Charming Camiguin

Indeed, there are 101 ways of enjoying the wonders of Camiguin Island and maybe it would be too archaic to say I am one of many who are captivated by its enduring charms. I will never get tired of coming over and over again, last year I hopped to the island three times each with different agenda to relish once more its grandeur on its surface and beyond.

Mountains and Falls

During one long weekend in summer I went with workmates to fulfill my long-time wish to climb Mt. Hibok-hibok, the trek was unforgiving but I made it traversing to Ardent Hotsprings. It was just marvelous getting up close with this majestic & dangerous mountain which have devastated the island decades ago. My legs went wobbly when I got back in the camp but happy for it was a wish come true!

In June during an official travel, after having a road tour with staff and workmates, I had a quick detour for a weekend dive with my dive buddy. It was rediscovering the island province, surface & beyond.  And yes, after the dives in Mantigue Island we went up the mountains for the trek to Binangawan Falls in Sagay.  We went for the unforgiving trails but the feeling was great when we got there, it was deserted compared to Katibawasan & Tuasan Falls! The trek was engaging, one mistake and you fell into the ravine.  The waters was too cold, just right to cool down after the long and challenging walk and it was all ours!  🙂

Island and Depths

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Mantigue Island, a gem in the Bohol Sea!

I went back to the island for my year-end dive and the weather favoured us, while other regions was on a storm it was like summer in Northern Mindanao.  We aimed for Mantigue Island, we just couldn’t get enough of the school of giant trevally and huge turtles. I never get tired of coming back again and again, the point is – we only spent brief moment underwater which is usually an hour at a time, and the probability that we will see everything in that moment is nonsensical. Exactly, different sightings in every descent. Yet if I’m in Mantigue waters, I waited for the turtles and the large herd of jackfish or trevallies. I wished to be in the midst of these numerous silvery fish with big eyes and swim with them or be engulfed in their swirling motion completely at peace.

Once again we encountered my favourite species – the turtles, giant trevallies, garden eels, stonefish, giant grouper (like a goliath!), sea snake, moray eel, few nudis and unexpectedly – a herd of barracudas! We bumped with the trevallies at least three times as we went around. We stumbled upon a reef decorated with feather stars, soft and hard corals and hydroids formed like a heart – amazing discovery! 🙂 Angel tugged me and pointed it out while floating weightlessly.  My two dives on that Saturday have refreshed me undoubtedly after just recovered from feeling ill.

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An amazing find!  🙂

It was drizzling when we head for the white sandbar in Yumbing early the next morning, a storm darkened the skies followed by rains, but the sun peeped after awhile and suddenly brightened up the horizons.  It’s been long since I last set foot in the sandbar, then a rainbow appeared and it reminded me of a promise from the heavens, a magic to behold sending good cheers!

Camiguin always fascinates me in every way, the island is purely magical – surface and beyond.

NB. The split photo of Mantigue Island is courtesy of my dive buddy.

Love for the Blue!

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Pure lovely, right in Mantigue Island depths!

In my year-end dive, we discovered this reef as we went around in the island sanctuary, perfectly decorated with feather stars, whips, soft & hard corals. Very symbolic and a gentle reminder for our love of the ocean and marine world in general. Just needed keen eyes,  I was beaming when we spotted this corner!  🙂

We’re now into the swing of the new year putting in place each one’s agenda, may the force of love our motivation in our journey – our passions, dreams, and aspirations.

Indeed, the ocean is worth the love we could give. As Dr. Sylvia Earle puts it, ” No ocean, no life.  No blue, no green.  No ocean, no us.” Let’s keep the heart beating,  it’s time we return the love!

 

 

Diving in Mantigue Island!

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Away, deep down in this blue world…

After few weeks from our Mt. Hibok-Hibok climb I was back in Camiguin for a work trip, so the weekend was an opportune time for some break after that nerve-wracking week.  We agreed to rediscover and dive once more the islet off Camiguin coast, so Angel caught up with me in Mahinog very early on a Saturday.

