Snorkeling Wonders

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Sea turtles are a common sight in Apo Island!

Indeed, the Philippine waters for me is the best snorkeling arena. It holds never ending possibilities for water adventures. As an archipelago, it has long list of remarkable destination for snorkeling not to mention diving, from coast to coast and from one island to another. Just like diving I can do it whole year round without waiting for specific season, the waters just waiting to be explored. The first half of the year gave me opportunities to discover and rediscover marvelous realms allowing my body to float, relax and wonder in nature’s wild in the depths. And yes, the great depths will never exhaust its mystery, infinite as ever and it could only stir up one’s curiosity. My snorkeling expedition in the past months had fanned my increasing love and passion for the blue world.

Donsol for Whalesharks
Location: Donsol, Sorsogon

The quest for Donsol was finally realized in March, the long wait was compensated with wonderful sightings. It is however, an advance open water snorkeling – that’s how I described the rigidity of finding these gentle giants. It requires agility and speed, sharp eyes is also a must. I think the slow and inattentive would never see one, in a blink of an eye they were gone. Again, only the focus mind will experience the magic.

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The first whaleshark we encountered in Donsol was this big. Such adrenaline rush!

Donsol indeed is gifted by nature with rich waters that it maintained its breeding grounds for the largest fish. This once sleepy town suddenly become a flourishing destination and sought out by many, local or foreign.

Jellyfish Lagoon
Location: Bucas Grande Group, Surigao Norte

I went for a quick visit in Bucas Grande group in April to savor its homey environs and I was blessed to catch up the stingless jellyfish in Tojoman Lagoon. Although not yet in full season, their presence have warmed my heart, and added joy in my homecoming. I swam with them again silently, just floating side by side and watch them pulsating. I was wondering if ever they saw me, because they were never disturbed of my presence. My jelly friends were always there to welcome and swim with me. P1050180 Snorkeling in the emerald waters in the lagoon always highlighted my trip to the islands.

Apo Island
Location: Dauin, Negros Oriental

Perhaps, there is no other richer marine sanctuary I visited than Apo island, its shallow waters was teeming with marine life I can only find in the depths of other sites. We were lackadaisical in our dive plans in Dumaguete, we just trusted the diveshop so we left everything to them, our June dive trip was pure bliss! And it was a blessing again our dives were in Apo island, I remembered the rich encounters we had five years ago! So I had the opportunity to snorkel and explore its shores during our surface interval. It was much longer as we expected, our lunch break was more relishing after my wonderful sightings.

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The lovable sea turtle never cease to amaze me!

I got down from our dive boat, wade in the waters and swam in the sanctuary, allowing my body to float freely in the shallows.  It wasn’t long before I found many sea cucumbers scattered around in different species, size and color. Then beyond were two turtles, rummaging the corals around, eating moss and occasionally swam up for air. Such a beautiful sight! Perhaps I don’t look threatening, they were never disturbed of my presence as I watched them silently. I sighted banded sea snake also.  I can’t get enough of gliding through the waters and marveling at the corals, colorful fish and plants. There are over 650 species of fish and 400 different species of coral in the protected waters around Apo Island, which is why the island is such a popular dive spot – even included in the 100 best diving sites in the world.

Yes, it happened from north to south through the islands – in Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao! Have you gone to these sites? If you do, bring your mask & snorkel next time and discover how rich the waters right here in the Philippines arena!

NB.  Photo of whale shark in Donsol is courtesy of Angel 🙂

Bucas Grande A Drench!

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Talisay was my refuge in my homecoming

Three years. Since I last came in this group of islands I called my second home.  Not really long, but I have promised to be back again.  I have missed its tranquility and stillness. There are so many issues at the back of my mind that needs to be soothed by pure serenity, as if to disconnect. I randomly decided to be home once more.

Coming here is always a wet pursuit but I love the waters, its turquoise and emerald  surroundings always gave me a warm welcome! Again, the hop was just brief but it was some kind of a retreat.

Jellyfish Lagoon

This is my favorite spot and I always come here to visit my jelly friends.  Last time there was none,  it was fortunate they were around, although it was not yet in full season, but its good to see them again. Swimming, floating, pulsating on the emerald waters. 🙂  I can’t help being with them, but you need to be careful not to disturb them. Just float and swim without flinging one’s limbs – the proper way to interact with this invertebrate.  So soft, so gentle – I simply love them!  I scampered up the boat when Brandon (my boatman) begged me to come up when he noticed other guests are coming. Swimming with the jellyfish is not allowed anymore!

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I can’t imagine how our boat maneuvered getting inside Sohoton!

Caving in Sohoton

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Hagukan Cave can only be viewed by swimming down and holding breath for at least 10 seconds!

The two caves inside the cove are worth coming again but you must need to be comfortable in the waters.  It was new moon when I got there, so the waters movement was quite slow and even if it was low tide, the waters are still up but the good thing is,  current was almost non-existent.  🙂  If you have entered Hagukan before, you knew about the rock in the middle of the lagoon, where you could stand to rest from swimming.  Well, it was too deep to stand on, it was floating and swimming all the way!

Magkakakaub Cave is another challenging – rock climbing and that big splash to the Water! I came in here more than five times, in those instances I can walk  inside without soaking my body but this time I was swimming inside. It was amazing how it could change with the moon’s movement!

