Ghost Fish!

To an ordinary eye, these  are just two dried leaves floating over the sand

Let me start my post for this year with amazing sea life, a special find in my last dive in 2016, a specie which never occurred  to me until we ascend and asked our DM what it was. It was just fortunate I took a snap descent enough for posting.

Have you encountered a ghost fish in any of your dives?

I think they got this name as they are sometimes suddenly found or seen in a particular place and they only stay a few days or weeks before they disappear mysterious like a ghost.
They are extremely seasonal and are mostly found only a few months of the year. Furthermore, in the current they move perfectly along with the moving arms of the feather star so that they are as good as invisible. A lot of reasons thus why they are so hard to find.

We swam up the sandy slope drifting with the current preparing for safety stop, when our DM pointed out these two brownish matter. Pausing for a moment watching intently and wondering what it was but suspecting it was something I should not ignore. Then hastily snapped two photos.

At once glance, it can never be suspected as fish. They barely moved but swayed and drifted with the afternoon current which was an intelligent camouflage as dried leaves. I suspect the big one is pregnant evidenced by its bulging mid-body probably the tummy.

The marine world is definitely filled with wonderful creatures, miraculously it appeared before us when barely ten months ago in our dives at the bay we never found any ghost pipe fish. There was much abundance you never know what you find in your next dive.  It was a perfect surprise for us!

Diving in SarBay!

In February we head for General Santos for a dive trip, it was a quick decision although there have been previous attempts, but deferred as I was thinking of the long land trip from Cagayan de Oro. My friends in our special project at work had been long recommending for the south, urging the richness of the bay. Of course, SarBay has always been known as the tuna country being one of the biggest domestic sources for yellow fin tunas both in the local and foreign markets. It goes without saying that its depths held rich marine life and well-preserved environment being hardly reached for water adventures.

The long trip to General Santos left me sleepless but my transpo connections went fluidly so I arrived earlier and have more than enough time for rest, and later explored the city by myself. The city has a diveshop I found in the net like three years ago but on a hunch I chose the one located at Tampuan Point in Maasim, the western town near the mouth of the bay. As it is, my dive buddy always afforded me to decide for the details of our dive trip, he has trusted my judgment for the necessary arrangements.

Probing Tampuan Point

The depths is replete with diverse marine life!

Angel caught up with me very early the next morning for the dives, too early he had almost four-hour nap to freshen up from the sleepless trip to the city. Rushing up in the morning, we arrived at Lemlunay Resort somewhat delayed from our promised time, but was grateful we were not yet late. They started to prepare for the gears when we caught them up at the shop. A bunch of male divers were there already, I guess they were bit surprised of a lady joining them. In a way, I tried my best not to let my presence an intrusion to them. 🙂

Our first descent was at the Kamanga Marine Sanctuary just a bit off the resort, but we still got into the boat (with no gangplank). It was high tide and the Tinoto Sandbar I was hoping to see was nowhere in sight. Sir Joel was our head DM and Nolan as our guide, the guys were a bunch. The instruction was to stay close the wall, currents can be strong which can pull one down and away to the deep blue. We drifted awhile passing whips, sea fans and soft corrals until the current got stronger. Our DM signaled to get away from the wall and seek refuge up the slope. We circled around up the wide sandy area until we sighted the turtle, everybody moved swiftly and the poor turtle scampered away! We found a herd of shrimpfish, angels, moorish idol, sand perchs, clownfish and variety of juveniles. We found cluster of concrete reef mounds scattered around the area as fish shelters. It was a different kind of model, indeed lot of tropical fish like chromis, damsels, sergeants and anthias hovering over and down the mounds. The turtle appeared again but swam quickly away seeing us! As we prepared for our ascent, a blue ribbon eel came into view as if some closure of our search! We ascend after 48 minutes, my deepest at 23.9 meters with my air still at 110 bars.

Reef mounds scattered in the marine park serve as marine life shelters

We had a treat of warm divers’ soup as we got up in the shop and spent our surface interval lounging near the infinity pool watching the blue horizons. 🙂

Our second descent was still at the sanctuary off the Tinoto Reef, I think the healthy environment of the depths is owed to the concretes domes installed in the area, the artificial reef greatly enhanced the marine life. Our DM after learning of our dive sites quest around the country was bit pressured to find us something interesting in our dives. We shun away from the currents and as we went around sighted nudis, shrimpfish again, chromis and damsels. Obviously, the diverse marine life of the reef is a clear proof being awarded as one of the most outstanding marine protected area of the Para El Mar MPA Awards. As we lingered on hoping to find a rare specie, I caught up with our DM inspecting a crevice on hard corals, he found two bulging eyes protruding. At first, I tried to figure out what it was, something strange. It was upset, it came out – an octopus! It was my first sighting of a cephalopod in its habitat – pure amazing! It didn’t fled away, but courageously stood its ground and before it left, shoot a cloud of black ink, then left nonchalantly in front of us! It was a show, an actual observation of the specie’s behavior. 🙂 After 51 minutes, we ended our dive still amazed of our last find. I went 26.9 meters as deepest, my air still at 100 bars.

Seeking refuge on the slope, the currents went tricky!

It was worth the trip, the probe was more than successful and without doubt a future schedule for dive trip in this corner of Mindanao would be in order. I am convince there are more amazing finds in the SarBay depths just waiting for curious souls! 🙂

Travel Notes:

  1. My route for this trip was:
    Cagayan de Oro to Davao – 12mn Rural Transit tourist bus (6 hours)

Davao to GenSan – 7:30am Yellow Bus Line tourist bus (3 hours)

  1. GenSan to Tampuan Point is 26 kilometers approximately 45 minutes travel by van
  2. The next town of Kiamba (Sarangani Province) has established a marine park, the LGU also offered diving in the marine sanctuary
  3. Again, the moon cycle should be considered when scheduling a dive trip, the current in the bay can be so tricky!
  4. Dive rate is considerably good, we paid only PhP 1,800.00/pax for two dives including gears.
  5. South Point Divers shop is housed at Lemlunay Resort, the owner of the resort is the head dive instructor, Mr. Paul Partridge whom we met during our surface interval.
  6. Lemlunay, which, in the B’laan and T’Boli tongues, roughly means “the good place one goes to in the afterlife”.