Our cruise to Mantigue was challenged, the insurmountable waves tossed our small boat vehemently and I was thinking if we could just let the storm pass, but we are far from the shore already. The sun was brightly shining though, but I started to worry when the engine had trouble and stopped when we were still half way, what if? 😦  It was agonizing, the waves were fierce enough to sink us! Obviously, we made it to the shores of the island.

Black Forest

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Can you find the coral crabs?

We maneuvered a bit to the north side to take cover from the raging waves and so our DM decided to have our first descent at the Black Forest.  Another challenge was kiting up since our boat was too small to do it, the last and most practical was to do it on waters. It’s been long since I last did it, I hesitated at first but I remembered Mario (my mentor) saying it is the easiest way. So I went down first alone, I missed Mario at that moment because he always make sure someone will hold the gears for me.  My buddy was just watching me from the boat. 😦

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A star in the depths!

We went down to a sandy slope decorated with soft corals, it was surprising that the viz was reasonably good considering the waves we encountered, the sea as always is incredibly unpredictable.  So, we swam over variety of soft corals, hydroids, whips, crinoids with those fish juveniles wiggling over.  The turtles graced us, this time not just one but there were six!  Always, watching them gracefully swimming warms my heart. So with Angel, it is always his favorite specie but now he can calmly watch it swimming by without getting too excited, before he always ends up chasing the poor turtle! 🙂  We found also giant clams, coral crabs, sea cucumber, striped eel fish and a moray eel. We had a safety stop in the grassy sandy shallows and after 63 minutes ended in a shore ascent, swimming up to the white beach.

Marine Sanctuary

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This moray was too shy!

Our surface interval was spent for our late breakfast at Dive Special camp, and later to make most of our time, took a walk around the islet circumference discovering its other side.  The sun was brightly shining without any trace of a storm!  The waters was calm already, so we finally went in our second dive for the sanctuary which we originally aimed for those giant jacks!  We took a short boat ride until the side of the site with those floaters and geared up again in the waters. We descend right in the sanctuary, watching closely taking our time as we swam slowly but this time the viz gone dim and cloudy.  The variety of fishes have again surprised me, it was filled to the brim I must say.  There was a herd of giant batfish, school of midnight snappers, and most of all – the school of jackfish! They have grown in number and obviously in size, now real giants after four years we last saw them!  Again, we had a dose of turtles, five in all including a big one who swam from my back coyly as if wanting me to follow her, I watched it in awe.  There were banners, angelfish, chromis, damsels, triggers, fusiliers and those electric blue anthias darting, so colorful.  There was a scorpionfish too, banded pipefish and variety of giant clams.  As we move around, we encountered again the school of jacks, hovering as if not moving at all.  So peaceful and relaxing, how magnificent to just watch them!  It was a grand display of nature’s splendor.  We had a shore ascent again after having our safety stop in the grassy slope, the afternoon tide fiercely carrying us to the white sandy shore.  We had a total dive time of 57 minutes with our deepest at 20.4 meters.

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We had a dose of turtles!

Ending our two dives, we silently cruise back to the dive shop jetty in Mahinog with the waters perfectly calm. Have you been to Camiguin? If you can squeeze few hours, cruise to Mantigue and wander around, you don’t need to dive to relish its unspoiled charm. Its richness is in its simplicity and serenity!

Mania in Mantangale!

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As we drift off for safety stop, school of jacks appeared obscurely!

We were back again in Mantangale for CY 2015 dives kick-off, after two failed attempts in December and this January. Aiming for Mantigue Island (in Camiguin), the desire was too great to ignore – my gills were dried up after nine long weeks from my last dive.

Early morning dive at Mantigue is preferable as waters can get choppy, my favorite school of jacks also appears on mornings as they look for food. We arrived late at the diveshop, but too grateful that the captain waited for us, it was a shame as other guests were already on the boat.

