The Davao Reef Divers Club had its second club dive of the year last 24 March 2012, this time with 35 divers and a handful of guests. As per tradition, the first dive was a coastal clean-up and the second was a fun dive. We were hosted by the Maharlika Lions Club at the Villa Amparo Garden Resort, which is located in Bgy. Camudmud, at the northern point of Samal Island.
We were pleasantly surprised that there wasn’t much trash to collect underwater after all! Later Villa Amparo’s Jerico Santos told us that they actually carry out regular sweeps of the beach to get rid of plastics and other stuff floating in front of their resort.
The coral cover in front of the resort is very much alive. You can enjoy the area even just snorkeling. Starting from as shallow as 10ft and down to about 60ft (18m), large soft coral heads abound — mostly mushroom leather coral. The problem was, when we were there, the site was heavily silted so the viz was terrible. I hope to be back there when the water isn’t turbid.
After a delicious buffet spread for lunch, the boatload of divers went to one of Samal’s best muck-diving sites: East Point, located in Bgy. Tagpopongan. It’s actually much better than Dayang Beach, but I hardly get to go there because it’s rather far.
East Point features a sloping sandy bottom from 40ft (13m), with an interesting mix of white and volcanic sand… and mud. I’ve been there only thrice and each time I only stay relatively shallow, because everything worth seeing for the underwater macro-photographer is between 40 to 70 feet deep.
The sandy bottom area is connected to a wall, which features majestic sea fans and large gigantic coral. Hyperactive parrotfish, aggressive triggerfish and other colorful fish can be seen there, as well as marine turtles. A group of us spotted a hawksbill turtle that day.
I didn’t see the pawikan, but I did get to interact with a pair of flamboyant cuttlefish, spotted for me by one of my dive buddies, Rex. That was my first time to see these rare creatures, and they put on an amazing show of brilliant colors for me. (Of course, that was because I was annoying them!)
I was also very happy with the dive because I was able to add three species to my steadily growing collection of nudibranchs:
(Thanks to veteran diver Chiclet Gerochi for the G. albopunctatus photo!)
Another treat was a painted angler, spotted by frogfish-lover Christian Te. It was at a depth of 50ft or so, sitting on a mud slope. Christian, who stayed with it for a good 20 minutes, said he saw it gobble up a fish!
The muck-diving area of East Point is almost totally devoid of coral, but you’ll see a few outcroppings of small coral communities trying to rise up out of the silt and sand. It might be an environmentalist’s nightmare, but most certainly a muck-diving photographer’s dream dive site.
In fact, I’m planning to organize an event which will bring photographer-divers from all over the country to this dive site sometime soon. I’d like to help put Davao Gulf firmly on the Philippine dive map once and for all!