A quick dip into Cebu's breath­tak­ing dive sites

Sun.Star Cebu Weekend - - Front Page - Text & Images: Jai Gen­tolea Ge­nilza

Strate­gi­cally po­si­tioned, Cebu Is­land, with its many islets, is one of the best dive des­ti­na­tions in the world, show­cas­ing plenty of stun­ning un­der­wa­ter beau­ties. This elon­gated is­land is sur­rounded by abun­dant and eco­log­i­cally linked un­der­wa­ter ecosys­tems. In the north is the Visayan Sea, widely known as “the heart of marine bio­di­ver­sity on Earth.” In the east is Tanon Strait, the biggest and one of the rich­est marine pro­tected ar­eas in the coun­try. In the south and west are also marine-rich seas: Bo­hol Sea and Camotes Sea.

It's no won­der why Scuba div­ing has thrived and has been a grow­ing in­dus­try in the Prov­ince. Dive site op­tions are from north to south and some are just near the city.

Here, in no par­tic­u­lar or­der, are some of the best and most awe­some dive sites in Cebu.

1. Gato Is­land, Mala­pas­cua

Un­der­neath this small rock is­land are in­ter­est­ing cav­erns, rock for­ma­tions, over­hangs, swim-throughs and al­leys where White tip-reef sharks and bam­boo sharks swim along with cu­ri­ous Scuba divers. Soft corals are abun­dant and you can en­counter va­ri­eties of crit­ters such as sea­horses, frog­fish, ghost pipefish, cut­tle­fish, har­lequin crabs and shrimps, cling­fish, and dif­fer­ent kinds of col­or­ful nudi­branchs, a type of mol­lusc. Depth is around 18 me­ters to 24 me­ters and con­di­tions are usu­ally good with vis­i­bil­ity at 10 to 20 me­ters.

2. Monad Shoal, Mala­pas­cua

Mala­pas­cua is known world­wide for the rare and timid thresher sharks. But do you know that thresher sharks are al­most cer­tainly sighted in Monad Shoal? It is an un­der­wa­ter is­land about an hour's boat ride from Mala­pas­cua Is­land, and it is the only place in the world where these sharks can be seen ev­ery day. Thresh­ers visit the shoal to get cleaned. If lucky, divers can also spot ea­gle rays, devil rays, man­tas and white tip reef sharks get­ting cleaned by cleaner wrasses. There was once a sight­ing of a tiger shark at the north­ern tip of the shoal, thus, div­ing there is al­ways a lot ex­cit­ing. The dive site is for ad­vanced open-water divers or at least those who had un­der­gone deep-dive ad­ven­ture, as depth is usu­ally up to 20 to 30 me­ters. Vis­i­bil­ity is of­ten good at 10 to 15 me­ters, but the deeper you go, the vis­i­bil­ity goes down to five me­ters at cer­tain oc­ca­sions. Some­times strong bot­tom cur­rents can be en­coun­tered. To wit­ness thresh­ers, dives start from as early as 5 a.m. un­til 9 a.m.

3. Bas Dako, Saave­dra, Moal­boal

In Moal­boal, there are many dive sites and about six of them are found in white beach or Bas Dako area. The ap­prox­i­mately five kilo­me­ter stretch in this area fac­ing Tanon Strait has a thick co­ral cover and mas­sive bar­rel sponges and fan corals that are filled with dam­sels and other colour­ful fish. There is a sandy patch at around 18 to 20 me­ters where hun­dreds of gar­den eels re­side. You can en­counter gi­ant frog­fish, cut­tle­fish, huge trig­ger fish and par­rot fish. Eels, and dif­fer­ent kinds of anemone fish are com­mon. Just like all other dive sites in Moal­boal, a res­i­dent tur­tle is usu­ally swim­ming around will­ing to do a photo shoot with divers. Depth goes down up to 200 me­ters but the beauty at 10 to 25 me­ters is al­ready sat­is­fy­ing. Vis­i­bil­ity is good most of the time at around 10 to 25 me­ters.

4. Pescador Is­land, Moal­boal

This small rock is­land in the mid­dle of Tanon Strait is known for its ma­jes­tic “cathe­dral-like” cav­ern at around 23 me­ters and its floor drops up to 35 me­ters. Corals in the area are in good con­di­tion and col­or­ful dam­sels will wel­come you as you de­scend to­wards the cathe­dral. Frog­fish, elec­tric clams, lob­sters, puffer­fish, sea kraits (snakes) and tur­tles will fill your senses. Be ready to en­counter huge tu­nas, bar­racu­das and schools of treval­lies as you cruise around the rock is­land.

5. Tal­isay Point, Moal­boal

Love tur­tles? Tal­isay Point in Moal­boal is the near­est, most ac­ces­si­ble place for you to find them. It is known as a tur­tle sanc­tu­ary where you can en­counter up to 10 tur­tles dur­ing a 45 minute to 1 hour of Scuba div­ing. Branch­ing corals are abun­dant and mas­sive ta­ble corals can be found in Tal­isay Point. Box­fish, dam­sels, file­fish, li­on­fish, banded co­ral shrimp, skunk anemone fish and scor­pion fish are among the many crit­ters you can spot in this dive site. The depth goes down up to 200 me­ters but you can al­ready en­joy the amazing scenery at 10 to 25 me­ters.