Mantigue Island

Coming back after three years was with much anticipation, my encounters on this site were productive and I was hoping for its diverse life exploding with colors. We descend in a slope with wide coral area, hard and soft corals in variety decorated with tropical species – shrimp fish, giant moray eel, spade fish, emperor, wrasses, chromis, damsels, angels and those colorful anthias! And when we were about to have our safety stop, the school of jacks appeared like teasing us. It was unexpected! It was amusing, a drummer was manipulating a female jack to separate from the school. 🙂

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Colorful anthias over variety of corals

We went deep for 48 minutes at 30 meters as deepest. Our surface interval include exploring the park with its mini- forest which Angel wanted, our cruise back to Talisayan and our lunch break of fish n chips!

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A drummer and a jack!

Sipaka Point

Some guests call it a day and new tanks were needed for next dives, another boat came and after the transfers of equipment and passengers we prepared for the last descent. Sipaka, in the next town of Talisayan is another site with diverse marine life.

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Colorful christmas tree worms! Each time I see them, I poke playfully and they quickly hide! 🙂

We sighted stonefish, frogfish (!), banded sea snake and giant groupers not to mention the colorful anthias and other tropical fishes hovering over the colorful reef. It was another relaxing viewing of the colorful depths, 54 minutes at 18 meters deepest. Both dives were at 30% EAN!

If you are a diver and you haven’t been to Mantangale, you need to reconsider your dive trip plans. In my last engagement at MADRI, there were more than ten Russians for more than a week stay – either diving, swimming or lazing around in the beach. It was amazing they chose such obscure dive resort right here in Mindanao for their vacation, there must be something in this resort which I called my diving home.

No doubt, I will be back. I will be back home again…

Coming Again to Camiguin

The magical Camiguin Island from afar

It was as a quick decision to have weekend dives in Mantigue Island and  I was grateful for my mentor who is always there to cater to my requests, it was too easy for him as they opened an outlet in Camiguin Island. As my trips to the island were always with companions – with friends, family or even with work mates, this time I went alone for my much needed dives. The desire was just too great to ignore, I want to explore more and meet again remarkable creatures in the island’s depths.

Arriving Balingoan port before 6am, there was a long queue already for the 2nd trip ferry – a scene like Holy Week when all people flock to the island. But it is still summer, so it’s not unusual that many people will cruise for the official summer destination in Northern Mindanao. My DM with instructions from my mentor was picking me up at Benoni port so there wasn’t much to arrange but be on board on the earliest ferry available.

Revisiting Mantigue Island

Decades ago, this island seemed so remote and in the late eighties DA people recoil from the mere mention of this place. We lost lives during a project visitation with no less than the head of the regional office, it was a traumatic incident not only for those who witnessed the tragedy but also for the whole Department. The story is now hidden in the past, just recently the island has been developed and now a nature park of LGU Mahinog – which is a commendable undertaking of the local government.

The colorful anemone fish in pairs never fails to attract a diver

Our first descent was a shore entry on the sanctuary going west, the shallows were covered with sea grasses until we went deeper on a sandy slope. The reef was covered with soft and hard corals, invertebrates and had an active fish life. Big snappers, anthias, herd of oriental sweetlips, clown fishes, damsels, angels and Moorish idols. The big frogfish was a real big bonus! After 56 minutes we wade back into the shallows fro our interval, having 29.3 m as my deepest.

The  large frigfish was a surprise!
The large frogfish was a surprise!

We wade back again for our next descent going east of the sanctuary, the site is indeed blessed with marine life – nemos, sea stars, anemones and corals even on the shallows. The reef was decorated with sea fans, crinoids, basket sponge, colored soft corals, sea cucumbers, variety of anemones, finger leather corals. I was hoping to encounter again the large school of jacks, but only few was in view and quickly went away. My DM caught sight of a turtle, we tried to follow her but shy away. We swam back into the shallows after 67 minutes having 28m as my deepest.

