The soothing comfort of Hale Manna in Moalboal may tempt us to just lounge around its garden in solitude but Tañon Strait, just over the cliffs, is calling to explore its depths. We’re on our fourth day into our Oceana Photosafari in Tañon Strait and it’s the day we get to become water creatures by being on the ocean the whole day visiting the denizens below. I was excited for this part of the trip that I made sure to bring my own snorkelling gear set. Some of our companion would be diving which I’m sure they’ll get the front seat in seeing the underwater spectacle. Some of us though would just content ourselves to explore near the surface and free dive once in a while.
Small fishing boats litter the waters surrounding the coral island of Pescador, our first stop for the day. The warm waters of Pescador Island is rich in marine life with over 2,500 species of fish in the area alone hence the many small fishing vessels around for their daily catch. Pescador Island is a marine park though, no destructive or massive fishing is allowed. It’s a favorite diving destination especially for the “Cathedral Cave” west of the island.
We went into the water to follow where the divers would go through. Visibility isn’t top notch but I did get to see plenty of small fishes upon first dive. Along with that are a number of jellyfish in the area which I usually cringe upon seeing. I had to brave it though and followed the others to the west side of the island where the water was a lot colder and less jellyfish in the area. There were some corals but its interesting to see the area where the ocean breaths. So much bubble coming from the soft bed of corals below. I heard the cathedral cave was somewhere below the area. There were moments the annoying jellyfishes would even rub into our faces and itch like hell but it never stopped us from snorkelling. Soon we saw our diver friends slowly ascending and we followed soon.
Talisay Reef Point
We moved closer to the shore at Basdiot for the Talisay Reef Point whose wall is also a favorite among divers. When I got into the water, I was astounded by the vastness of pristine coral garden in the area. Vibrant and very much alive. The depth is much deeper but I try to get closer. Again from above we followed the path our diver friends below, swimming close to the wall drop and just admiring the length of reef. I’m just so glad they were able to preserve this area.
Panagsama Beach Sardine Run
We had a brief lunch break at Club Serena and revelled at their deeply rich hot tsokolate after. A little downtime and we’re back into the water. This time we’re a lot nearer at Panagsama Beach. Local kids doing acrobatic dives into the water greeted us. I knew this was the site for the famous “Sardine Run” I’ve heard of but it never really prepared me for the visual overload first time seeing it underwater. It was like a great swarm yet fluid moving, glistening even under the afternoon light. The sardines move like a single ectoplasmic being. It was a marvellous and almost menacing to look at.
The “Sardine Run” is still a phenomenon waiting to be explained. It may be a mass reproductive migration but further studies are still being done. The abundance of this fish makes for an effortless fishing for the locals in this area. They need only to put down a line or hook and for sure they’ll get a catch. Large predator fishes await below for their chance to get a bite from any sardines that find themselves lost from the group. Pescador Island also have a Sardine Run but was briefly gone after a 2012 earthquake. So the behaviour of this fishes may change from time to time.
We finished our day with some snacks again from Club Serena and walked back to nearby Hale Manna. It was an awesome day of discovering the underwater world in this side of Tañon Strait. And seeing all of these wonders makes me want to protect this seascapes more.
About Oceana Philippines
Oceana Philippines seeks to restore the health, richness, and abundance of the Philippine oceans. By working closely with civil society, academics, fishers, and government, Oceana Philippines will promote the use of sound science based policies to help ensure sustainable fisheries and vibrant marine ecosystems.
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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.