One of the top favorite dive sites of underwater photographers this side of Davao Gulf is Dayang Beach, Talikud Island. I’ve written about this unique spot here and here. The waters of Dayang must have all the right elements, and all the right environmental conditions, to have such a vibrant and diverse ecosystem.
In an east-to-west stretch of less than 550 yards (around 500m) and a depth range between 20 and 90ft (6-27m), this watery domain is home to scores of crustacean species, including the harlequin shrimp, which cannot be found anywhere else in the gulf. There’s also the tiger shrimp, an elusive species that appears to be thriving in Dayang. Even with just these two critters, scuba divers find this site very rewarding.
And yet, there are hundreds of other marine life that we spot here, such as the Mototi octopus, bigfin reef squid, peacock mantis shrimp, candy crab, frogfish, nudibranchs, and much, much more. Oh and dozens and dozens of fish species, too!
But these undersea residents are in danger of losing their home.
Sometime in September, SDI dive instructor East Pardillo and diver Klo Lim dove Dayang at night and found the harlequin shrimp nest (a grouping of rocks on the sand) in complete devastation. Not far away was a fish trap. The two couldn’t believe their eyes: the trap was weighed down with the same rocks that had been the harlequins’ home!
For weeks after that we couldn’t find Dayang’s most prominent critters. Other dive groups had no luck seeing any sign of them either. We were starting to get worried that we might have lost them for good. But those lovely blue-and-white shrimp proved more resilient than we thought, when finally they were spotted again, far from their original location.
That incident points to the lack of understanding of, and appreciation for, the fragile marine ecosystem among the human residents of Talikud Island. I wonder if they even realize that a wealth of marine life exists just a stone’s throw away from their homes. These treasures must be jealously guarded, otherwise they’ll be lost to everyone.
Another human activity that poses a grave threat to Dayang is the throwing of anchors by boats docking at the beach. I don’t have to spell out how destructive a heavy metal object can be to the seabed, especially when it is dragged carelessly across the substrate.
My dive buddy, Rodney Jao, told me that he recently saw an anchor rooted very close to the new nesting ground of the harlequin shrimp pair. Fortunately, neither the nest nor the animals were harmed. But what about next time…?
There aren’t many boats that go to Dayang Beach; most beach-goers prefer the one beside it, Babusanta Beach, where diving is dangerous due to the constant use of anchors by docking boats. There is a sharp contrast between these two beaches: the things that you can see underwater differ greatly. And you must’ve guessed it: there is a lot less to see in Babusanta.
If the time comes when more boats dock at Dayang, the marine creatures we’ve always been proud to show visiting divers are going to be in peril. There is a big danger of losing a gem from Davao’s scuba diving map.
It’s time for the local government unit of Samal and the owners of Dayang Beach to consider deploying mooring buoys. Furthermore, they would do well to make sure incoming boats used them once installed. We have got to put a stop to our destructive practices. And fast!