Craving for Cabilao Island!

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Isn’t this blenny adorable?

Still our penchant for seeking less known sites is limitless. As we all knew, the island province of Bohol is a gem, it is undoubtedly replete with many wonders.  Last year, we felt so blessed after diving in the town of Anda – it was incredibly rich we regret discovering it just lately.  So, we were off again to the province and endured multiple mode of transport to reach the town of Loon, finally cruising to this tiny unassuming island one weekend in September. It was a plane, ferry, bus and tiny boat ride all to Cabilao Island.  The island has been in my list years back but the arduous trip that won’t surely fit on a weekend deterred the schedule.  Recently, Angel discovered reaching the other side of Bohol via Tubigon, definitely shorter and cheaper than via Tagbilaran! So, as soon as I got back from the July rendezvous, I booked my Cebu tickets for this trip.

All in a Rush

Polaris Dive Resort is a self-contained, homey & environment friendly haven. Add diving, and that’s all too perfect for me!

Another hectic weekend awaits us, so things were all in a rush but thanks God all our transport connections went fluidly as planned.  We were catching our breath as we do not want to be late, Europeans are time conscious and it is discourteous to keep others waiting.  We arrived and welcomed warmly at Polaris Dive Resort just in the nick of time, enough to have a quick but relaxing breakfast and gather ourselves for the day’s dives. DM Jun assured us not to rush, we were informed that three couples (all Deutsch) were booked for the day obviously we were arranged to join them.

Pulo Hospitality

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Hey, can you find the harlequin shrimp?  🙂

The location and amenities of the resort was impressive and exactly what one needs for an escape, add diving and that’s perfect haven for me. J We geared up after the preliminaries and piled all eight divers in the boat for our first descent at the Lighthouse, which was a short 5-minute ride south of resort shores. We dropped unto a sandy slope filled with soft corals down to a wall, we chance upon a colony of garden eels which quickly hid in their burrows when we got near.  I’m always fascinated with them, and again I paused and waited they would come out again, they did slowly inch by inch!  We stumbled on macros – few nudis, glass shrimp and a crab mimicking on soft coral. Every turn we peek on corals for critters. The highlights for me was the yellow

Face to face with a yellow frogfish!

frogfish perched on a large plank of yellow rubber coral surrounded by crinoids, adapting its yellow surroundings. I waited it would yawn, but it only opened its mouth a bit perhaps catching some air, at least it was not upset with our intrusion in its abode. It was a good subject directly facing us, so the Deutsch divers feasted for photos! We explored more – the perennial clown fish forever teasing over anemones, ghost pipefish like dead leaves (!), stonefish and nudis again.  Then over a sandy part, our DM pointed out a couple of black/white organism clinging on rubber coral, poking a bit it went white all over – it turns out to be an egg cowrie!  We linger for our safety stop over a sandy slope covered with corals and sea grasses and found last minute a stonefish, hairy crab on bubble coral and a herd of striped eel fish. We separated from the group and ascend by ourselves in the shallows towards the shore, after 90 minutes.  I still have 60 bars with 29.7 meters as our deepest.  So far, this was my longest bottom time!

Macros are everywhere, a crab was secretly hiding among this colorful soft coral!

Our surface interval was spent for our light but relaxing lunch of penne pesto pasta and korbis soup, we had enough time too for some breather in our cottage. The quiet surroundings under the swaying coconuts and trees with blooming hibiscus would surely lull you to sleep. J  I have to drag myself from the rattan duyan for our next dive at 2pm.

A scorpion fish!