6. Marigon­don, Mac­tan Is­land

Marigon­don is an hour's drive from the city and is known for cave div­ing at about 30 to 40 me­ters. It can be ac­cessed thru a shore en­try dive from Marigon­don Beach ar­eas. The cur­rent can be quite strong at times, but the abun­dance of soft corals and huge hard corals at 12 to 25 me­ters will make you want to dive there ev­ery weekend. Cut­tle­fish, bar­racu­das, treval­lies, anemone fish and eels are a com­mon sight­ing in this dive site. Night div­ing here of­fers a va­ri­ety of crit­ters like dec­o­ra­tor crabs, span­ish dancers, many kinds of nudi­branchs, blue-ringed oc­to­pus, wasp fish and reef squids, among oth­ers. Some­times you can also ex­pe­ri­ence what we call “bub­ble blast” at about 10 me­ters on top of the cave area. These bub­bles are from divers who went inside the cave.

7. Olanggo Is­land

This is­land is a 15-minute boat ride from Mac­tan Is­land and it has two great dive sites: Tal­ima Marine Sanc­tu­ary and San Vi­cente Marine Sanc­tu­ary. Gar­den eels are quite abun­dant at around 10 me­ters in a sandy area in Tal­ima. Your diver spirit will be amazed by how huge groupers, sweet­lips, snap­pers and schools of bat­fish are in these ar­eas since they are pro­tected and undis­turbed. Scor­pion fish, clown fish, file­fish, stone­fish, trig­ger fish, but­ter­fly and an­gel fish, and mo­ray eels are com­mon in these ar­eas. Depth is five to 30 me­ters with vis­i­bil­ity of 10 to 20 me­ters most of the time.

8. Nalusuan Is­land

Blue-spot­ted st­ing rays hang­ing around at 10 to 15 me­ters are nor­mally found in sandy ar­eas. When div­ing here, be care­ful not to get too close to the bot­tom as they are good at cam­ou­flag­ing and when sur­prised, they swim away quickly but might hit you with their tail. Huge groupers and sweet­lips are com­mon. Soft corals, huge fan corals and bar­rel sponge are abun­dant. Schools of mack­erel and yel­low jacks are also an amazing sight in Nalusuan. Depth is at eight to 35 me­ters and vis­i­bil­ity is good at about 10 to 20 me­ters. Since it is lo­cated in the mid­dle of Mac­tan Chan­nel, strong cur­rents are com­mon.

9. Gi­lu­ton­gan Is­land

Since it is usu­ally teem­ing with a num­ber of divers, Gi­lu­ton­gan is in­fa­mously nick­named as the “shop­ping mall.” The is­land of­fers an abun­dance of soft and hard corals and a di­ver­sity of fishes such as schools of huge treval­lies, snap­pers, sweet­lips, groupers, trig­ger­fish and va­ri­eties of damsel fish and wrasses. Moor­ish idols, but­ter­fly fish, an­gel fish and trum­pet fish are also abun­dant in Gi­lu­ton­gan Is­land. Depth is at 10 to 40 me­ters and vis­i­bil­ity ranges from 10 me­ters to 20 me­ters. Cur­rent can also be strong at times.

10. An­tipolo, Tubu­ran

Also fac­ing Tañon Strait, Tubu­ran, not known to many, has awe­some un­der­wa­ter rock for­ma­tions from cen­tury old mas­sive hard corals, ta­ble corals and fo­liose corals. But­ter­fly fish, an­gel fish, ban­ner fish, stone­fish, goat fish, nudi­branchs, eels, sea kraits, crinoid shrimps and gi­ant clams are among the many crit­ters that can be found at at five up to 25 me­ters. Vis­i­bil­ity ranges from three to 10 me­ters and at times, it gets a bit murky un­der­wa­ter es­pe­cially dur­ing rainy sea­son due to silts flushed out by nearby rivers. But gen­er­ally, the site can of­fer an in­ter­est­ing dive ad­ven­ture since this site isn't to­tally ex­plored yet. Un­like other dive des­ti­na­tions men­tioned, Tubu­ran has no nearby dive shops yet and divers are ad­vised to co­or­di­nate with the lo­cal govern­ment unit if you want to dive and ex­plore the sites.

Fan Co­ral off Nalusuan Is­land

Cathe­dral swim-throughs in Pescador Is­land

Col­or­ful reef squid dur­ing a night dive at Marigon­don

Frog­fish atop a sponge co­ral off Bas­dako, Moal­boal

Whitetip Reef Shark hid­ing off Gato Is­land

A diver hov­er­ing over thick co­ral cover

Huge bat­fish off Gi­lu­ton­gan Is­land

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