Wonders in Moaboal

I am a firm believer as a diver, that the underwater has always surprises in store so that a certain spot can give one different sightings every dive. The underwater realm is a stash of dynamic organisms, today and tomorrow’s encounter is never the same. A decade of diving has taught me so, the wonders of marine life can never be exhausted.

Millions of Sardines!

Indeed, coming back again in any dive sites gave new encounters which can never be compared from the last. Let it be marine creatures, new acquaintance, locals, or even circumstances where one can reflect lot of good things are always in store in every situation. My dives this year were few, yet our destinations were undoubtedly our favorites and probably few of the best in the country.

It was a last minute decision to return in Moalboal last October, as usual I had the last word where to go as there was no previous plan. I needed to go away a little farther and it was a random choice to revisit South Cebu. We were so blessed that our arrangements went smooth – our home Moalboal Backpackers Lodge for accommodation, and Savedra Dive Center for the dives.

Swarm of these juveniles…

Isla de Pescador

Our 5am bus trip from the city allowed us a very early arrival in town, giving us ample time to relax and prepare for the dives.  The town was all in motion as we got in Basdiot, weekends like any destinations are full and bustling with tourists.  The cheery weather lifted my spirits, forward looking for wonderful encounters during the day. We were welcomed warmly at the diveshop, the wall chart indicated that we belonged to Lyndon’s (DM) group on our first dive at Pescador Island!

Aboard the Seastar, we sped through the surf, the lowly island looming before us as we got nearer and in 15 minutes we dropped anchors.  Few boats already moored indicative of other divers ahead of us. Our DM briefed us of the current, so from northeast point we should drift to the northwest but first we need to cross against the current until the wall, navigating with our right shoulder against the wall. I informed Lyndon that I wore a brand new wetsuit and it might affect my bouyancy, he assured that he would bring extra weight in case it is necessary. And it was fierce indeed, I have always avoided swimming against current. It was exhaustive!

Watching from inside the Cathedral

Every inch beyond was filled with so much life – from echinoderms, hard & soft corals to swarming variety of fish – there was so much colours! I kept myself close to the wall as I searched for some critters just floating until we got to the Cathedral! It is a cavern with holes, and getting inside with keen eyes you were like staring a large monster face! We linger a little longer inside just watching the illuminated holes, trying to absorb its grandeur, how magnificent! There was a stonefish, giant clam, bivalves that snap as you got close, and a lot of linkia laevigata. There were turtles and we found a huge one sleeping on a crevice, while we left it alone, unfortunately another group of divers came and poke the poor animal. 😦  The wall has few caverns and lot of crevices that were undoubtedly shelter of various critters. We ended up at the northwest end of the island, actually half-circled Pescador. Thankfully I didn’t have trouble with my new wetsuit.  Maybe if we got to dive here in the future, we will reverse the route to get the full circle, without the current of course! 🙂

Sexy shrimps, can you see them?

We cruised back to mainland and while halfway on the waters, to our surprise a pod of bottle-nosed dolphins appeared and sailed alongside our boat! They lingered for a little while to everybody’s delight, until finally we sped our way to the shores with all our smiles. The warm sun, sea breeze and salt waters spraying on us was pure delight.

Sardines Shoal

Since I first came in Moalboal decade ago, we always aimed for the sardines and this trip was no exception. The house reef was listed for our second dive in the afternoon, and it was an exclusive dive for us! Our surface interval was more than enough for our quick bites and relaxed a bit longer before we got back at the dive shop, just a few meters away from our hostel.

The sardines was all around us!

We geared up excitedly but our DM changed the plan due to the afternoon current, instead of a shore dive we shifted for the boat. So, we sailed shortly to Panagsama Sanctuary and descend there and drifted for the shoal eastward immersing in the warm afternoon waters. We maintained our depth in the shallow reef along the Basdiot shores scouring the bottom for trashes. We gathered some plastic debris, thankful there wasn’t much when the area was filled with many settlers and establishments just few meters from the shoreline. In spite of this, there was much marine life in the area – sexy shrimps lurking on soft corals, ornate pipefish, nudis, lobster and juvenile frogfish! We drifted until we got into swarm of big eye scad, there was lot of them swerving and shifting direction as we moved along. There were other fish specie that came in schools also, and to my mind they knew and learned that being in cluster commanded force and they were less threatened.

I kept looking up until in an instant a dark patch clouded over us, the sardines shoal was upon our very eyes! Like a magic but for me, it’s purely mystical. I know I will never get tired watching again and again such incredible marine sight. 🙂 How majestic are His creation!

Nudibranch!

We kept floating mindful too of other fish in our midst, there were five barracudas that tried to invade the swarm but wasn’t able to penetrate at all. And how marvelous that they could go that shallow, barracudas are generally deep sea dwellers! We still linger floating until we reached the end of the stretch, Lyndon signaled accordingly to turn around and went against the mild afternoon current. Angel and I immersed much longer finning coyly with the massive sardines’ swarm above us, engulfed myself few more moments of wonder until our DM signaled for surface which we both agreed. We ended up at the front of the dive shop entrance channel. Angel helped me with my fins as we walked back to the shop with our gears on. I guess even with the current I still felt energized with such wonderful encounter, it was for me another relaxing experience with the phenomenal sardines. I could only wish they would remain to have Panagsama as refuge, shelter and home forever.

The sardines clouded over us!

We capped our day with a big dinner in Marina, yet many times our encounters for the day came into our chats until we retired for the night.

Moalboal will always be our favorite destination for diving, its wonders endlessly captivated my soul. That brought home how amazing the marine world is and why it’s worth protecting the rich biodiversity we have in the country or this planet, for that matter.

Travel Notes:

  1. Leaving Cebu City at 4:30am by bus, one can reach Moalboal before 8:00am still having enough time for 2 dives during the day
  2. Tricycle to Basdiot costs P150.00 for special trip, otherwise P20.00/pax for ordinary trip
  3. Be sure to book your accommodation and dives before heading to Moaboal to avoid trip hassles
  4. Sardines Shoal can still be encountered through snorkelling
  5. Pescador (which literally means fisherman) got its name being refuge of fishermen during inclement weather.