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…
Night at the Station
The Mantalip Reef Station doubles as a guard house and a guest house. There are two rooms there with beds that can be rented for Php 2,500 a night each and can accommodate up to four people. Water here has to be shipped from the mainland and power comes from a genset. I was half expecting something more spartan and native actually but the station was well built like a small lodge on stilts. Some of our companions opted to sleep at the boat while I and some decided to sleep at the reef station. All windows and doors were open to let the breeze in. It took some time for me to get sleep as I could hear the excited conversations from the reef guards well into the night.
We woke up early to try to catch some stars. There was an interstellar play for sure but drowned the by the light of the full moon. I just marvelled instead at the nocturnal landscape before me. Negros oriental with its urban lights, our boat gently rocking nearby and the sound waves crashing into the pillars. The reef station is now home to the shifting guards assigned here and there were little signs of their personal ornaments hanging on some clothesline. We caught them deep in slumber at the highest platform of the station sleeping outside, probably to get cool from the breeze. Slowly the first light glowed behind the reef and rendered warm light reflecting over the gentle heaves of the sea. A new day has began.
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.