The afternoon descent is at The Chapel, which is nearby too parallel the resort shores.  It is located near a small chapel which according to DM Jun where fishers drop-by before setting off to fish.  Our DM promised a diverse marine life in this lowly site.  Indeed, we dropped off on a colourful reef where in few minutes we found the electric clams, they lurk on overhangs or crevices and emit somewhat vibrating lights from their opening.  Angel pointed out to me a shy moray with its head barely out from its hole, it didn’t like our intrusion.  L Then a harlequin shrimp barely noticeable clinging on soft flowery coral, glass shrimps on anemone, another minute shrimp on flat hardened surface over anemones, few nudis – critters were everywhere! We went on a swim-through with our DM carefully navigating getting a streamlined test, it was perfectly smooth! A lone silver barracuda was teasing us, wondering where its companions are.  Damsels, groupers, triggers, sand perch, wrasses, chromis, fusiliers, butterfly fish, angels, anthias and more. There was this adorable blenny peeking from its abode as if giving us a hello, its curiosity was endearing. We were having our wrap-up as we get off for our safety stop, when a large herd of striped barracudas appeared in view.  We swam quick before we lost them, it was incredible that at five meters we got a full view of the herd! J I still have 80 bars when we ascend after 73 minutes.  It was wonderful, with lot of sightings and diverse environment we were more than an hour underwater for both dives.  My heart was filled with gratefulness for all the discoveries.

Parading in the coral fields!

We pass-off for night dives and choose to unwind at the patio savoring the twilight glow and eventually had a quiet alfresco dinner listening to the waves behind us. The day was just full deserving a good night’s rest.

Final Touch

Leaving the island wasn’t complete without attending an early mass at the Centro, exploring the shoreline towards the Lighthouse and Punta Baluarte Eco-Museum. It offers a lovely view of the sea minus the crowd and modern development, just sheer island charm and unspoiled serene setting.

Hidden, idyllic and purely designed for unwinding,  another unmatched destination just waiting to be explored and enjoyed is Cabilao Island. Actually,  it’s more than just a destination, it’s an experience!

Travel Notes:

  1. My itinerary for this trip
  • Last night flight from Cagayan de Oro to Cebu, 740pm – 50 minutes
  • First trip ferry to Tubigon, 445am – 2 hours
  • Van ride to Mocpoc, Loon – 1 hour
  • Habal ride to Pier – 15 minutes
  • Boat ride to Talisay, Cabilao pier – 10 minutes
  • Habal ride to Polaris Dive Resort – 10 minutes
  • Return trip has same route leaving the island early, to catch the last flight to Cagayan de Oro from Cebu
  1. With the above itinerary, there is a need to stay overnight in metro Cebu
  2. Ferries for Cebu-Tubigon route & vice versa has several trips daily, in Cebu they sail from Pier Uno
  3. Polaris Dive Resort is a self-contained homey environment friendly resort which houses a 5-star PADI dive shop, lies in the western side obviously offering daily sunsets
  4. The tiny triangular island of Cabilao off Loon town is literally surrounded with at least 14 dive sites
  5. “Pulo” is a Cebuano term for island


Anda: Discovering a Diving Paradise

Green turtles are abundant in Paradise Garden!

As divers, our adventurous spirits often spur travels to exotic dive spots. I was clueless though when we went to this northeastern town in Bohol, Angel suggested for this destination after finding a dive operator near the beach.  As a diving destination, Anda is unheard of but being a coastal town facing the Bohol Sea, most likely marine life can be rich and diverse.  This town is a corner land mass appendage in the eastern tip of the province facing Mindanao. Obviously, cruising to Jagna from Cagayan de Oro was an advantage, it was time and cost saving and I arrived much earlier for our engagement.  Angel has moved frantically our dive schedule in the afternoon owing to his route delays.

It was drizzling and downcast early in the morning but gloriously turned sunny in mid-day,  we were full in the afternoon and we needed a warmer atmosphere for the three dives unto the night.  Angel choose a 5 star PADI shop but was located farther from the downtown, Blue Star is an upscale resort facing the endless blue seas. It has manicured lawn, small pool, well maintained dive shop and exclusive but impeccable resto that offers international cuisine.  There were no other bookings so it turned out again as an exclusive dive for us!  The Deutsch owner entertained us briefly and were turned over to DM Karl after confirming our gear needs and signing up the required waiver form.   DM Karl was too encouraging of our dive site choices including the long-awaited night descent.

