A school of white-striped snappers s'scattered as I approached. (Sogod Bay, Leyte, Philippines, March 2020)
A school of white-striped snappers scatters as I approach. (Sogod Bay, Leyte, Philippines, March 2020)

Back to Sogod Bay, to dive and be amazed

#Philippines #Leyte

  Philippines: Sogod Bay [Leyte] + Moalboal [Cebu] + Pangatalan [Palawan] - March 2020

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text: 

In need of salt water, I dive these days with nostalgia in my last underwater pictures brought back from the Philippines... It was early 2020. Before the Covid and the closing of the borders.

Yes, I was really lucky: I was able to fly to the Philippines at the end of February 2020, and come back without a hitch a fortnight later. On the eve of the first lockdown in France and at Manila.

I spent two weeks there diving and exploring underwater sites on several islands of the archipelago: the south of Leyte (Sogod Bay), the southwestern part of Cebu (Moalboal), and Northeast Palawan (Pangatalan).

Since then, the coronavirus has crippled everything, and time has flown. In September 2020, I published an article about the Sea Academy project set up by the Sulubaai Foundation on Pangatalan Island in the evening edition d'Ouest-France. But I had not yet told anything here, on my personal blog, about this trip which seems so unreal today...

Better late than never. One year later, I finally decide to start a series of posts on this blog... It was about time!

😅

Back to Sogod Bay, twelve years on

First stage of this stay in March 2020: Sogod BaySo, in the south of the island of Leyte.

Those who have been following me for a long time on this blog may remember it: it is about the famous "whale shark bay" that I had discovered twelve years earlier, in 2008 (without spying a single whale shark).

See and see again... I must admit, I was not disappointed. I even found Sogod Bay more beautiful than I remembered. The area remained authentic. The dives are superb. This is the kind of place that really makes you feel good.

😍

In front of Padre Burgos, on the other side of the bay, Santa Paz. (Sogod Bay, Leyte, Philippines, March 2020)
Panaon Island and the village of Santa Paz, in front of Padre Burgos, across the bay (Sogod Bay, Leyte, Philippines, March 2020)
It's a bit of a rush in Sogod Bay! The coral reefs are real fish-bearing buildings... (Leyte, Philippines, March 2020)
It's a bit of a rush in Sogod Bay! Coral reefs are real fish buildings... (Leyte, Philippines, March 2020)
Napantao Reef is a marine protected area, and it shows! (Sogod Bay, Leyte, Philippines, March 2020)
Napantao Reef is a marine protected area, and it shows! (Sogod Bay, Leyte, Philippines, March 2020)
Growing baby corals on the SBSR's housereef. (Sogod Bay, Leyte, Philippines, March 2020)
Baby corals growing, on the house-reef of the Sogod Bay Scuba Resort. (Leyte, Philippines, March 2020)
In the plankton-laden water, a whale shark appears... (Sogod Bay, Leyte, Philippines, March 2020)
In the water full of plankton, a whale shark appears... (Sogod Bay, Leyte, Philippines, March 2020)

To occupy my days in Sogod Bay, I have planned a few activities:

  • Diving, of course, but perhaps also being able to watch a whale shark, this time! (I totally ruin the suspense with the picture above... 😉 )
  • Meet young Filipino diving instructors trained on site by the French association Divers of the World (Plongeurs du Monde).
  • Learn about environmental initiatives in the bay, which has several small marine protected areas (MPAs), including the hunting of the acanthasterthis fearsome coral-eating starfish, with the Sogod Bay Scuba Resort and a coral nursery, with the local association Green Inc.
  • Meeting up with my friend Carol, who organizes eco-friendly diving trips with her agency Equilibre, and has planned to travel there at the same time to accompany a young French diving couple.

I will detail all this in several posts in the coming weeks... 😉

If you're on Instagram, you can also check out the story about Leyte that I had posted in "live" at the time...

February 2020, no restrictions for travellers yet

When I arrived at the Manila airport on February 29, 2020, there are signs about coronavirus for travelers, but no specific measures, other than a fact sheet to fill out and a temperature check.

Many people wear masks, which does not surprise or worry me. It is a habit already well established in Asia, especially since previous SARS outbreaks. But when I disembarked, the mask was not yet mandatory, and there were no sanitary restrictions on travel in the Philippine archipelago.

I was far from suspecting that the Covid-19 epidemic would take such a magnitude and last so long.

My plane just landed in Manila. Many of the passengers on that international flight wear masks. (Philippines, February 29, 2020)
My plane just landed in Manila. Many of the passengers on that international flight wear masks. (Philippines, February 29, 2020)

Back to Sogod Bay Scuba Resort

The domestic flight from Manila to Tacloban that takes me to the island of Leyte is not very long (1 hour and 20 minutes), but there are still several hours to drive to Lungsodaan, a village in the municipality of Padre Burgos, in the south of the island. Twelve years ago, I had come by sea, by night ferry, from Cebu. And at the end of this new stay, it is also by ferry that I plan to leave, to return to the island of Cebu.

