I’m sure a lot of you, dear readers, have been aching to finally break free from the bondage of quarantine restrictions and get back to a semblance of normal life which we all miss so much!
I know for a fact that, in preparation for the reopening of our tourism industry, local travel agents and tour operators have been doubling up their efforts in discovering new outdoor and nature attractions to offer to domestic tourists.
Since this market will be the easiest to tap and develop because international borders remain closed to outgoing and incoming traffic, all eyes are now on new local destinations which will tickle the travel appetite of our countrymen.
So, when my friends from the Department of Tourism (DOT) offered this beach haven in Mindanao as the newest dive spot in the country, I decided to help them whet the appetite of “long-stranded” fun-seekers like me, especially those who are disciples of Neptune.
In the town of Glan, Sarangani, there is this mile-long Gumasa Beach, with numerous white sand coves, which has been popular among lovers of sun-sea-and-sand destinations. A concentration of restaurants and cozy tropical-themed resorts have sprouted there through the years because guests keep coming back for the area’s crystal clear water.
It is also where the SarBay (Sarangani Bay) Festival takes place every year, pre-pandemic, drawing hundreds of beach lovers because it integrates environmental education, physical wellness, and family recreation.
Now, the local government launched Sarangani Bay’s Dive Tourism Program, coinciding with the 25th anniversary of its declaration by then President Ramos as a Protected Seascape because of its impressive marine habitat. It is also recognized as a Key Marine Biodiversity Area by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Of interest to the dive industry, as validated by dive professionals, are two of the town’s underwater attractions: First is the Sumbang Point, located near Belimac Beach Resort, habitat to 16 genera of hard corals, five soft corals, and about 100 distinct marine species, including hawksbill turtles, giant clams, marble shrimps, and rare nudibranchs.
Second is the Binuni Reef, which has a maximum depth of 12 meters, and has a vertically zoned intertidal area with patchy seagrass. The subtidal area is characterized by colonies of hard corals of massive, breaching, and encrusting life forms. It also has 12 hard coral and four soft coral genera, and 62 distinct fish species.
It is interesting to note that the bay, which covers 215,950 hectares, is home to yellowfin tuna, sperm whales, pilot whales, dolphins, clown fish, lion fish, sergeant fish, and sea turtles. Its coral resources cover more than 2,293 hectares spread in 20 coral reef areas with about 60 important live hard coral genera and 411 reef species.
Whale sharks, Cheilinus undulatus (mameng), and sea cows (dugong) are also occasionally sighted, particularly on the western side of the bay.
Mayor Vivien Yap proudly declares her municipality as the most beautiful in the Soccsksargen Region, and considers this the perfect time for the rest of the country to discover what they have to offer. Her town’s Dive Tourism Program is supported by DENR, the Provincial Government, and DOT which has declared the area as Soccsksargen’s diving haven.
Dive enthusiasts, however, are advised to register first with the accredited dive center, Sarangani Divers, for proper documentation. The local government just wants to be sure that those who patronize this underwater playground enjoy themselves according to set standards and rules. After all, we have the responsibility to give back to the ocean the same care, not to mention the nourishment, that it has been giving us.
Ready for an underwater workout, anyone?
YOUR WEEKEND CHUCKLE
WISE OBSERVATION: You know you are getting old when the candles on it cost more than the birthday cake.
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