Cornucopia of Critters

This friendly turtle posed for me, it didn’t get away when I came near.

All the sites were nearby, and for our first descent we cruise shortly to Paradise Garden seated at the corner of the bay, our DM warned us of current at the turn of afternoon low tide. We descend to a slope decorated with corals, hydroids, whips and feather stars until we got to the wall fully covered with abundance of hard and soft corals.   There were jackfish, triggers, snappers, banner fish, angels, moorish idols, anthias, even bivalves, and lots of juveniles. We drift with the current until we got to a wide colorful coral garden, and a turtle appeared. One, two, three, four until I lost count as I got occupied steadying myself from the current. I was so oblivious as I watch a turtle sleeping among the corals when our DM signaled for danger, I was almost touching a stonefish camouflaging near the swaying orangey corals.   Angel said there were more than ten turtles!  Indeed, it was replete with diverse marine life. It wouldn’t be called house reef of the resort for nothing.  We ascend after 60 minutes too glad for all the sightings!

Reef wall filled with diverse marine life!

We stayed on the boat for our surface interval watching the blue horizon of the afternoon skies, while our DM told stories of dive sightings. We agreed to descend from one site, then cover one more site until we end the second dive. I was more eager as he mentioned cavern and the rare frogfish.  So we descend to a wall covered again with corals, and navigated with our left shoulder towards the wall. Floating weightlessly feeling the warm waters, we watch the yellow damsels and chromis wiggling over the reef wall.  Until we got to overhangs and crevices, we were in for colorful surprises! There were nudis – a pair of green-orange, bleu dragon, then fat yellow banana nudi – it was my first to see one. Then, not so distant was the two yellow frogfish!  The site was abundant with gorgonians in yellow, blue and violet. We find at least seven bargibanti pygmies and minute crab clinging to violet

A wide coral field with wiggling juveniles hovering!

seafan.  We sighted barrel sponges, banded sea snake, scorpion fish, stone fish and one more turtle.  We passed the cavern but there were no more snappers but still the fish life was diverse and abundant.  We drifted to a coral area which I believe part of Paradise Garden, for our safety stop, hopping and hovering over the colorful corals with the juveniles wiggling peacefully.  So calming…  We ended our dive timed at 62 minutes!  We cruised back to the resort for surface interval to relax a bit before our last dive.

Dream Deep & Dark

Our last night dive was like four years ago, searching for mandarin fish but we went home without finding one. The mandarins has been tickling my curiosity, after an assurance from our DM of sure sighting, we tried to quench the yearning to find one.  So, at sundown we geared up and had our last descent for the day at the Wonderwall. We went down to a slope over a patch of colored dead corals.  The water was quiet, warm and balmy – just perfect for a calming night descent. We navigate slowly and cautiously, careful not to disturb the waters and our lights low. And there, I found one lurking under the corals, the colorful pattern of its body almost alike the dead corals. Then, there was another one crawling  or slowly swimming down the corals, I watched intently and waited it would go up for the “mating moment” but it was almost eternity. Alas, while I was silently observing the fish, Angel alerted with signals of his missing cam! We flashed our lights immediately for the search, which alerted our DM. I think almost half of our time was done for the search, until I noticed we were left alone in the dark deep.  After awhile, we got light signals from the surface like –“there’s something here and it’s okey!” – such a relief.  We finished off but went up too fast for the 5 meter safety stop, my dive computer went greek! I was sure there were lot more to find in the dark but we have to end, we finished off the ascent holding hands careful not to lose from each other.  We must do night dive again next time.

A pair of colorful nembrotha kubaryana nudi!

Our two long day dives and momentous night descent was just impressive, the sightings were beyond my expectations and without doubt the underwater paradise of Anda is more than worth seeing again.  Diving in Bohol now would not be limited in the island sites, mainland province has a gem for diving. Diving in Anda was perfectly finding a psychedelic marine paradise!

NB.  Sorry, no photos of mandarin fish. 😦