In Padre Burgos, I am pleased to rediscover the Sogod Bay Scuba Resort (SBSR)where I had already been in 2008. This small dive center with adjoining restaurant and rooms overlooking a beach of dead corals, remained simple and welcoming. I celebrate my return with a well-deserved mango juice, facing the bay.

It is an Australian-Filipino couple, Phil and Darlene McGuire, who run the store, with a young Filipino team (the Englishman Ron Sparkes, co-founder of the resort with Phil, and with whom I had dived in 2008), passed away in 2014.)

I put below some recent photos of the SBSR, posted on Facebook by Darlene. At the time of writing (February 2021), the resort can once again welcome divers, after long months of closure, anti-Covid restrictions begin to ease in the Philippines (but the borders are still closed to foreign tourists for the moment).

At SBSR, the atmosphere is family, relaxed and without fuss. The diving trips are done in small groups on a large bankga (traditional Philippine outrigger boat) comfortable. And above all, in Leyte, we are far from the tourist hordes that are rampant elsewhere, on other islands of the archipelago much more popular ...

In other words, we're just fine. 😎 🌴 👌 🐠

There's quite a bit of wind in the south of Leyte at this time of year, but that doesn't stop us from sailing across the bay or diving. The best preserved and most beautiful sites are the reefs in the marine sanctuary of Napantao (Panaon Island) located on the east side of the bay, right in front of Padre Burgos, and those of the island of Limasawa located in the south at the entrance of the bay.

About 10 kilometers long, Limasawa is also a place of historical and religious significance. It is there that the Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan would have made the first lasting contact with the indigenous population on March 28, 1521, just before Easter, and would have celebrated the first Roman Catholic mass in the Philippines. The event, which will be the 500e anniversary on March 31, 2021, marks the beginning of the Christianization of the archipelago.

Limasawa Island is located south of Padre Burgos, at the entrance to Sogod Bay. (Philippines, March 2020)
Limasawa Island is located south of Padre Burgos, at the entrance of Sogod Bay (Philippines, March 2020)
The SBSR's bangkas (traditional Filipino swing boats). (Sogod Bay, Leyte, Philippines, March 2020)
The two bangkas (traditional Filipino swing boats) fitted out for SBSR diving. (Sogod Bay, Leyte, Philippines, March 2020)
Ian, one of our guides, prepares his equipment at the front of the bankga. (Sogod Bay, Leyte, Philippines, March 2020)
Ian, one of our guides, prepares his gear at the front of the bankga (Sogod Bay, Leyte, Philippines, March 2020)
My diving equipment is ready... I can't wait to get in the water! (Sogod Bay, Leyte, Philippines, March 2020)
My diving equipment is ready... I can't wait to get in the water! (Sogod Bay, Leyte, Philippines, March 2020)
The map of the main dive sites in the bay of Sogod. (Leyte, February 2020)
The map of the main dive sites in the bay of Sogod. (Leyte, February 2020)

Wonder in the waters of the Philippines

Every day, in the evening, I carefully prepare my underwater camera housing for the next day's dives.

Twelve years ago, I wasn't equipped like I am today. My little compact camera at the time didn't really allow me to take underwater pictures. So I was mostly focused on the "little" during my stay in Sogod Bay. This time, it's different. Each evening, I choose to put myself in "wide angle" configuration. I want to capture the special atmosphere of the coral reefs.

Photographing them has become my great passion... The more I dive, the more they fascinate and amaze me. And I am well aware of their fragility. The damage caused in the world by overfishing, pollution and global warming (corals bleach and die when the water is too hot) have taken on unprecedented proportions in recent years.

Between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the "Coral Triangle" of which the Philippines is a part, has already suffered a lot. Despite everything, it is still the place on the planet that concentrates the greatest diversity of coral species. There is still life, in profusion on some sites, and hope: the ocean is capable of resilienceIf the ecosystems are allowed to regenerate.

More to read → Diving and protecting the ocean

I spent six days in Sogod Bay, including five days taking underwater pictures. So I leave you with these diving memories in pictures, and I'll come back to tell the rest very soon...

A school of white-striped snappers s'scattered as I approached. (Sogod Bay, Leyte, Philippines, March 2020)
A school of white banded snappers scatters as I approach (Sogod Bay, Leyte, Philippines, March 2020)

On the left, Limasawa Reef. On the right, a large gray antennae perched on a tubular sponge. (Sogod Bay, Leyte, Philippines, March 2020)

