soft coral in housereef

10th Reason why #SOXisNEXT? a Scuba Diving journey through Mindanao’s Sarangani Bay

SOX- a short term for Region 12’s SOCCKSARGEN comprising South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City.

”We been promoting Culture -Nature-Adventure” within the Region said Regional Director Nelly Dillera of DOT Region 12.

  1. Culture- South Cotabato’s Tboli tribe -Lake Sebu
  2. Fishport tour -witnessed why GenSan is hailed as Tuna Capital of the Country.
  3. Nature-7 Waterfalls in Lake Sebu South Cotabato
  4. Adventure -Paragliding in Maasim Sarangani
  5. Pacquiao Mansion
  6. Sarangani Highlands- up in the hill have a romantic and sumptuos meal.
  7. Sunbathe at Gumasa Beach (Glan, Sarangani)
  8. Tuka Beach – mini Boracay of Sarangani
  9. River Tubing-in Maitum Sarangani
  10. Scuba diving- newest offering that we ventured for a 3-day Dive Safari
Sarangani Dive Safari
Sarangani Dive Safari

April 29- May 1

When some plans doesn’t happen for some reason, don’t fret, it only means a new opportunity will open up. Take for example, our Startup weekend Bohol schedule (Apri28-30) got cancelled 2weeks before the event. I was frustrated a bit hence I been longing to join such kind of event to meet likeminded people and to learn more new things about technology in tourism.

But thanks to technology, a post in FB pops up from Sarangani Adventures page, it says a 3 day dive safari with unlimited diving in areas within Sarangani bay. I only have heard about Sarangani as a destination for paragliding ,and who doesn’t know about the National Champ Manny Pacman Pacquiao place. So I start looking for articles online about scuba diving in the area, found some blogs and video clips, there is not much to read but that only leaves me more curious. I told my Dive buddy about this package as an option hence it fits the date when our initial plans is cancelled. He was able to message Sarangani Adventures in their FB page and they were so responsive, means plus points for us.

All is set, flights are booked and everyday gets more and more exciting to discover this new place. Looking at the map, Sarangani bay resembles so much to one of our favorite dive destination (Sogod Bay in Southern Leyte) where you have bountiful fish life, beautiful reef and walls, macro dives, muck dives sites and a Whale Shark sighting.

To reach Sarangani, easiest way is to fly from Cebu or Manila to General Santos city with Cebu Pacific then a van transfer about 45mins to Lemlunay Resort– the only dive operator in the area.

MISSION: To take photos of all what we can see underwater while diving in Sarangani Bay and help promote Sarangani as a new dive haven in Mindanao.

Day 1- Woke up early with news that Sarangani was rock by a 6.8 magnitude earthquake. I was holding my breath for some seconds then I start to breathe easy and google for news updates online. It was true there was an earthquake, but it seems that there is no major damage and the tsunami warning from US Geological Society’s website was already lifted. I message Michelle Solon –our point of contact for this Dive Safari to have some updates and she respond positively that Dive Safari will go on and they’re actually set to dive in the morning, all is good. I proceed to the airport, meet my dive Buddy and other co-explorer Garri Immanuel Tadlip from ‘’Iggy Dives’’ –the youngest underwater photographer in Asia, with his Dad Sir ‘’Oleg Tadlip’’. Arriving at General Santos airport we were joined by another co explore Arabelle Jimenez a writer/mermaid from Manila.

Arriving at Lemlunay Resort we were greeted by friendly staff and offered a chill coolers with mint for a hot summer day. Drop our bags in our respective rooms and proceed to the dining area where we meet another co explorer Stella from Sunstar Davao. Then we finally meet Miss Michelle Solon one of the head organizer for the event and Paul Partridge owner of Lemlunay Resort. This event is supported by Region 12 Department of Tourism represented by Regional Director Nelly Dillero and the Provincial Government of Sarangani.

We were welcome by a presentation video about Sarangani and the tourism initiative dubbed as #soxisnext, ”people already discovered and traveled to Bohol, Boracay, Palawan so where to next? said Michele Solon of Sarangani Adventures.

Sarangani shall be the upcoming tourism destination of PH and not only for paragliding, not only for tunas, not only because its Pacquaio’s homeplace,but also because they have something underwater to be proud of, so the diving has to start soon. After a sumptuous dinner we rested for some minutes then start gearing up for the first dive- a night dive.

The photos below shows we are happily welcomed by our friends underwater.

