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Camiguin Philippines Travel

Mantigue Island and its Denizens of the Deep

Five years are enough time for a place to change. Such is the case for Mantigue Island in Camiguin, North Mindanao. With Cebu Pacific Air’s direct flights from Cebu recently introduced last April, I was lucky enough to join a band of bloggers raring to explore the island wonders to promote its flight accessibility and tourism. I guess its serendipity that I go back to this island as I was yearning to go back to Mantigue Island since I had a memorable visit there in 2008. As our boat launched under a hazy mid-morning sky and a sentimental air, I can’t help wonder what does the island look now? Is the family where we stayed in still there? After a mere 15-20 minutes boat ride over medium swells, the island was there to answer.

Encounter with a Greensea turtle while snorkeling at Mantigue Island
Encounter with a sea turtle while snorkeling at Mantigue Island

Five years are enough time for a place to change. Such is the case for Mantigue Island in Camiguin, North Mindanao. With Cebu Pacific Air’s direct flights from Cebu recently introduced last April, I was lucky enough to join a band of bloggers raring to explore the island wonders to promote its flight accessibility and tourism. I guess its serendipity that I go back to Camiguin as I was yearning to go back to Mantigue Island since I had a memorable visit there in 2008. As our boat launched under a hazy mid-morning sky and a sentimental air, I can’t help wonder what does the island look now? Is the family where we stayed in still there? After a mere 15-20 minutes boat ride over medium swells, the island was there to answer.

Approaching Mantigue Island
Approaching Mantigue Island

A Former Fishing Village

When I visited Mantigue Island more than 5 years ago, there was an internal conflict between the people living on the island and the local government. The people on the island who thrives by fishing doesn’t want to leave as the waters surrounding the island is their source of livelihood. The local government had other plans and wanted to transform the island into a Nature Park. We were caught in between this conflict when the locals would coerce us to sign a petition against the government. Hearing the side of the military guards stationed at the island about the government’s plans, it was hard to take sides. We chose to be observers even if we stayed in a family who would rather stay and live on the island.

Our local guide and island resident Ikoi leading us at the forest trail
Our local guide and island resident Ikoi leading us at the forest trail

Island Transformation

“It started three years ago” said our guide, Rambo for this current trip with bloggers. I was surprised there’s already a boat station in the shore of San Roque in the town of Mahinog, where guest who wish to visit the islands can hire boats. They have already established standard rates for the boat trips, entrance and environmental fees.

We took the 3 km journey at sea to the island and I immediately saw a few colorful flapping flags lined up by the beach similar to some resort beach fronts. It was a bittersweet sight at first but I kept an open mind. We docked and was led to the visitor section that offers a natural shade from the trees and tables for visitors to use. There were nifty signs everywhere about keeping the environment clean, directions to the restrooms, tree names or even directions to the forest. I think they did a good job organizing things without the place feeling too “developed”.

We were introduced to Ikoi, an unassuming local guide, small, fisherman built with deformed left arm but showed no sign of being incapacitated when in water. He completely amused us with his stupendous amount of adjectives like “Perfect”, “Wonderful” and more, when he clicks the shutter of our cameras for a photo op. “20 na lang kaming pamilya dito dati mga 40 (only 20 families are left here from the original 40)” Ikoi told me when I asked about the community. Those who were left worked for the tourism of the island. What of the half of the community? I was able to ask personally Gov. Jj Romualdo over dinner and told me he allotted lodging, allowance and livelihood for them in the mainland. Our guide Rambo even told me most of the families who left the island even had better lives. If those were true, I’m glad to hear that.

The Mantigue Island Marine Sanctuary has the largest colony of sea anemones I have ever snorkeled
The Mantigue Island Marine Sanctuary has the largest colony of sea anemones I have ever snorkeled

Mantigue Island Transformation

The island felt like a familiar stranger now and I’m left to rediscover its natural wonders yet again. Ikoi guided us on a short forest walk and familiarized us to the many type of trees living on the island and some of the fauna inhabitants.

Probably the best part was snorkeling on the designated snorkeling and diving site of the island which I wasn’t able to do before. As soon as I got into the water, I was mesmerized by the abundant growth of healthy seagrass bed spread like a carpet. It felt like I was floating on a manicured park. Then there were those isolated corals, huge ones teeming with a variety of fishes making me wish I knew all their names aside from the huge colony of Sea Anemones Fishes. Then there were those huge table corals that spans probably from 10-20 feet in radius. It was different and amazing.

I was so busy admiring the corals and fishes when I heard a call. I swam to where the others who were over the reef wall drop and was pleasantly surprised to see a mature Sea Turtle swimming in deeper waters. It stayed with us for a few minutes as if it knew he was being watched and played along. He would momentarily rise up near the surface and then submerge. We were just delighted to swim along with it.

Despite the strong current which made it harder to swim, we were all glad with what we saw. I never expected the marine life to be this rich around Mantigue Island. If I had known the first time around, I would have swum then. I guess time just let me to discover pieces of the island. Showing me it has changed. And yes, I’ve noticed it.

Mantigue Island has some of the largest table corals I have ever seen
Mantigue Island has some of the largest table corals I have ever seen

Essential Info

Mantigue Island Nature Park is a protected area. Staying overnight is no longer allowed. To visit the island head to Baranggay San Roque in Mahinog, Camiguin. The following fees apply:

Mantigue Island nature Park Fees
Roundtrip Boat Fee to Mantigue (Max 6pax with life vest) Php 550
Environmental Fee Php 80
Table Rental (Long) Php 100
Table Rental (short) Php 50
Shed Rental Php 150
Snorkel Rental Php 150
Fins Rental Php 150
Snorkeling Fee (@ Sanctuary) Php 50
Glass Boat (Max 6pax for 30 minutes) Php 300
Our encounter with the Greensea Turtle in Mantigue Island
Our encounter with the sea Turtle in Mantigue Island

Flight info:

The Philippines’ largest national flag carrier, Cebu Pacific Air is the only airline offering direct flights to Camiguin. It operates flights from Cebu to Camiguin every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, for as low as P588. For the latest seat sales and promos, go to www.cebupacificair.com, call (02)7020-888 or check Cebu Pacific Air’s officialFacebook and Twitter pages.

Juan for Fun info:

Cebu Pacific Air is looking for five teams of three university students each, who are raring to go on the 2013 Juan for Fun Backpacker Challenge. Video entries may be sent from June 14 to July 29, 2013, and the top five teams will get to go on a week-long all expenses paid trip to six Philippine destinations. Visit www.juanforfun.com or Cebu Pacific Air’s official Facebook and Twitter pages for more challenge details.

The Juan for Fun Backpacker Challenge is presented by Department of Tourism, and supported by Canon and Wenger.

Travel bloggers at the forest trail
Travel bloggers at the forest trail
Lush seagrass bed and a large colony of sea anemones living on the coral
Lush seagrass bed and a large colony of sea anemones living on the coral
Seagrass and large corals
Seagrass and large corals
School of large fishes near the deep reef wall
School of large fishes near the deep reef wall

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