Anthias swarm around their coral "bush" at the Adrian's Cove site in Limasawa. (Sogod Bay, Leyte, Philippines, March 2020)
Swarm of anthias around their coral "bush" at Adrian's Cove, Limasawa (Sogod Bay, Leyte, Philippines, March 2020)
Nemo the clownfish and his friends are there too, on the house-reef of the SBSR. (Sogod Bay, Leyte, Philippines, March 2020)
Nemo the clownfish and his friends are there too, on the house-reef of the SBSR. (Sogod Bay, Leyte, Philippines, March 2020)
A cloud of wriggling anthias over Napantao reef, Sogod Bay (Leyte, Philippines, March 2020)
A cloud of wriggling anthias over Napantao reef, Sogod Bay (Leyte, Philippines, March 2020)
A small clown (antennal) frogfish, spotted at the Adrian's Cove site in Limasawa. (Sogod Bay, Leyte, Philippines, March 2020)
A small frogfish (antennae) clown, spotted at Adrian's Cove, Limasawa (Sogod Bay, Leyte, Philippines, March 2020)
In Napantao, healthy coral everywhere! It's a pleasure... (Sogod Bay, Leyte, Philippines, March 2020)
In Napantao, healthy coral everywhere! It's a pleasure... (Sogod Bay, Leyte, Philippines, March 2020)
The bright pink of the "soft corals" contrasts with the blue of the water (Sogod Bay, Leyte, Philippines, March 2020)
The bright pink of the "soft corals" contrasts with the blue of the water (Sogod Bay, Leyte, Philippines, March 2020)
In the marine sanctuary of Napantao. (Sogod Bay, Philippines, March 2020)
In the marine sanctuary of Napantao. (Sogod Bay, Philippines, March 2020)

  👌

See also ➜ Diving trip : all my adventures since 2006

You can leave me a comment below, and if you want more, all the articles about this trip to the Philippines are available by clicking on the link below:

  Philippines: Sogod Bay [Leyte] + Moalboal [Cebu] + Pangatalan [Palawan] - March 2020

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  1. Thank you Corinne for this experience feedback, we are all the same, we dive (we can't avoid it) in the last trips to wait and dream of the next ones ... We can't wait to pack our suitcases again for other discoveries, other encounters, other images ...
    Sincerely
    Yves

  2. Hello,

    It's great to read you and discover these beautiful places. Thank you for sharing all this with us. We just hope to be able to go back there soon

    1. @ Régis: Glad to bring a little dream and relaxation through the screen... There is no harm in making yourself feel good with pictures of coral reefs 😉 We will still have to be patient, I think, before we can resume diving in far away countries. But when the time comes, the pleasure will only be greater!

  3. Dear Corinne,
    I am fascinated by this story and all the photos that accompany it.
    Bravo again, it reminds me of diving in New Caledonia a long time ago.
    Bravo, thank you and well, cordially

  4. Hello Corinne, maybe you remember me, our first exchanges were about the Togians a long time ago......fort long time ago 😉
    So we almost ran into each other in 2020!!! I was in Padre Burgos a little before you in January, I also spent a few days in "Robinson" mode (no one on this island!) in Limasawa.
    I can't wait to read the rest and to know if you dove at Padre Burgos' pontoon... As for Moal Boal, I stayed there much later, early March to be exact, a totally different atmosphere from Leyte, but I'm not telling you anything 😉
    It's always a pleasure to read you and to discover your pictures, I admit that I don't leave a comment each time I visit you, even though your articles deserve it!
    Yours, with bubbly kisses.
    Pit

    1. @Pit : of course, I remember 🙂 You are even mentioned several times on the blog, in posts from 2009 .
      https://petitesbullesdailleurs.fr/reves-de-mantas-20090529/
      https://petitesbullesdailleurs.fr/borneo-projets-et-dilemmes-20090524/
      https://petitesbullesdailleurs.fr/une-famille-de-globe-trotters-20090123/

      In "Robinson" mode on Limasawa? Wow, this is really an adventure! So, no, I did not dive at the PB pontoon. This will be for another time (when it will be possible to travel again)...

      As for Moalboal, I was there in March (just after my stay in Leyte). It's crazy, if it happens we were in the water at the same place at the same time (I'll go check the silhouettes of swimmers and divers I photographed in the sardine bank 😀 )

      Very flattered, in any case, to see that you are a long-time follower of my Petites Bulles d'Ailleurs, thank you so much for taking the time to leave a little message, it makes me very happy 🙂

  5. Corinne hello.

    Mid-February 2020 I was there.
    Boat cruise Cebu - Malapasqua - Limasawa - Sogod Bay- Panaon island.
    Reading your article is very moving,
    the thought comes back to these fantastic places.......
    Hello.

  6. Happy to read you again and to find distant horizons. Like you, I was in the Philippines in February 2020, in Malapascua and Moalboal. Like you, the feeling of unreality. That was a hundred years ago. And I laugh when I read the comments. There were several of us in the same place at the same time. Too bad, we could have had a few beers together. Maybe next time.

    cordially

    1. @Krystel: Thank you for your little message! Yes, distant horizons are now rather virtual... Me too, it amused me to see that we were in the same area almost at the same time 🙂 I'll keep diving back into my images in the meantime 😉

  7. What a joy to see all these wonderful photos! It allows you to travel in dreams.... while waiting to be able to leave....thanks Corinne
    Still a fan of your stories

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