Day 1

Spanish dancer, soft coral shrimps, bobtail squid feeding, cuttle fish etc.

Day 2

First dive – Lomuyon dive site – dive aborted – ABS CBN local media arrives and men in uniform escorted us to Tuka island, kickass dives with kickass escorts.If any of you think that its dangerous to dive in all places in Mindanao, well , think again, because this is the proof that it is NOT. Not all places in Mindanao is unsafe, it even became more and more interesting for us since day 1.

2nd dive –Tuka reef 1 –2 sec blue spotted eagle ray shows up, fishy reef, lots of dorid nudis, bat fishes and angel fishes .

diving with the Youngest UW Photographer in Asia
diving with the Youngest UW Photographer in Asia

3rd dive- Tuka reef 2 –farting pawikan, chromodoris nudibranch plenty of them , fishy reef, giant lobster with 1 meter antennae, batfishes, and angel fishes plenty of them

Visibility is not so good but a group of Bumphead Parrot Fish are clearly huge enough to be recognize almost a meter in size.Theyr’e a kind of fish that feeds on benthic algae and corals 🙂  but they also shit a powdery substance that makes up the white sands in Boracay. Awesome discovery !

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turtle preapring to fly
turtle preapring to fly
turtle chillin waiting for its food
turtle chillin waiting for its food

We had lechon kind of lunch with fruits and some special dishes preapred by the locals, the hospitality of the people in Sarangani is worth  praise.Thumbs up.

After lunch we grace an interview by ABS-CBN Soccksargen featuring the Sarangani Dive Safari.

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We did another night dive and found mooray eel, 2 new nudis , 1 new hard coral crab, porcelain crab in anemone, flatworms and many more crabs and cuttle fish.

Day 3

Maasim Reef- a very nice offshore reef blooming within the ocean.

We jump for a negative descent following a dive line due to strong surface current. However deep down at around 18-20meter deep  is relatively calm to mild current .We were in awe seeing a very beautiful fishy coral garden , which minutes after, we went down to the bottom floor saying hello to the 3 resident juvenile blacktip shark under a huge table coral.The reef looks healthy, the garden is decorated with huge barrel sponges, gorgeous gorgonian seafan and  lots of reef fishes in many colors, good visibility up to 20m.

Rocky Island – sphagetti nudi branch, many fishes, chrinoid shrimp

sphagetti nudi_rock island
sphagetti nudi_rock island

Lemlunay House Reef – Large sea fans of different colors, bit of drift dive, napoleon wrasse,and many nudis.

The Dive Safari event ended with a Press conference held at Green Leaf Hotel General Santos City attended by representatives from Government Sector , media personnel and our team (Divers). Discussions on improvements and facilities needed for the protection of the Seascape  in the province of Sarangani is being tackled. We also share to everyone what we see and what we have found underwater through pictures and videos.

In our opinion, it has a huge potential for dive tourism industry, some improvements shall be done.The people, local government units and Tourism department shall start implementing environmental laws protecting the seascape, tap with people or organizations outside the province that can help share their expertise in management of Marine Protected Areas.Another thing is also to develop training programs for dive guides in the area as spotters. Established dive sites should have markers and buoy or dive lines.It is also a big advantage of Sarangani having General Santos airport which has daily flights from Cebu and Manila which are both having domestic & international connecting flights.

There are dive sites where currents can be mild to strong but that can be manage with experienced and caution.This currents also attracts pelagics and schools of big fish.There is also a potential for more macro critter finds, our night dives were awful, and the Housereef is amazingly embedded with all sort of beautiful corals and fishes.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED !!

Salamat Sarangani !

#SOXISNEXT

We end our day in Ssarangani with a hearty lunch at the hill in Sarangani Highlands Garden

Special thanks to:

Michelle Solon of Sarangani Adventures click the link to contact them.

Paul Partridge of Lemlunay Resort for accomodating us.

They have one the best sunrise view in Ph .

FB: https://www.facebook.com/lemlunay/

Website :http://lemlunayresort.com

RD Nelly and the DOT Team

Thanks to the entire team of Lemlunay South Divers Point, the people in Maasim, Kiamba and the local government of Sarangani Province.

Photo credits to :

Uwe Micahelis of http://underwaterexposure.zenfolio.com

Garry Emmanuel Tadlip of ”Iggy Dives”

Stella Stremera

”Mermaid ”Arabelle Jimenez- my first mermaid coach

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