Tag Archives: BoholPhilippines

Another favorite zen paradise- Pamilacan Island Bohol

panoramic view of the beach
panoramic view of the beach

Similar to Boracay and or Panglao Island, minus the people and the commercial establishments, that’s Pamilacan Island. A literal paradise we’ve’ fallen in love with. Inhabited by less than 2000 people mainly fisher folks and operator of homestays. I was here last year 2016 when I join Balyena.org ”Bohol Sea Cetacean Survey”. We stayed in the island for 2 nights and 3days mainly spending the whole day in the boat looking and spotting for dolphins and whales of Bohol Sea. It was that time that I told myself to come back for a vacation and hopefully I can tag along my kids.

Recently about 3rd week of September I finally got that plan realize with my buddy and kids.

Day 1

We depart Cebu to Tagbilaran via Lite shipping ferry leaving daily from Cebu at 10pm, took us 5hrs to reach Tagbilaran City in Bohol. We stayed two more hours in the boat while its docked, then we proceed to go out of the boat around 530am and took a tricycle from the port to the main town of Baclayon for about 15-20minutes ride, the boat from the cottage that we book waited to pick us up in the port.

Kuya Junior of Junior and Nemesia’s Cottages greeted us with warmth smiles, immediately assisting us with our luggage.The trip to the island took about 30-45minutes with a sighting of Rissos’ Dolphin roughly ive minutes before arriving the island, another good welcome sign.

We are booked for 2 nights and 3days in a small cottage with 2 queen size bed, they charge 1000Php/night per pax including 3 meals already, children 12years old and below they charge half which is 500Php. The room is simply made of light material and bamboo floors, the toilet is clean, although water is limited since this is tiny island surrounded by sea water, even in summer they have to fetch fresh water from the mainland of Baclayon. Please remember to conserve water once you visit here.

JR & Nemesia's cottage Pamilacan
JR & Nemesia’s cottage Pamilacan
JR & Nemesia's cottage
JR & Nemesia’s cottage Pamilacan

My two kids immediately change to swimming attire, grab their snorkel, fins and run to the beach when we arrive, while me and my buddy settled in our room and arrange our things.

kids snorkeling
kids snorkeling

It was a very quiet place with only audible chirping birds and sometimes a cry of a hungry goat you can hear. In front of our cottage is the powdery white sand stretching up to 3km long.

While walking along the beach we noticed women in their early or late 40’s sweeping the sand with a broomstick, sensing positive vibes and smiling aura of the woman I ask her if they do that every day and if the cottage owner is paying them to clean the beach, she smiles and said  ”No” the local government of Baclayon is paying us Php200 daily to pick up trash and leaves or seaweeds left in the sand when hightide goes back to low-tide”. That’s a big thumbs up to Baclayon LGU.

After a brief chat with the women, I called my kids to pause from swimming since we need to grab our breakfast at the moment prepared by Ate Nemesia, she’s a very charming woman wife of Kuya Junior who runs the JR & Nemesia’s Cottages, They have at least 9 cottages for rent.

Our breakfast is a yummy pancake , sunny side up egg, Chocolate drink for my kids and coffee for us.After eating we notice a fearsome jaw hanging outside Ate nemesia’s kitchen. Without Shark biology knowledge you will immediately conclude that Sharks are really dangerous.This is caught a very long time ago in Bohol sea by Kuya Junior’s forefathers a very long time ago he was still a kid as a bycatch. In fact, before you freak out, Tiger Shark is listed as near threatened species of shark because of massive finning and fishing by humans. ”Sharks are smart animals, they are naturally shy to humans but if you stay calm they became curious and might look at you in the eye and smile” ( according to my buddy who dives with Sharks a lot of times)

tiger shark teeth
tiger shark teeth

We had a quick chat with the nearby resort for info about diving in the area. We pass by a huge concrete structure that is the 200-year-old Spanish fort, they try to rebuilt now after the earthquake that hits Bohol in 2013.

the old Spanish port
the old Spanish port Rebuilt

After lunch thick clouds covered the skies and strong winds are blowing, so perfect time to make a kite. We lost one kite and made another one. The kids obviously enjoyed it a lot.

kite flying
kite flying

The kids had another swim for the day. In the afternoon we decide to have a stroll in the village crossing to the other side of the island, we end up in a fishing village full of boats and fisherman having drinks, we pass by 1 school and a pathway so beautifully curtained by a flowering tree on each side looking like a canopy.

nice pathway
nice pathway

 

Day 2

Today we decide to wake up early for the most awaited part, dolphin watching. Bohol sea is home for atleast 16 species of whales & dolphins , as well as sharks, rays and mantas.Locals in  Pamilacan are known to be manta hunters for over a decade, thus ”Pamilacan” means a resting place for manta.

