Heading south along the eastern coastline of Cebu you start to see the Philippines for what it is; beautiful coastline, rugged terrain, large communities, chickens everywhere and mad overtaking maneuvers! We finally arrived on the peninsula of Moalboal early evening. A slightly more village feeling than Malapascua but with an abundance of dive shops. Throughout the holiday we decided to choose the smaller dive shops for a number of reasons. Firstly we like the more personal feeling of smaller shops, secondly your more likely to have smaller groups, thirdly we wanted to dive with locals and lastly being a small shop ourselves, we favoured the little guys. After a few chats to various operators we chose Nelson’s Scuba Diving School which had been operating for over 25 years.
We were staying on Panagsama Beach which was a short tricycle ride from the busy main town of Moalboal. Here we were going for mostly wall dives since only 100m from the shore the ocean floor drops away to 50+ meters and you can see the visible drop from the beach itself. One of the main dive site attractions is Pescador Island which was rumoured to have many frogfish and the occasional whale shark.
We did a few wall dives before we hit the legendary Pescador island which is a short 15 min boat ride from Panagsama Beach. You know its going to be a good dive when as soon as you drop in, 5m deep you find two Clown Frogfish! Then the dive got even better; loads of nudibranchs, pipefish and more frogfish, this time two Giant Frogfish hanging on some tube coral. Full of smiles and pictures we headed back to do another dive on the reef wall and here we found a real highlight. A juvenile Painted Progfish about the size of your small fingernail and in full hunting mode!
A few days and few dives later and we returned to Pesacdor Island this time to greeted by one of the most beautiful and emotional experiences you can get underwater. It was whale shark time! Whenever you get near a dive site and know there is a whale shark around, a wave of excitement grips all and you can cut the anticipation with a knife. All our fears and hopes were soon dissolved when after a couple of minutes we were head on with this mighty fish.
As the largest fish in the ocean the Whale Shark is normally top of diver’s check list of what they want to see underwater. The largest whale shark ever spotted was recorded at 13m (but there have been many unsupported claims of up to 18m) but most divers only get to see the juveniles which are around 3 – 6m. Very little is known about whale sharks as they are believed to be migratory (research believes that some whale sharks migrate from Africa to Australia), pelagic and spend vast amounts of time in the deep deep blue well away from coastlines. It is believed that juveniles stay closer to shore for protection reasons as well as food. No mating or birth has ever been recorded by scientists. Whale sharks are gentle giants of the ocean as they are plankton feeders and time their migration on plankton blooms across the globe. They also posses a distinct pattern “fingerprint” along their flanks. If you are lucky enough to spot one underwater and take a photo you can send this in to www.whaleshark.org so they can record new and existing whale sharks so that we can all learn more about these fascinating creatures. It is believed that whale sharks can live up to 70 years old but only get to sexual maturity at around 30 years of age, that’s a long time to wait! If you haven’t seen one yet trust me you’ll never forget your first time!
The remaining dives and days were spent diving Pescador a few more times, more froggies and ornates, more wall diving, a small airplane wreck and to finish the weeks diving we dived the national marine park. They certainly saved the best for last as we were treated to some of the biggest and most numerous Gregorian Sea Fans and then coming shallower some of the most pristine and beautiful corals we have ever seen. Again however it was slightly soured due to the lack of large fish shoals due to heavy fishing and the long lasting affect of dynamite fishing. Soon it was time to do something completely different as we were heading toward the wreck diving capital of the Philippines…Coron!