer, Suunto D4i is the great all-rounder indeed! We ended our stay at the resort after we agreed for a diving expedition summer next year in the Sulu seas!

Have you gone to Antique province or Panay Island?

Travel Notes:
1. Buses going to Anini-y and other Antique towns are stationed at Molo terminal, first trip is at 6:30am. Catching the 5:00pm trip back to Iloilo is ideal, reaching the city about 7:00pm.
2. The only diveshop in Anitque is The Divehouse, a friendly accredited PADI shop, accommodations can be arranged also in this dive facility.
3. This lowly town offers other interesting spots – Nogas Island, Siraan Hotsprings and a heritage church.
4. Direct flight to Iloilo from Cagayan de Oro is now available daily!

Island Myth

This rustic paradise in Panay was one of the reason for the return in the town of Anini-y

Catching up summer in this uninhabited island in south of Panay, was purely relaxing and everything was perfectly lackadaisical.  Simple pleasures that feed one’s soul sans superficiality.

Snorkeling for an hour watching in silence the marine life amid turquoise waters, walking along the kalachuchi-lined road towards the lighthouse, climbing the lighthouse, and while on top, watch the giant bats hanging on that big tree. We were accompanied by white kitty-meow, which for me unusual since there are no residents in the island. We capped our hop by circling the island on foot which was bit tricky, we lost a bit but the old giant banyan tree was a surprise yet mystical in a way!

And yes! We dove in its waters the next day.  🙂 Nogas Island is simply replete with hidden beauty…

Deep in Anini-y!

Sometimes we need to go somewhere, be it on surface or depths,  just to be alone.

Coming to this lowly quiet town in Western Visayas was one of those quirky option after getting low cost airfare to Iloilo, its been some time since I last visited this heritage city.  And being one of my favorite cities, coming again after a long lull was such pure bliss, much more for the depths! I just missed the randomness of going alone on the road.

It is far, secluded, bucolic, lowly and unexploited and in a deeper way held so much attraction to me. It is not in the diving map, diving trips in Panay is unheard of (except the expensive, touristy Boracay) at least for me. Despite challenges again, I arrived late (about 9pm) at the dive resort with my hosts eagerly waiting for me. Leaving home early to catch flight, I was more than twelve hours on the road. The desire was just too great for this surreptitious spell, my gills are utterly dry and my fins itching. The aborted dive plan in Zamboanga needs remedial compensation.

Complicated but not Hard

My DM was no less than the owner of The Divehouse, the initial plan was do an early first dive together with other two divers, but I end up alone with my DM separated from the others. I searched DM AJ’s eyes for an explanation.

“Complicated?” I echoed my answer in wonder. He smiled assuring it’s not a hard dive but somewhat complicated for the newbies, referring to other guests who were just certified recently. So we cruised going west off the town coast, catching a glimpse of the old town church partly hidden from trees. The captain dropped anchors after thirty minutes guided by GPS.

Our first descent was a site they called Mamam which was briefly described by DM AJ as with white sands, rock mounds, swim-throughs and good marine life. I jumped in to follow my DM about two minutes later. Only to find out later he was just checking if we got the right spot, but it was not so we need to abort as he signaled for up!

We made it in our second attempt, we found the shoal as we went deep at 30 meters. It was a small colony of diverse marine life: variety of tropical fish – moorish idol, damsels, midnight snappers, triggerfish, groupers, parrots, sea whips, sponge baskets, sea cucumber, variety of soft corals and more. The highlight of it was the resident school of barracudas – which I found intriguing. They didn’t quickly disappear but swam calmly away, but my DM led me to get an obstructed view behind tangles of whips and soft corals. Watching them swimming coyly among themselves as if relaxing was a wonderful sight, felt like I was in company with them in their abode! We ascend after 45 minutes with my air at 1200 psi, 33.4 meters as our deepest.

I had a long relaxing surface interval – late breakfast alone and long wait for the team with two boatful of other guests who went to Nogas Island. Cruising westward again for my last dive with DM Boy, my mind was racing for more surprises deep down expecting another rich encounter as in the first. They called the site Bao-bao, another unspoiled colony and a deep dive again. We descend through the anchor line slowly mindful of the afternoon current, and indeed it was another display of active and varied marine life. There were surgeons, butterfly, snappers, groupers, angels, banners, breams, anthias, sand perch, unicorns, sponges, soft and hard corals and more. I was amazed of the richness down the flat blue waters, somewhere down it held important dwellings of delicate and precious marine species. The highlight of which is the giant moray eel, it’s head big as coffee cup! I did spend moments just watching the eel in awe, I swear it was the biggest moray I have encountered. I went 32.5 meters as deepest after 45 minutes with 1200psi of air left.  Both dives were in enriched air at 32%.

Treasures Captured

Discovering Anini-y in the depths was a real surprise, a revelation of the richness from this sleepy town in down south of Panay. Sometimes there are events that are just meant to be despite the challenges. There are people that comes our way who become instruments and inspiration for those important moments. The delayed flight, road traffic, late arrival for the transpo, costly taxi trip to the town, costly accommodation – it paid off without doubt! What I witnessed could never be put exactly in this account, it was another priceless encounter and treasures in my heart to keep.

Nogas Island, Anini-y  Church, Siraan Hot Spring.  Just few of reasons to be back in this town’s bosom.  Most importantly, my gills and fins shall ache for its paradise beyond the surface.  Alone, away, somewhere is always a rewarding one. I don’t doubt it anymore.

Travel Notes

1. The town of Anini-y is 81 kilometers from Iloilo City about two hours by land and can be reached by bus or van from Molo terminal.
2. The only diveshop in town is The Divehouse owned and operated by Mr. Boy Saldana with his friendly DMs – AJ and Mike.
3.  Diving in nitrox is available at the Divehouse.

NB. Photo credits to