The sunrise for a bit but was quickly covered by thick clouds. The water is is filled with white caps.The first hour we didn’t see any dolphins, we reach further until we felt hungry so we decide to come back to the island and eat breakfast. The condition of the water probably is one reason we didn’t spot dolphins, but I am sure they are there, we just didn’t spot them.

sunrise
sunrise

After eating breakfast we had an hour break then we decide to go snorkeling.There is a marine sanctuary on the west side of the beach where you can pay 200Php for the local guide and a paddle boat that will bring you there.

We opted just to stay in front of the beach and see what’s beneath. My kids had lots of fun seeing clownfishes and corals. Some parts are grassy which is perfect habitat for turtles, we didn’t see them while snorkeling but my buddy spotted them from afar surfacing when we were seated outside our cottage shortly after we arrive in the island.

 

 

We end the day playing ”touching ball” with a beautiful sunset.

Day 3

Another chance to spot dolphins, of course, we are all excited again , very happy and we can feel it through our nerves that hundreds of them will gonna show up. Now I don’t wanna hold you waiting, see below the dolphins of Pamilacan.

During the day we spotted 3 species of Dolphins, Fraser, Rissos & Spinners(almost a hundred of them).Another occurrence during the interaction is that 2 white hawks is seen flying by to have some bits of the tuna leftovers from the feeding Spinners.

 

 

The interaction lasted for about 2.5 hours, the spinners entertained us non stop as it jumps, breach, and bow ride closest to our boat.

We head back to the beach for our brunch and a well deserve rest, followed by last day of snorkeling on the island.

Some freediving

 

 

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I did less than an hour yoga poses to stretch my muscles and core having my mind and body in one. It is my deep way to say thank you to the universe for letting us experience this bliss.

 

 

living,

lace will remain a favorite in our heart , it composes all elements of a paradise that we love. Simple living , nice beach, very kind people, the sea, the corals, the fish, the dolphins, the flowers, the garden, the yummy food. Everything sums up for a very nice place to unwind, destress, relax and reconnect with mother nature.

More photos below :

 

 

Time to say thank you to the lovely locals, specially Ate Nemesia & Kuya Junior and family for being so hospitable.

We promise to come back in the future. ><(((0> 🙂 ❤ ❤

I plan to organize an event here in the fure with Geko Adventures.

So stay tune  and cheers to the Spinners in Pamilacan Island.

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In Search for the”the Big Blue Whale” – A Balyena.org volunteer experience

So I been wanting to do this for a long time.To volunteer for a Non Governmental Organization. Since I’m a mermaid I followed quite a number of most Philippine based NGO for marine conservation such as Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines, Greenpeace-Ph, Save Philippine Seas,Oceana-Ph, Ocean Conservancy and Balyena.org, I been supporting their cause even by just sharing post online as  form of information dissemination.

Last year I really really wanted to join Balyena.org’s Humpback Whale Expedition in Southern tip of Philippines- the Babuyanes Island for summer season. I send my volunteer application but unfortunately all slots were full. But then I saw this post below :

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Photograb with permission from Balyena.org Fb page

Seriously, the ” Big Blue Whale’‘, can you imagine that, the largest animal on earth has been sighted off Bohol Sea last year 2015 at the same season. I just hope it’s just hanging around the PH waters and maybe around Bohol Sea so we can we can meet during the survey, must be a dream come true. I will probably see the real mermaid t

Without hesitation I emailed Doc Jom Acebes – head of Balyena.org about my interest in joining the survey, and even before receiving her response I went straight to my boss and ask permission to take a leave on particular dates stated above, luckily the answer is a big YES ! Moving on, arriving Tagbilaran port as early as 3am on May 18 I hurriedly took a tricycle to take me to Baclayon where Doc Jom and the rest of the volunteers will meet me. Guess what , will be heading to Pamilacan Island for our first day of the survey, it is an island in the bohol sea known for dolphin and whale sighting, in fact the tourism office of Baclayon which has jurisdiction over the island is promoting Dolphin and Whale Watching for tourist and visitors.

