The Philippine Star
El Nido Resorts guides turn Bacuit Bay into tourist attraction
El Nido Resorts guides from Miniloc, Lagen and Pangulasian in Bacuit Bay, and those in Apulit, the fourth El Nido Resort in the Sulu Sea, are among the best trained in creating awareness and fostering appreciation for marine biodiversity in the Philippines. Their long hours of study and passion for underwater habitats is such that they often convince even non-swimmers to snorkel for the first time.
“Bacuit Bay is a huge slab of ancient reef,” says Lee Goldman, Coral Triangle expert and author, who leads customized tours for snorkeling enthusiasts from Northern America to the Coral Triangle, a portion of Asia including the Philippines known for the highest levels of marine biodiversity in the world. “This distinguishes it from other snorkeling and diving sites in the Philippine archipelago.”
According to Goldman, the creation of one of the best diving and snorkeling sites in the world began around 250 million years ago. Bacuit Bay, which hosts three of the four El Nido Resorts in Northern Palawan, was then part of the Asian mainland, the guides at the four El Nido Resorts in Northern Palawan tell guests.
Eventually, the Bacuit Bay reef and the rest of Palawan broke off from Asia, drifting on the Sunda Plate immersed in seawater. As the tectonic plate turned clockwise some five million years ago, Palawan was hurled towards what we now know as the Philippine archipelago, which is a mere 50 million years old.
Today El Nido’s guides take guests snorkeling in Bacuit, their job facilitated by the relative shallowness of the bay and its diversity of marine habitats. This combination couldn’t be better for observing the various underwater destinations minutes away from the El Nido Resorts. It means that snorkeling, which is part of the El Nido Resorts package, and diving, can be done in a more leisurely manner than if one were constantly being tugged away by cross currents or if one had to dive deeper to see the corals and fish more clearly.
Moreover, the variety of habitats means there’s something new to observe every day. Each type of habitat nurtures a unique set of marine species, Gold- man explains. Seagrass beds, for instance, are a great place to examine seahorses as they inhale tiny crustaceans through their long snouts, and to observe a diversity of cardinalfishes — so called because their reddish hues are reminiscent of the hats worn by Catholic cardinals. On the other hand, coral reefs provide the best encounters with colorful damselfishes often found in large schools, as well as large parrotfishes whose hues can range from dark blue to yellow to gray in eye-popping patterns that might combine greenish-purple or reddish spots superimposed on bright blue.
As early as 2008 to 2010, when Philippine tourism was still in an infantile stage, travel magazine Conde Nast Traveler and National Geographic had already recognized snorkeling expeditions in Bacuit Bay as among the best tours available globally. Today, snorkeling has become a must-do activity for those traveling to Bacuit Bay and the El Nido Resorts.
Goldman rues that mass media has done a better job of creating fear rather than appreciation for marine life, even among Filipinos, who are never more than a few hours away from highly rated snorkeling sites. Those snorkeling for the first time are often fearful of jellyfish, sharks, drowning, and of the unknown in general.
By picking the right spots in shallow water and explaining what they will see, El Nido Resorts guides help first-timers to be comfortable in the whole new world offered by the ocean.