Interdependency among critters in the depths is not uncommon, this emperor shrimp was lurking under the belly of a sea cucumber, claiming as refuge. We turned the unsuspecting cucumber upside down while diving in Black Forest (Mantigue Island) to uncover the minute shrimp.
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.
There are three remarkable spots so far where I had magical encounter with jacks – a large number of them or aptly described as in school. Apo Islandwith its great marine life and healthy ecosystem, was teeming with bigeye jacks in school.
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!
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.
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.
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
There wasn’t much enthusiasm towards this year’s after birthday weekend trip, originally the dates were reserved already for the much awaited Tawi-Tawi dives. Much awaited because last year’s plan was cancelled, so it was rescheduled for July 2011 and was thrilled when we got our tickets on sale last November! Well, it was called off again just with the Batanes sojourn. It brought home in the end for Mantangale dives but Angel’s mixed-up schedules daunted my MADRI homecoming…
We made it though, but arriving late at the resort, all the dive boats sailed off already to Mantigue Island and Medina. After more than two hours of waiting and taking our complimentary lunch at the resto, Angel and I went down to the diveshop to prepare and gear up. I guess we’re just dying to be in the waters for our dried up gills! 🙂 Just in time when Sir Dong came back from Duka Bay, we had some catch-up talk until we sailed off for our first descent at Sipaka Point.
Although Sipaka is just nearby from the resort, it belonged to the next coastal town of Talisayan. The spot wasn’t new but I was sure there is something more I will find since I last explored its depths. Back-rolling for our first water entry at the Red Sand, we separated from the boat with group of OW students having their exercise at the spot. We descend on a sandy slope with Danny as our dive guide – we are now confident to go down with no DM. 🙂 We sighted variety specie of soft and hard corals, sponges, colorful crinoids, cucumbers, anemones and even crown of sea thorns. We sighted also a banded sea snake slithering from us as we took turns for photos! We moved around and searched for more critters – spotted colorful nudis, elusive cleaner shrimp and juvenile fishes. I was amused with the jerky many spotted sweetlips – we keep on following as it kept darting when we took photos. 😛 We found uniquely shaped corals – like mushrooms, like suntan flora, like thorny fruit and more. There was no encounter with pelagics but the colorful tropical fishes decorating the corals was all there in splendor creating a colorful underwater and active fish life. We ascend after 62 minutes still having 1000psi of air.
We were grateful the shop arranged for our second descent together with John (Australian), who wanted to search for mandarin fish. Leisure talk with Sir Dong – right, for next dive trips! J Good food, idyllic environs with good weather while watching Camiguin Island in the horizons, was a perfect surface interval for me. Though it was late, there was no rush as we waited sundown for our night dive.
We boarded the boat in twilight and cruised for about 15 minutes to Talisayan Shoal getting thrilled what to find, it was our first time at the shoal. I always find night dives as challenging and exciting! The plan: DM Cena will look for mandarin fish while the dive guide stay with John, we will follow them as we do our own exploration. It was almost dark when we descend at 5:52pm on a sandy area.
The dark underwater seemed another world to me, armed with our torches we started our search – search for the unknown! We spotted critters – crabs, shrimps, juvenile lion fish, clams, and more. Angel pointed out a juvenile puffer fish with those green pleading eyes! We went around getting familiar with the darkness, only to find out we were separated from the others. It didn’t bother us as we continue to roam around. Indeed, at night different species showed up. We stayed close to the seabed as we continue our search, I felt something crawling on my bodice – a crinoid stuck with me! 😛 In a while, we noticed a flickering light beyond us, following it we caught up with our companions. We ascend after 68 minutes with my air still at 1000psi, at 7pm it was all dark surrounding us. The cold night air gave me shivers as we sped off to the resort.
Perhaps a dive in far-off waters is just ordinary for some but the sights in our two descents were not usual ones – we had more of colorful macros and colorful active marine life. I couldn’t help again to be more passionate with marine life as I view my photos, you know – that fire within. How vast and mysterious underwater world is, and how fortunate I am given the privilege to experience this grandeur.
Even with battery of cancelled trips, my after birthday weekend dives with my favorite dive buddy was more than enough for my dried-up gills and itching fins. Life can be more beautiful deep down!