Since I wasn’t able to join the orientation night prior to my arrival upon meeting the group, Doc Jom immediately oriented me what to do and what to expect for a week survey.

So the team is ready, a local boat from Pamilacan island pick us up and will travel for about less than an hour to reach there. Arriving the island we were welcomed by locals whom Doc Jom is in contact with, will be staying in a simple cottage fronting a white beach, so lucky bastard again. Who says volunteering is not awesome ? 🙂

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The beach front : Pamilacan Island Bohol
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Simple cottages where we will be staying for 2 nights in the island

According to Doc Jom, ”of  the 26 species of cetaceans around the country , 18 are commonly found in Bohol Sea, and since the sighting of the Big Blue off Bohol sea , they launch the project ”In Search of the Big Blue ” running from the months of May-June.

The Survey Team:

Doc Jom Acebes – survey lead

Volunteer Members :

Monika and Martin – from Poland

Serena Lagorio – from Italy

Luis Benjamin – from Manila

and yours truly(Alieth)- from Cebu

This is how we start the survey :

  1. Wake up around 6am and have an awesome breakfast prepared by our host in the island.
  2. After 30mins we are ready to load equipments and stuffs for the survey such us : survey sheet for recording, gps, binoculars,cameras, water, food for lunch, fruits and snacks.
  3. Then we hop in the boat and start our assigned task. Three member shall be the spotter for front , left and right view. One GPS handler, two photographers and two recorders.
  4. Once there is sightings, we get closer around 500meters away from the cetaceans and start the interaction.
  5. Important facts and informations are recorded in each interaction with cetaceans such as , the location  in Latitude and Longitude points,the starting time and ending time of interaction, the species of whales, its characteristic, behaviour and movements.

The first three days of the survey was very fun, even if the sun is scorching hot , the spinner dolphins don’t fail to entertain me all the time. GPS points had been identified already by the organization for whale sightings and interaction for the past years so we usually followed these spots presuming these ceataceans are just there just within this radius. We had an average of 3-4 interactions a day, starting from 8am till 4pm.Each interactions can last 30mins up to an hour, we got to observe how they act, how many of them in a pod and even in which direction they headed.Interestingly we also see differences in them physically like the colour of their body , the shape of their beak and fins.

After we we call it a day we headed back to the shore tired but happy. After dinner we do log informations for each sightings. Each day is another exciting day to look forward to, thinking that the ”Big Blue” can be out there waiting for us. So after 3days of survey around the island of Pamilacan, it’s time for us to move on to another location along Bohol Sea. We will now head to Jagna Bohol, where the Organisation’s head quarter is located.

We stayed at Paseo del Mar Resort,a dive resort operated by Doc Jom’s family and where Balyena.org office is also located.The resort is facing Camiguin Island and of course fronting a coral reef where you can dip for a snorkelling session. The place has different types of accommodations and dorm rooms to accommodate guests,volunteers, researchers and divers.A restaurant is also available anytime for a hungry stomach, and for caffeine necessity, brewed coffee is there to keep you awake.

A mini kitchen is also available for those who want’s to prepare their own meals, specially market is just minutes away.In our case we did bought vegetables and fruits from the market for 3days consumption and store it in the refrigerator and cook enough for a day.

Before the 4th day of our survey, Doc Jom receive a surprising news from her friends in another conservation agencies , they spotted ”the Big Blue ” off the coast of Negros, yes just the moment when we arrive in Jagna this awesome news welcomed us.

http://www.mb.com.ph/largest-animal-on-the-planet-the-blue-whale-spotted-off-negros-oriental/

So at that night I almost couldn’t sleep, I wanted to see the ”Big Blue” for sure, this must be a one of akind experience in a lifetime , imagine seeing the largest animal on earth which can be a size 6 elephant. But we are far from the subject , to reach dumaguete we either have to take a fast craft from tagbilaran to dumaguete which has limited schedule in a day and or hire a fast boat to reach dumaguete, but the problem is for sure its gonna be costly and the probability to see the Big Blue can be lowered as time goes by since they travel in long distances and they travel fast ;( sigh.

According to Doc Jom’s analysis it could be the same Blue Whale sighted off Alona Beach in Panglao island first week of May which moved along Bohol Sea to Tanon Strait in Negros. It is most likely be drifting with the currents towards the Sulu Sea.

Anyways, to make the story short, we decided to stay in Jagna to continue our survey for the next days, and wished ”the Big Blue” will come back. At this point two interns from Davao both were Marine Biology students joined us for the survey, Fiona and Matt.

