Saturday, November 19, 2011

South of Cebu Dive Log: Diving with Whalesharks in Oslob

I have a never ending affair with whalesharks. I don't know what's up with these gentle giants, but they just simply amaze me.

A few weeks ago, I spent four days out at sea, in Leyte in search of whaleshark, seen none but instead saw pilot whales, dolphins, seahorses, turtlessss....  (read my Leyte Dive Log).  Sometime last year, we also ventured in Pescador Island, Moalboal, Cebu to see thresher sharks feasting on sardines, some divers in the group were too lucky to also chance upon a whaleshark and caught it on video.

This time, news broke amongst the diver community that there have been whaleshark sightings in the south of Cebu.   My dive peers went ahead immediately after our Leyte trip, while I was recuperating from an ear infection.  The following weekend, I had to gather my family and some friends to join me on an early morning two and half hour drive down south of the city.

We left at 4:30 in the morning, passed along General Maxilom Avenue and found party people still up and about while we are awake for a new day.  Two hours later we arrived at our jump off point, just in time for the seven o' clock feeding time.  The owner gave us a short briefing.  We were told that these whalesharks are actually resident whalesharks and the local fishermen have been feeding them for the past two years.  (But the fishermen says it's just for the past 6 months.)  These spotters (local fishermen) look for it and pour food (as bait) so it follows them nearer to the shore.
paddle boats

While us divers, swam out from the shore, non-divers were escorted to take the small banka (paddle boats).  These banka are small and could hardly carry one passenger, no safetly facility like life vest is available.
snorkling with whalesharks

It took longer for me to gear up with shore entry than finding myself in the midst of a baby whaleshark.  Just two minutes into the dive, the whaleshark was just there, unmidful of the banka and people around.  On the surface, the fishermen were feeding it with some shrimps and krill - that kept it on the surface for a long time. 
The local fishermen allowed people to touch it.  Kids aged 5, 7 and 8 were able to pet it from the banka without having to get wet.  I dove around it for an hour, without needing to chase it.  The waters are crystal clear, one can actually admire it from a distance.  In previous days, there are have been sightings of up to three whalesharks, but this time, seas were kinda rough and makes it harder for the spotter to look for them.
feeding them shrimps

There is no existing ordinance to protect these gentle giants in the area.  The locals are neither educated how to protect these.  The locals are definitely not ready to accept the influx of tourists.  I fear that doing this commercially at this time might harm these gentle giants.  Nevertheless, it's a joy to know that they are here.

Sorry, I'm not comfortable to divulge exactly where this is, not until an ordinance is passed.

from bottom up

Post Trip Accounting:

P100/pax Spotter fee
P100/pax Boat rental
P75/pax Resort fee
P2000/2dives Diving fee

As there are no decent place we can purchase food in the area, we brought our own food.

P3800 whole Cang's lechon

Leyte Dive Log

It has been a year since I last had a good dive, that was an out of this world encounter with thresher sharks at Moalboal, Cebu. This time, I got an invite from Aquadive Inc, to go on a south safari to Leyte, in anticipation of diving with whalesharks. With the president's short notice to declare a long holiday, I was lucky to still be able to confirm.

Aboard an outrigger boat, fourteen of us left Mactan, Cebu at 630am. The group was composed of a handful of nationalities, there are Filipinos, German, Australian, French, South American, Indian, American... When breakfast was served, cultural differences was obvious. Filipinos feasted on rice, sardines and chorizo; while the rest opted for sandwiches, carrot sticks and chips and dip.

On a good weather day, the sea was practically calm, it turned a little rough in the open seas around Leyte. Five hours later, we reached the seas of Leyte.

Dive 60, 61 Limasawa Island. 69ft 59mins, 79ft 51mins

rich soft and hard corals
Dive 62, 63 Nahpantaw Island 89ft 42mins, 89ft 49mins

up and down current: turtle overload
Dive 64 Pintuyan Island 71ft 52 mins

spotters, the group had to pay P5,000 but no whaleshark in sight :(
Dive 65 Max climax 79ft 63mins

Dive 66 Binit 89ft 54mins
pretty in pink: nudi

spot the pygmy seahorse
 Dive 67 Padre Burgos Pier 27ft 74mins

night dive: stargazer

night dive: seahorse

lovely calm day with our boat
 Kuting Reef

We checked-in in Kuting Reef for three nights.  Kuting Reef is said to be one of the best in the island.  It is hours away from town.  The ambience was good, the room size was generous, but the walls are thin, I can hear our neighbors talk and the strokes of a massage.  Food is average but takes hours to prepare.  Like anywhere in the province, you ought to order a meal in advance.

For three days, I did eight dives, missed out on three dives.  It was a disappointment not to find any whalesharks, instead, saw pilot whales (sorry no evidence), dolphins, stargazer, seahorse, pygmy seahorse, candy crab, frog fish, pygmy frog fish, turtlesssss, tuna, jacks, bump head parrot fish, porcelain crab, squat shrimps, cuttle fish, barracuda, stargazer...  oh it was not so bad afterall.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Gilutungan Fish and Olango Bird Sanctuary, Mactan, Cebu

It's not so bad after being grounded in Cebu.  Nine of us was determined to get stoked one Sunday, the wanderlass was determined to go somewhere, anywhere!

With last minute arrangements the night before, we hired an outrigger boat through Aquadive Inc. since their own boat wasn't available, the owner helped us find another one, "Super Lucy", it was big enough to comfortably fit like 30 people.  It was a good deal for P6,500 in comparison to other smaller boats.  I could feel the monsoon wind that day, true enough, the sea was rough but Super Lucy was big enough to brave it and keep us safe.
aboard Super Luci with fashion blogger thirstythought

Gilutongan Fish Sanctuary

Our first stop was Gilutongan Island.  Gilutongan is a fish sanctuary.  Entrance fees is pegged at P100 per person for snorklers and non snorklers.

Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary

This trip was meant to see the bird sanctuary in Olango Island.  It has been years since I last went there but didn't see anything.  So we thought of revisiting it.  November is said to best time to visit Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary, and it must be timed at least two hours before high tide.  The bird sanctuary doesn't appear like what I imagined, where birds fly in flocks.  When they get there, the birds are scattered around the vast sanctuary, feeding themselves, making their stop over from the winter months on the other side of the globe.  You would need binoculars to see most of them.

How to get there:

With an outrigger boat, depart the mainland of Mactan Island to Sta. Rosa Port Terminal, Olango Island.  P1 per person terminal fee plus P64 docking fee is charged by the Cebu Port Authority.  From the terminal, take a tricycle to Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary.  After haggling with opportunist tricycle drivers, we paid P250 for 4 pax, roundtrip.  We know we can haggle it much less than that but my bargaining skills wasn't that good.  The tricycle waited for us, for our return trip.

P20 Olango Wildlife Sanctuary Entrance Fee
P10 Birdwatching Guide Fee
P10 Non Professional Camera
telescope is provided by the guide

spot the bird from afar

zoomed in!  check out these endanged chinese egret

fees, fees, fees... i don't mind paying as long as they issue receipts!

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