“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.
A vast field of mangroves filled more than half my vision as I start my way down a two story rocky stairway. Somewhere beyond this 1,400 hectares of mangrove at Cogtong Bay, Anda, Bohol is Lamanoc Island, a small limestone island enveloped in an eerie veil of tales of a banished witch and a place where shamans congregate. Why would I visit such a spooky island? Because within its shallow caverns and lush tangled vegetation are remnants of a fascinating culture dating far beyond the pre-colonial era.
The soothing comfort of Hale Manna in Moalboal may tempt us to just lounge around its garden in solitude but Tañon Strait, just over the cliffs, is calling to explore its depths. We’re on our fourth day into our Oceana Photosafari in Tañon Strait and it’s the day we get to become water creatures by being on the ocean the whole day visiting the denizens below. I was excited for this part of the trip that I made sure to bring my own snorkelling gear set. Some of our companion would be diving which I’m sure they’ll get the front seat in seeing the underwater spectacle. Some of us though would just content ourselves to explore near the surface and free dive once in a while.