Still high from that amazing superpod dolphin sighting, our outrigger boat blasted its pump to the shores of Pamilacan Island. This small island is less frequented by tourist who would rather stay at the posh and becoming overdeveloped island of Panglao. Which means it still has that rustic, tropical island feel which I liked. Open cottages, fisher folks with carefree family and a nice stretch of white sand beach that makes 80% of the island’s shoreline. Now I’m yearning for some snorkeling.
Pamilacan means “resting place of the mantas” which is also abundant in the island’s waters. Aside from that are the regular whales and whale shark sightings in the area. Locals used to hunt them but now the marine mammals here are under protection. So from “hunting” the local livelihood became “watching”. With so much marine mammals here I could imagine the reefs around the islands teeming with lots of underwater species.
From the beach I took a really small paddle boat that’s only good up to 3 persons including the boatman. You actually have the option to paddle along with the boatman if you’re up to it but I just decided to take pictures along the way. We were headed to the sanctuary which I could see is cordoned and surrounded by a number of white buoys. By the beach on my left I could see a lone triangular Spanish watchtower. I was later told it could be as old as the church of Baclayon.
My boatman instructed me to wear my life-vest. What!? How can I dive down? He said that they are strict here and don’t allow people to dive near the corals. I donned my life-vest and went into the water. And boy I could see why! The coral formations here is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen. My boatman snapped a piece of bread with his fingers and soon fishes were swarming around him. I looked at the corals below but I wasn’t really contented.
“Lipat tayo! Dun sa pwedeng sumisid at madaming isda. (Let’s switch! Where I could dive down and see lots of fishes)” I told my boatman. I wondered how I could go up the boat without tumbling it down small as it is, he just instructed me to go up at the front then pull myself up. Easy with that. We moved out of the cordoned area and paddled for a few minutes on our way back and stopped on a spot where he said is also great to snorkel.
I went back into the water and it was indeed good. The visibility at that time was really good. The corals were not as good as the enclosed sanctuary but there lots of fishes and a good mix of corals. I took my time here before I went back up at the shore.
Back on the beach, one of my companion was sleeping heavenly on the cottage while one was having a massage. Now that is relaxing. On our way back to Baclayon proper, I felt myself dozing again. Then I heard a splash. “Look! A manta just jumped out of the water! Crazy!” I didn’t see it, only the splash. But I didn’t know Mantas cold jump out of water.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.