A cup of coffee taste so great while at sea. Our breakfast of bread with peanut butter, saba bananas and a unique concoction of crushed cereal with honey made by Harold himself of Harold’s Dive Center was enough to energize our morning. It’s the last full day of our Oceana Philippines Photo Safari and time simply flew by fast here while at Tañon Strait. From Mantalip Reef in Bindoy we were headed to our last stop in Dumaguete but not before we do some Bais Dolphin Watching and a visit to the largest remaining mangrove forest in Negros Oriental, the Talabong Mangrove Park and Bird Sanctuary.
Bais Dolphin Watching
I was comfortably propped on the portside of the boat listening to some tunes when I heard a commotion on the topside. “Have you seen a manta ray mating?” I heard from Danny, one of the enthusiastic staff of Oceana PH who came from a Greenpeace background hence his strong-willed personality and dedication to his work. People were excited to see a manta ray jump out of the sea and seem to be involved in some coital activity. I did not catch the jump but only saw a few dark flapping fins passing fast into the distance.
I never did try to go back for some snooze as we were already in Bais City, a city 45km away from Dumaguete and known as the largest producer of raw sugar in Negros Oriental. The name “ba-is” interestingly came from a native species of brackish-water eel. It was just early on in this decade that Bais Dolphin Watching grew in popularity. The regular sight of dolphins and occasional whales made the city decide to mark it as a tourist attraction and it certainly didn’t disappoint. There was a high probability of dolphin sighting and we can attest to that.
From afar we could already see pods of dolphins. Our boat carefully navigated on its side to follow their direction as we spectators shifted from side to side enamored by these graceful and fun creatures swimming and sometimes jumping on the sides of our boat. At one time, I decided not to shoot and simply enjoyed watching these playful creatures. There were a mix of spotted dolphins, spinners and bottle nose. These dolphin encounters happened several times but on occasions, cut short by other boats not really trained for dolphin watching. It was annoying to see other boats trying to cut through the dolphin’s path just to get close (and their tourist passengers could take a selfie).
Talabong Mangrove Park and Bird Sanctuary on the next page…
Talabong Mangrove Park
We swung by Manjuyod Sand Bar mid day but wasn’t too excited to stop and stay for a while. Perhaps the days exploring the depths of Tañon Strait already took a toll or simply it wasn’t too attractive for us since it was a high tide and the sandbar isn’t that visible. We however visited the Talabong Mangrove Park and Bird Sanctuary. We got a little lost there on a rubber raft but eventually found the place. A beautiful boardwalk greeted us at the park. Our raft went inside through the river where we docked in a pavillion.
We took our time exploring the the mangrove park where there’s a good variety found in its 400 hectare area. The Talabong Mangrove Park and Bird Sanctuary was declared as a wildlife sanctuary by the DENR since 1985. Our birding enthusiast friend and author, Cris Yabes, armed with her binoculars tried to find some of the birds we could only hear. Just along the boardwalk trail are the mangrove nursery of different species of mangroves. From the youngest of mangroves to the age old ones whose bent branches seemed like a captured dance with the wind.
We went back to our boat and continued heading south to Dumaguete which is also the southernmost point of Tañon Strait. I lay down near the topside enjoying the sound of the waves and the breeze brushing over my face. I’m excited for my favorite eats in Dumaguete but sad at the same time our photo safari is about to end. I’m glad I took this assignment and got to explore the beauty of Tañon Strait. It was a long exploration but not long enough. Already I’m thinking of going back to some of the places already.
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.