Sometimes it takes someone else’s eyes to see the beauty that surrounds us. Familiarity can be numbing at times and comfort can make us overlook what’s in front of us. That can be said the same to some people living along the area of Tañon Strait, the largest protected seascape in the country sandwiched between two major islands, Cebu and Negros. Ask where the strait is to a few, they would show a blank face, not knowing that the sea in front of them is part of it. Oceana Philippines, organized a photo safari to explore the length of Tañon Strait and I was fortunate to be part of this 6-day expedition. It was an exciting project as everything was new to me. Our objective was to capture and showcase the beauty and bounty of Tañon Strait. Maybe, just maybe, through our photographer eyes we could share and let more people appreciate this natural wonder.
The narrow Tañon Strait Protected Seascape runs from the northern tip of Cebu down to the southern portion of Dumaguete. It extends 160km long with a total area of 5,182 square kilometers. Our expedition goes through its length starting in Cebu City up to Bantayan Island working our way down south Cebu, crossing the Strait to Negros and sailing down to Dumaguete. Here’s the breakdown of our journey.
- Day 1: In transit Cebu City to Bantayan Island. Our first full day finds us assembling in Cebu City with other members of the group. Photographers from Cebu, Ferdinand Edralin and Tonee Despojo, Tañon Strait social media manager Edwin, and Oceana Philippine’s Candeze Mongaya. Also coming from Manila is photographer Oggie Ramos, author, Criselda Yabes, Oceana’s Communication Manager, Yasmin Arquiza. Riding north, we headed to Hagnaya Port to catch a ferry for Bantayan Island. We arrived at Anika Island Resort and captured the late afternoon scene by the beach and watch the full moon rise.
- Day 2: Virgina Island and Madridejos. Waking up early to capture the morning scene. Mid-day, we went to Virgin Island with beautiful white sand beach and clear waters. Afternoon to evening, we explored Madridejos, its market and old boardwalk with a light house. Fantastic sunset overlooking the coast.
- Day 3: Transit to Moalboal. A long road down south to Moalboal. On the way, we stopped by Aloguinsan for its wonderful mangrove cruise along Bojo River. By early evening, we reached Moalboal where we stayed at Hale Manna.
- Day 4: Moalboal Snorkeling. We had a full day of being in the water and it seems it wasn’t enough. I’m sure our diver friends would agree. Starting our awesome snorkeling at the jellyfish-filled waters of Pescador Island, we then went to the expansive and impressive reefs of Talisay Point ending the afternoon chasing sardines run at Panagsama beach.
- Day 5: Sail to Bindoy: We were excited to see the big white liveaboard boat from Harold’s Dive Center waiting for us that morning. Here, Oceana Philippines Danny Ocampo, also an underwater photographer, joined us. We’re crossing Tañon Strait for Bindoy Negros Oriental. We had lunch with mayor amidst a mangrove forest then later went to the Mantalip Reef Station for more snorkeling. Spending a night at the reef station.
- Day 6: Chasing Dolphins at Bais. From Bindoy we sailed down to Bais enjoying the mid-morning sun while watching out for pods of dolphins. After a side-trip to Talabong Mangroves of Bais, we ended our journey in Dumaguete.
The six full days of expedition was nothing short of spectacular. Each place has its own unique character. From the stunning beaches of Bantayan, the culture and nature rich Aloguinsan, the mesmerizing depths of Moalboal, the eco-tourism development of Bindoy, and the exciting dolphin encounters of Bais. From above and below sea level, there’s a lot to love about Tañon Strait. My only regret from this trip is not having brought proper equipment for shooting underwater. I know I was tasked to shoot more of the landscape, people and culture but I felt I could have captured more underwater too. Still I enjoyed every bit of the experience.
Throughout the months succeeding the Tañon Strait photo safari, the a few selected photos has been exhibited in several areas in Visayas and Manila. The Treasures of Tañon Strait Exhibit hopes to spread awareness of the protected seascape through visually capturing on-lookers and passersby at the high traffic venues. And recently, the Images of Tañon Strait coffee table book has been released as an additional tool to help Oceana Philippines spread its cause.
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.
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.