The lowly turtle is always a friend!

My last descent for the day was in Black Forest, so the small boat brought us to the other side of the island, at past 2pm the waters started to be choppy. It was a sandy slope alternately decorated with hard and soft corals with variety of fish species around – boxfish, puffer, anthias, angels again, snappers, sand perch, goatfish. I lingered for few minutes on wide coral area with colored fishes hovering on top – lovely sight! My dive computer gave me flashing signals, I got erratic profile and have to maintain my depth for awhile. We swam until we got back to the sanctuary and ascend after 61 minutes having 26.2m as my deepest.

Giant clams can also be found in the sanctuary

Camiguin on the Surface

One thing I love with this island is that it has still maintained its laid-back atmosphere and the locals are always friendly. It’s good to be alone as I got to discover new things, now I know that it’s not expensive to get around as tricycles can be your mode of transportation in going down town. The next morning from the diveshop in Catohugan, Mahinog I went to Mambajao for two rides which only costs P 20.00. From the church after attending mass, I walked around to look for a Vjandep outlet (for the famous pastel) near the market. I walked again under the noon sun and asked around where to get a tricycle back, I was told to turn the next corner and the terminal was just under the big old acacia tree! Far cry from previous trips where I was with groups, we need to hire transportation which was some kind of expensive or if work-related, we would request from our local counterpart.

Pure, idyllic
Pure, laid-back and idyllic….

That same old charm I love in Camiguin is still there, it’s one of those local destinations that never ceased to fascinate me.  And now with easy access for my dive quest, I sure will be back again. There are more sights to discover in the depths!

My Jack in School

School of Jacks

Diving for almost five years now, there has been lot of meeting up  with friends underwater – few astonishing, some endearing,  others surprising or mystifying but most of them so wonderful. The thrill of seeing these wondrous creatures has always been overwhelming, putting them in words is not enough, surely won’t give justice to describe how marvelous it’s always been.  Marine world completely blow me away, simply I fell in love with the underwater realm.

One of the species that I found magical and awe-inspiring is jack, a silvery fish belonging to the family of Barracudas, Tunas & Mackerels, Chubs, or Mullets.  Locally known as Talakitok or Trakito, the larger version is better known as Trevally.  As food fish, it’s superb and admittedly it’s one of my favorite. But I’m more interested of Jack out there in the wild, not on my dinner table. I better knew him in the deep, swimming coyly and gazing at me, at an arm’s length in his world.

Unity and harmony....

There are three remarkable spots so far where I had magical encounter with jacks – a large number of them or aptly described as in schoolApo Islandwith its great marine life and healthy ecosystem, was teeming with bigeye jacks in school.

Glassy eyes stare!

For sure, the local community’s effort in preserving and protecting the surrounding waters was not futile.  Lining up and swimming in unison in the blue before me – what a sight!

To survive in one-mindedness...

Right in our very own Mantigue Island in Camiguin, when I first dove at the sanctuary I never expected an encounter with jacks, no one mentioned it to me.  Awed, when silvery jacks appeared before me, again in unison swimming coyly, as if listening to the vibration of my own movements.

Jacks in Tubbataha Reefs

There is some kind of magic that this humble Trakito can bring!     Lastly, in the great Tubbataha Reefs, large school of jacks decorated a sandy slope after I got mesmerized with a whaleshark & reef sharks parade.  They simply appeared like a wall, those huge glassy eyes staring at you.  Even with current, they hung in mid-water with flawless grace.  Their unity in going to one direction, or how easily they shift in opposite direction in accord is mind-boggling, as if someone is in command.  The school moves with quiet order and control.

Such majesty in oneness...

There is a majesty and power in the movement of a unified mass, a kind of beauty and harmony that can only come from moving and thinking as one.  It is still a mystery to me, indeed how vast the marine life to unravel.  My jacks in school is just one of its wonders!

NB.  Photos courtesy of Angel, using Olympus Tough 8000 and PT 045 as casing