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Why We Skipped Swimming with Whale Sharks in Oslob (And What to Do Instead!)

We felt a bit of disappointment once we made the choice not to go to Oslob on our quest to swim with whale sharks. In any case, this was the journey that put the Philippines on our bucket record. That was till we did just a little extra research and spoke with some locals concerning the damaging practices that tourism and feeding the whale sharks in Oslob have had on their very existence. However extra on that to come. Luckily we weren’t dissatisfied for long as our next cease was Alona Seashore on Panglao Island, Bohol. Here we signed up for Sierra Madre Divers’ AWARE Sea Turtle Specialty Identification course. Our day trip to Balicasag Island let us get (fairly) up shut and personal with inexperienced and hawksbill sea turtles and a faculty of jack fish that decision this nature reserve their residence. And we have been in a position to contribute to crucial ongoing work to preserve the ocean turtle species in the Philippines. Right here’s why our day of AWARE sea turtle specialty identification at Balicasag Island turned out to be a more authentic and conscientious marine encounter than swimming with the whale sharks of Oslob would have been.

There are few places in the world where you’re assured the chance to swim with whale sharks. It turns on the market’s a cause. Whale sharks are a highly-migratory species who swim nice distances in search of nutrient-rich plankton. By staying in Oslob as they’ve been baited by the native fishermen, their breeding patterns are being impacted inflicting critical concern for their long-term survival.

Another unintended consequence of Oslob’s whale shark draw is that uneducated vacationers and native fishermen don’t comply with whale shark interplay code of conduct and contact these nice mild giants.

We should point out that we didn’t even stop by means of Oslob. (From what we hear there isn’t a cause to until you’re planning an early morning tour to see the whale sharks.) So we will’t truly converse firsthand about how the whale sharks are being handled. Nevertheless, we’d see sufficient videos from different tourists to know this whale shark zoo wasn’t something we needed to take part in. Our suggestion, in case you are contemplating Oslob as a part of your Philippines itinerary, is to take a look at this submit first to get a sense for what you, and the whale sharks, are in for.

So while this trip to the Philippines finally didn’t ship the good whale shark swim we have been so enthusiastic about, we all know once we ultimately do get to see one in the deep blue it is going to be a cheerful probability encounter as s/he swims freely by. And as an attractive consolation, we have been in a position to spend a peaceful day identifying turtles with Sierra Madre Divers for LAMAVE and observing jackfish faculties at the beautiful nature reserve at Balicasag island.

On this present day we have been at Balicasag Island for the primary objective of finishing the Sea Turtle AWARE Distinctive Specialty as a part of our PADI Superior Open Water course on Bohol. Sea turtles are a keystone of the underwater ecosystem – they assist to keep productive coral reefs by transporting important vitamins from the ocean to seashores and dunes. Because of this you’ll be able to inform quite a bit concerning the state of our ocean environments by learning sea turtle health. Sadly immediately major shifts in local weather change, overfishing and ocean pollution are threatening the very existence of sea turtles. And this is actually dangerous news for everyone because as the ocean turtle populations decline, so too does their capacity to fulfill their very important perform in the ocean ecosystem.

Once we signed up for our PADI Superior Open Water, we have been psyched that our Panglao dive middle provided the AWARE Sea Turtle Specialty course. It gave us the prospect to study all about sea turtles, together with how to determine the totally different species, as properly as causes of concern for their long-term survival and what we might do about it. But the good half was the alternative to take part in the Giant Marine Vertebrates Undertaking (LAMAVE) efforts to determine mature females for tagging while diving at Balicasag Island by spotting and taking photographs of these dwelling in the world.

Objectives of the AWARE Sea Turtle Specialty Course

Our AWARE Sea Turtle Specialty Distinction course began in the classroom the place we discovered:

  • Sea turtle species widespread in tropical waters, including the five species presently found in the Philippines
  • The information and expertise wanted to determine turtles and document sightings while at Balicasag
  • Concerning the decline of sea turtle populations and the importance of sea turtles to marine biodiversity
  • The threats that the marine sea turtle inhabitants faces and the way we will personally assist with conservation

How to Determine Sea Turtles

Sea turtles are identifiable by species and intercourse if you understand a couple of key characteristics. At Balicasag Island, we have been doubtless to see two species of sea turtle in specific – the inexperienced turtle and the hawksbill turtle. The green turtle is known as for the color of its physique fat, which has a inexperienced hue. They’re the second largest species after the leatherback and feed on grass. The Hawksbill turtle, however, feeds on sponges and smooth corals. It’s distinguishing function is its slender head and pointed beak.