Beaches

Time was too short but I still managed to hop in Marka A Island, it was swimming and lazing in its small patch of white beach under the noon sun, in the end I took refuge under a cavern from the scorching heat while watching the horizon.  Lastly, I went to Cinnamon Island (my home in my last visit) for my sumptuous lunch with Raffy and Director Bulabong (of DILG). I enjoyed the seafoods, the buko and the home-made biko! Dining al fresco watching the blue horizons was just perfect.  🙂

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The water front of Cinnamon Island!

Nothing much has changed since I knew Bucas Grande in terms of Structures.  Well, there are new Lodging Cottages and Huts, but still of indigenous materials.  The park and its waters have maintained its cleanliness, mainly because the community manage it and everyone takes part in its preservation and protection! 🙂

Home It Is

The community always welcome me even how short the notice was – DA always arrange everything with no fuss. My boat has been waiting several hours before I arrive at Port Hayanggabon. Roldan, Raffy, Renan, Jun-jun, Brandon, Chelyn were just few who would be willing to sit for some leisure talk and dine with me even if they have other chores to do.  Most importantly, I can laze around to all my heart’s content. The wide horizons, the orange sky, the cicadas, the roaring waves and the dark nights. Just immersing myself with simple things that give pure joy.

It was another drenching visit in my home, which was purely cathartic to me.  And I will be back again, it’s a promise.

Travel Notes

1. Vans going to Port Hayanggabon, Claver is available at Bad-as, Placer. Multi-cab/jeep also can be found at Surigao City bus terminal.
2. Last trip boat (public utility) from Port Hayanggabon to Socorro town is 4pm.
3. Consider the Moon cycle when visiting the islands, tide and current movements should not be taken for granted.
4. Lodgings with generator have electricity  6:00pm to 12:00 midnight only.
5. Cellphone signal which is not necessary actually, is almost non-existent!
6. When you visit Bucas Grande, please patronize the community-managed lodgings in Cinnamon Island, SIFAI, Green Cove and Titktikan Lagoon. Always arrange your visit to the island through the local tourism unit.

 

Snorkeling @ Tojoman Lagoon in Sohoton

Rowing at Jellyfish Lake!

I revisited the enchanted Sohoton (in Siargao Island) last Saturday to once experience the wonders & challenges in the cove.  Just like my first trip, it was a crisp downcast morning which is unusual during summer but not in Siargao – it could rain anytime. Before we had breakfast, it started to rain already.  The two other guests (Cara & co.)  from  Manila whom I have convinced to join us (to save boat rentals) withdrew fearful of the rains. I told them it will stop later – even before we could reach the island.  But to no avail, they’re scared as they don’t know how to swim.  Our host informed me of something new in Sohoton – the jellyfish lagoon.  Actually it’s not new, they just failed to mention it last time and the occurrence of jellyfishes is seasonal. I decided to bring along my mask & snorkel to try a close encounter of the jellyfishes.

stingless jellyfish floated up...
Stingless jellyfish floated up...

So after a rush breakfast , we took off.  Rains, waves, winds were with us as we cruise silently to Bucas Grande.  I love the sights along the way – vast ocean, islands, fishers on their boat, blue waters, blue skies, green mountains, etc. The rough waters of Siargao is not unusual but we arrived safe in Sohoton. The caretaker mentioned it was timely for us to come as there were so many guests the previous day,  the cove was flowing with people.

I learned that jellyfish naturally choose quiet & secluded place for their sanctuary. The species used to inhabit the lagoon in the cove but due to noise of motorized tour bancas, it disturbed their ecosystem. They transferred into another lagoon used to be a place of sea urchins. So the bancas going there are non motorized, we have to paddle  going there which I enjoyed (just like kayaking).  Only one guest in each banca (small enough for two people) – I was thinking its purpose is purely economics.  Anyway, we have to go to jellyfish lagoon first, the cove later…

We got into our cute bancas, I paddled with the guide to the lagoon.  We paddled fast at the entrance as the surface current was bit strong. Getting inside, I watched in awe of the sight before me – a quiet green lagoon with lush green vegetation on the side.  If you could see those brownish thing (at the photo above) on the waters, those are the jellyfishes! By the way, they’re stingless.  I was thinking of white ones just like what we saw in Calauit. I learned there were brown, even bluish ones.

With the guides....

It was so tempting I asked the guide to go down for a snorkel – it was beautiful!  Getting up close with small, medium, large jellyfishes and swimming with them!  I could watch them move like they’re breathing or maybe shouting at me not to go near them! So many of them floating on the waters.   The guide said there were much more in the past days but due to many guests, it disturbed them and choose to remain down under. I swam for awhile savoring the serenity and beauty of the lagoon.  I was wishing I had an underwater cam so I could get photos. The clear waters with the jellyfish, few corals, sea urchins would be so perfect. And I could see the lagoon floor, it would be so ideal for photos…. I was so engrossed I realized my sister & friends have gone, I can’t see them anymore.  The guide summoned me to the sides so I could get back into the banca. Time was up we need to rush to the cove before the high tide.

I promised myself to be back in the lagoon, I want that time when there would be so many jellyfishes filling the waters – so many I could get lost in them!  It would be amazing!  🙂