Tag Archives: fish sanctuary

Snorkeling the Mangroves

If you have a mask and snorkel packed in your suitcase and a plane ticket to a tropical country, chances are you are planning to visit the coral reef. It’s true, the coral reef is a breath taking array of color and biodiversity, but the mangrove ecosystem lining the coastal shores may also hold tales of impressive beauty.

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A baby mangrove seedling sprouting up. Notice the pencil-like roots from mature mangroves coving the sea floor.

Mangroves are only found in the tropics and subtropics, however climate change is slowly causing their range to expand further north and south from the equator. They provide a home for juvenile fish who will move out to the coral reef as they mature.

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Look for sponges, tunicates, sea slugs, crabs, snails, sea stars, sea urchins and many different species of fish as you snorkel.

Want to snorkel the mangroves and the coral reef on an isolated island in the Philippines?! I would recommend Buenavista Fish Sanctuary in Looc, Romblon.

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Buenavista Fish Sanctuary Island, Looc, Romblon, Philippines

From shore you will take a small boat out to this tiny island, big enough for a one room hut and a cooking area. It is the perfect place for a picnic cookout. Jump into the water and explore the shallow waters of the mangrove habit, then swim a bit further from shore and see the coral reef. Buenavista is the lesser known fish sanctuary in Looc Municipality, but it is a beautiful tropical retreat!

Which way to the Fish Sanctuary?

As an American traveling in the States, the decision of whether or not to ask for directions may be a point of contention. Here in the Philippines the difficult part is not deciding whether to ask, it is following the directions once you receive them.

To ask a Filipino for directions typically yields a hand wave or even lips puckered (Filipinos tend to give directions with their lips) in a particular direction. When I needed to purchase a waterbottle, this response was particularly frustrating because I was entirely confused as to where this store could possibly be and found myself wandering seemingly aimlessly.

Now I have realized that protocol for asking and receiving directions is entirely different in this culture. Instead, it is assumed that you ask multiple people. The hand wave means walk that way and ask someone else when you get there. Almost like the childhood game of warmer versus colder when searching for an item. While this method seemed highly taxing, the alternative is not substantially easier. Clearly limited by the lack of roads and street names here is a set of directions another Peace Corps Volunteer texted me yesterday, while I was trying to find my way to a fish sanctuary:

“When you get to the mayor’s farm make a right, go past the b-ball court and past a nice road with a gate to the white house. Then go down that hill and make a left til you reach shipping containers, a cement bank, and a cow pasture. Make a left and follow that trail through the cow pasture and up the hill towards the antennae and guardhouse.”

Below are some of the sights along the way. Although I referenced the text several times on my bike ride there, we made it successfully to our snorkel site. Thanks Ata!!

The nice road, versus the rough road we were traveling on.
The nice road landmark, versus the rough road we were traveling on
The shipping containers
The shipping containers, not sure of their purpose there
Riding through the cow pasture
Riding through the cow pasture
The antennae in the distance, almost there
The antennae in the distance, almost there
The guard house marking the fish sanctuary…success!
The guard house marking the fish sanctuary…success!

When I finally arrived, our Filipino supervisor looked up to the sky and spotting the moon, still visible in the daytime, joked, “It’s easy to find, the fish sanctuary is just under the moon.”