According to Doc Jom , in the past years they recorded atleat 5common species of Cetaceans around Bohol Sea nearby Jagna such as; Melon-headed whale, Spinner Dolphins , Fraser Dolphins,Rissos Dolphins and short-finned pilot whale.Among the list, we encountered all of them except for the short-finned pilot whale.

These cetaceans have distinct characteristics which I only learned after this experience. In the beginning I thought there is only dolphins and whales  which looks the same and are the same. Yes they actually belong to the same group called ”Cetaceans” in which Dolphins , whales and porpoises belong to, they are marine mammals.Meaning  they depend their life in the oceans,produce milk from mammary glands to feed their babies and has blowhole in the centre of the head above the eyes,which they breathe air from their lungs and is one of the reasons why they go up to the surface of the water.

During the surveys, we also observe different behaviour from different species. To start with, there is this common and fantastic spins and stunts of the spinner dolphins, which still remains my all time favorite. One common behaviour of cetaceans is they do ”Bowriding” is when they ride the bow pressure waves of boats.Another common behaviour of spinners,melon headed-whales and Rissos dolphins is they do ‘‘Tail Slapping”, this is when they smack hard their fluke or tail on the surface of the waters, then there is this ”Spyhopping” as the term suggest, you can see half of their head coming out from the water silently as if observing what is happening around, another boring behaviour is ”Logging” or best being describe as resting, in which case you can see them moving slowly in the surface of the water being their dorsal fins above water surface. The last but most exciting behaviour of whales and dolphins I observed is then they lifts their entire body 50-100% off the waters, literally imagine them flying , this is called ”Breaching”, this one fascinates and entertains me so much thereby making me so happy. There are few hypothesis you can read online why marine animals breach, such us to dislodge parasites, mating, social interactions or just for fun. One thing is for sure I would never be tired of watching them doing this sort of stuffs.

Before our volunteer work ends, Serena from Italy also presented and shared to the team her studies about Sperm Whales in Europe.

In summary, my 10 days volunteer experience is a blast. It was a great opportunity I will never forget.This experience opens my eyes more and more about more conservation efforts in protecting marine and aquatic life specially those which are now declared endangered species, we don’t have so much time and destruction of the environment by humans is faster than we thought.We need to be part of the collective effort hence our life is so much dependent on our oceans.

It is also very important to be aware and to follow the correct guidelines in interacting with marine mammals specially dolphin and whale watching is a growing business that tourism sector is targeting now in many parts of the country.

I would like to give thanks to Balyena.org for giving this opportunity to me and other volunteers. To Doc. Jom Acebes which allotted most of her time and years of studies in understanding not just about the environmental value of Cetaceans, but also the economic and historical aspect of the Cetacean populations in Bohol Sea and some parts of the Philippines thereby producing materials and publications which results to crafting of necessary policies to be implemented across the country. Her effort is also a huge factor in helping many students experience real fieldwork in marine biology studies and also to encourage more locals in the communities to be involved in the conservation goals.

 

To VOLUNTEER contact Doc Jom of Balyena.org

Follow and like their FB page : https://www.facebook.com/Balyenaorg-174606515909348/

To know more about cetaceans  see link below 😉

http://us.whales.org/whales-and-dolphins/welcome-to-world-of-whales-and-dolphins

Thanks to the locals of Pamilacan island and the boat crew there.

Thanks to the boat crew from Jagna. They are funny and friendly people.

Thanks to Paseo del mar which have been our host for a week.

Thanks to my awesome new friends and volunteers; Serena, Luis, Martin, Monika, Fiona and Matt.

Here are some photos I took with my camera phone:  ><(((0>

Cheers!

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After the volunteer experience, my family joined me to celebrate my daughter’s birthday in Doljo Panglao Bohol, we lived there for 2years in the past when I was working in a dive resort.We have couple of friends there and Feona miss her playmates too, I was too excited to show Feona and tell her more about dolphins as she love the oceans very much. The following morning we went out very early to the sea heading Balicasag island, the water was so calm and flat, 15 mins after we depart from the shore, we notice 1 boat packed with people from a distance and somehow they’re looking out something in the waters. So we went closer to them and ”aja” its a pod of whales- Short-finned Pilot Whales”, they’re rather huge.

See video link below :

Sorry for my loud voice, and initially I thought it’s a melon-headed whales but Doc Jom later confirmed to me that it is ”Short finned Pilot Whales”