Medicinal Squirts!

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Sea squirts are rounded or cylindrical animals ranging from about 0.5 to 10 cm (0.2 to 4 in) in size. One end of the body is always firmly fixed to rock, coral, or some similar solid surface. The lower surface is pitted or ridged, and in some species has root-like extensions that help the animal grip onto the surface. The body wall is covered by a smooth thick tunic, which is often quite rigid. The tunic consists of a cellulose-like substance called tunicin along with proteins and calcium salts. Unlike the shells of mollusks, the tunic is composed of living tissue, and often has its own blood supply. In some colonial species, the tunics of adjacent individuals are fused into a single structure.

This marine invertebrate commonly known as Ascidians are characterized by tough outer tunic and are filter feeders.  These animals are found all over the world usually in shallows, they are sessile which means they are  firmly attached to substratum, such as rocks and shells. As seen above they are attached to a tube-like coral just near to sea anemones or coral reef systems.

There are 2,300 species of ascidians and three main types: solitary ascidians, social ascidians that form clumped communities by attaching at their bases, and compound ascidians that consist of many small individuals (each individual is called a zooid) forming colonies up to several meters in diameter.

Some sea squirt produce a chemical called Ecteinascidin, a potential for pharmaceuticals! Sea invertebrates like sea squirt are subjects of research in medical laboratories for possible medicinal products.

We found this animal while diving in Siquijor, their colony was getting my attention and quickly snap the above photo!

Siquijor: Pristine Paradise, Surface and Beyond

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The iconic St. Francis of Assissi Church welcomes you to Isla de Fuego!

The pristine waters of this idyllic province which is a come-on for tourists is no doubt one good reason for water enthusiasts to tread its depths. We have been planning to be back not just for a detour but to explore the deeper vista of Isla de Fuego. Five years was long enough for the wait and making most of a long weekend in June, we finally made it. Cherry, Angel and I was looking forward for this passage, my tickets were bought in last November yet!

The heat and humid air suggested for a long summer, the weather perfectly cooperated our cruise from Cebu to Tagbilaran, to Dumaguete and finally to Siquijor. Angel joined us in Dumaguete port to Siquijor under the scorching heat. The low tide perfectly revealed a long stretch of white sand shores as we step on the port. Local kids swam and enjoyed the waters, how alluring that even the port offered an immaculate scene and unspoiled view of the province!

Sandugan Beach

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We lingered over a wide area of colorful corals

Our booking was in Kiwi Dive Resort, a self-contained and homey refuge that offered everything we need – diving facility, lodging, food and friendly staff. The tricycle we hired from the port brought us south of the island in Larena, and later served as our transpo as we went around making most of the remaining hours before dark. We need to show Cherry around, we ended up in Salagdoong Beach passing the picturesque mini-forest already dark, yet in a festive mood which gave us a reason to linger – and munched the pasta, bread and cold cuts we had. We wanted to stay longer until our trike summoned us for our ride home.

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I was inside a small cavern watching the golden cardinals swimming around the entrance

The next morning was gloomy as if a storm was coming, but the waters was perfectly calm for our two dives, our DM Raul had an interesting flair as he briefed us and told about possible sightings. Our first descent was a boat dive, we cruised shortly to Sandugan Canyon which our DM suggested as replete with critters but not with pelagics.

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Look closely, can you see it? 🙂

It was a wall dive and indeed, there were variety of nudis – in different bright colors and sizes. We entered a cavern which housed variety of fishes, the herd of golden cardinals swirling around as if disturbed by our presence, was a sight to behold! I stayed longer feeling the serenity and warmth of the scenery. We found more nudis as we went around, cleaner shrimp and variety of juveniles. We went over a wide coral area, in different colors and assortment. After twelve weeks of lull, it felt good to be back in the depths. We ascend after 65 minutes! 

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The graceful Bedford’s Flatworm surprised us!

After an hour of surface interval back at the resort, we head for our next descent at the  Sanctuary with DM Cedric , it was a sloping sandy area and as soon as we were down, a sea moth was resting mimicking the sand’s color! It was my first sighting of the specie, but it didn’t swim, or fly – the sight of a sea Pegasus flapping its wing-like pectoral fins would be an interesting sight. We sighted also garden eels peeking on the sand but quickly disappear as we got near. There were a lot of nudis again, and swam over a wide coral area. The unspoiled marine environment was inspiring, less exposure to threats could only mean healthy marine life. Less population, less pollutants, and rare disturbance is always an advantage. We ascend after 66 minutes with my air still at 90 bars!

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This striped pyjama nudi gave a colorful touch among the corals

Meeting A Shaman

Until today, the island is still known for shaman and healers, and many anecdotes have been passed around. Some even have reservations visiting Siquijor for this reason. Seeing one is a welcome thought but have never expected we had the opportunity. But our guide cum driver was enthusiastic to suggest we should visit, he knew one who have healed him and provided help when once he lost his wallet. So, we made most of our time as we wait for the last trip boat for Dumaguete. It was a brief encounter but his stories were more than enough to compensate for our long wait as he went out for a patient. Perhaps, beyond what we see on him was some supernatural powers to read our appearance!  He was normal though, like us!

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The balmy sundown at Kagusuan Beach!

Coming again in Siquijor is not impossible, with the wonderful discovery we had on its depths it is another destination in Central Visayas worthy for another visit in the future!

Have you been to this island?