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Bohol Islands and Beaches Philippines Travel

Bohol | Paddling through Banacon Island Mangrove Sanctuary

“We can’t find our boat!” paddling master, Buzzy Budlong, tells me after several attempts of trying to spot our convoy outrigger boat through the maze-like passageways of Banacon Island, north of Bohol. Buzzy was at the back of our double kayak as I was the one in charge to shoot. We wait for the others south of the largest man-made mangrove island in Asia. He switched places with my assigned-writer friend, Oggie, back to his favorite yellow stand-up paddle (SUP) board, Mango Float. His sight looked far to the mainland. “Let’s head to that lighthouse!” he pointed. “Is he kidding?!” I thought. That’s almost 10km away by sea and we’re passing through two sea channels and an island. But he paddled on. He’s crazy like that which also partly makes him great.

Entering Banacon Island mangrove
Entering Banacon Island mangrove

“We can’t find our boat!” paddling master, Buzzy Budlong, tells me after several attempts of trying to spot our convoy outrigger boat through the maze-like passageways of Banacon Island, north of Bohol. Buzzy was at the back of our double kayak as I was the one in charge to shoot. We wait for the others south of the largest man-made mangrove island in Asia. He switched places with my assigned-writer friend, Oggie, back to his favorite yellow stand-up paddle (SUP) board, Mango Float. His sight looked far to the mainland. “Let’s head to that lighthouse!” he pointed. “Is he kidding?!” I thought. That’s almost 10km away by sea and we’re passing through two sea channels and an island. But he paddled on. He’s crazy like that which also partly makes him great.

Buzzy leads our group in this mangrove tour
Buzzy leads our group in this mangrove tour

Buzzy Budlong

We were looking for a different kind of adventure in Cebu and Bohol. And here comes Buzzy Budlong, a passionate paddler, whether on a kayak, SUP or a canoe. Water is his element and he moves fluidly on it. I watch him stand-up paddle his way to shore and marvel at the ease of his paddling and form. Earlier I saw him effortlessly do a bound-headstand on his Mango Float while paddling through calm waters within the mangrove forest passages. It is unquestionable that he has the skill. He even paddled from Saranngani Mindanao to Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte for 88 days back in 2009, guiding (and pushing) his Singaporean counterpart, Koo Swee Khoo in an epic paddling expedition. And in this trip, we look into his recommendations for paddling adventures.

Up to 15-feet high bakauan mangroves
Up to 15-feet high bakauan mangroves

Banacon Island Mangrove Forest

A 425 hectare mangrove forest north of Bohol under the municipality of Getafe (also called Jetafe) was our first destination. This man-made island has a good concentratin of “bakauan” (Rhizophora Stylosa) a common specie of mangroves in Bohol living along tidal flats. To get here, we rode a large outrigger from Mactan, Cebu. Keeping us company are, environmental researcher, Maria, line-fishing enthusiast Vincent and the ever reliable boat crew.

We prepared our kayaks and paddle boards off the island and started our way through the mangrove passages. As we get closer, the aquamarine water gets incredibly clear. Banacon Island mangrove forest is a community initiative which has started since 1957. Fifteen hectare of the land is occuppied by about 200 families relying on the rich marine life living within the ecosystem such as shrimps, shells, mollusk and other crustacians. We made our way through narrow passages and also shallow estuaries. We saw the bridge where a community resides. One problem the mangrove forest faced was the misuse of its resources. Some locals, resort to cut the mangrove trees to use it as firewood. To protect the island, it was turned into an eco-tourism destination.

Banacon Island is the largest mangrove plantation in the country
Banacon Island is the largest mangrove plantation in the country
A kid from a local community watches us as we pass by
A kid from a local community watches us as we pass by

Getafe and essential info on the next page…

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