It was hard to get used to the comforts of Hale Manna and explore more the beauty of the underwater world of Moalboal as in day 5 of our Oceana Philippines Photo Safari, we were on the move again. Off the coast the large white liveaboard outrigger vessel from Harold’s Dive Center in Dumaguete awaits to ferry us from Cebu, across Tañon Strait to Mantalip Reef in Bindoy, Negros Oriental. It was an impressive boat, spacious with lots of sitting and lounging areas, a well-kept mess area, restroom, and solar charging area. Ocean travel always had that soothing comfort, embraced by the breeze with boundless possibilities seen across the horizon.
Sail to Bindoy Negros Oriental
The sea travel took only an hour and a half to reach the guard house/ ranger station of Mantalip Reef but we had to skip by it for a moment to head to the mainland of Bindoy. On a smaller speedboat and a rubber raft, our group sailed on. We docked in a beautiful mangrove enclave where a distinct wooden pavilion stands at this coast. A lot of locals sought shelter under the natural shade while enjoying the cool clear waters below. Kids climb the sinewy branches of the mangroves for a joyous splash.
Our host from Bindoy prepared a gracious lunch which includes a serving of a lechon (suckling pig) Along with salads, grilled fish, tasty kakanin (rice cakes), and delicious locally baked cake. It also gave us an opportunity to meet and converse with Mayor Yap of Bindoy about their environmental programs in the region. Bindoy is an ideal example of a protected mountain to reef ecosystem. Aside from avoiding mining on the mountains to avoid siltation, the local government made sure to keep the periphery free from large-scale fishing allowing the fishes to flourish within their natural habitat under the mangroves.
Snorkeling Mantalip Reef
I was excited to go back to the ranger station to snorkel and see what the underwater world here is like. Some of our diver friends got ready and us snorkelers boarded a smaller boat to explore the reefs a bit further from the station. The water was deeper but definitely still clear and it felt like we swam a few hundred meters but the corals were just too deep for us to appreciate.
Our friend from Oceana, Yas, suggested we go back to the station and just snorkel around it. It was a great idea as there was a dazzling array of corals and kaleidoscope of small fishes there. A large congregation of black spotted snappers and bright blue starfishes were quite evident among the variety of corals. The tide was getting low that afternoon so no huge fishes can be found as they move through deeper waters but I’m quite satisfied with what I saw here.
Night at the station on the next page…
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.