Telling the distinction between a male and a feminine is harder but might be determined by analyzing the tail and entrance flippers. Sexually immature men and women have shorter stubby tails whereas sexually mature males have much longer tails to home their sexual organs. Males also have lengthy and curved claws.

Guidelines of Engagement with Sea Turtles

In fact the very last thing we needed to do was disrupt the way of life of the Balicasag sea turtles, as vacationers had accomplished for the Oslob whale sharks. So it was necessary for us to study the principles of engagement whereas observing the ocean turtles in the water.

As with any animal in the wild, sea turtles have to be approached thoughtfully and with caution. First, sea turtles shouldn’t be approached closer than 2 meters and approaches ought to be created from the frontal view so as not to alarm. The maximum amount of time you must spend with a turtle is 30 minutes and absolutely no touching or dealing with is allowed. Lastly not more than 4 individuals must be round a sea turtle at anybody time.

Threats to Turtles & How You Can Assist

Worldwide, six of the seven sea turtle species are categorized as threatened or endangered. And sadly the most important threats are a result of human actions and life including: entanglement in fishing gear, poaching and illegal commerce, coastal improvement, plastic and different marine debris, international warming and ocean air pollution. During our course, for instance, we discovered that 300,000 turtles die annually indiscriminately by being caught on lengthy fishing strains.

In case you are in learning more about turtle and ocean conservation efforts in your area, the next organizations are an ideal place to begin:

Study more about Venture AWARE.

Study extra about Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines.

Study more about Sea Shepard.

As if sea turtle conservation wasn’t sufficient cause to dive Balicasag island, this marine sanctuary is a pristine underwater paradise. We dove two dive sites at Balicasag – Black Forest and Balicasag Marine Sanctuary.

Balicasag Marine Sanctuary Dive Website

The Balicasag Marine Sanctuary is a deep wall dive extending as far as 200 meters in some spots. Giant mushy and onerous corals protruding from the wall have been a daily function of on dive. At one point we have been surrounded by a faculty of fluorescent purple fish, which glowed in contrast to the wall behind them while an enormous napoleon wrasse swam away. But probably the most thrilling moment was encountering a small faculty of jackfish virtually immediately after dropping in down. Sadly we have been already so deep at this point we didn’t get to visit with them lengthy before they swam away. We have been disillusioned not to see any turtles at Balicasag Marine Sanctuary for our sea turtle course however have been also finishing our Nitrox certification so have been probably too deep for normal spottings.

Black Forest Dive Website

Black Forest is likely one of the most popular sites at Balicasag Island as a steep slope dive extending to about 40 meters. It’s named black forest because of the weird black gentle corals which are sometimes found at deeper depths but right here thrive round 15 meters. The reef was lovely and filled with shade and life. Joyful clown fish could be seen all over the place curiously exploring from their anemone houses. And our dive master, Bernard, was a pro at spotting totally different species of nudibranch.

It was additionally here at Black Forest that we have been in a position to complete our AWARE sea turtle specialty identification, recognizing 2 hawksbill and 3 green turtles.

How to get to Balicasag Island from Alona Beach BoholHow to Get to Balicasag Island

Balicasag Island is situated in the southern Bohol sea a 45-minute boat journey from Panglao Island. It may be reached from Alona Seashore by way of Tagbilaran Metropolis. Most Bohol dive outlets based mostly on Alona Seashore, Panglao Island supply common trips to Balicasag Island. We included our day trip to Balicasag as part of our Advanced Open Water course with Sierra Madre Divers.

Quick boats from Cebu Metropolis and Dumaguete City depart day by day and take roughly 2 hours to get to Tagbilaran Metropolis. Tickets may be bought on the pier but arrive early. We took Ocean Jet and Tremendous Cat and have been comfortable with both corporations. From Tagbilaran Metropolis, you possibly can hire a moto, trike or taxi to take you Alona Seashore on Panglao Island. The drive should take no extra than 1 hour.

If coming from Manila, common flights depart for Tagbilaran Metropolis every day. From here rent a taxi or trike to get to Alona Seashore on Panglao Island.

Beautiful sea fans and soft corals of Balicasag Island on BoholIf You Go: AWARE Sea Turtle Specialty Identification Diving at Balicasag Island

What: Diving with whale sharks in Oslob, Cebu seems like a dream come true till you find out how dangerous this apply is for these mild giants’ lifestyle. In case you are in search of a extra genuine and impactful diving expertise in the Visayas, Philippines, look no further than the Sea Turtle AWARE Specialty Identification course with Sierra Madre Divers on Alona Seashore, Bohol. Right here you’ll study all about sea turtles and their position in the ocean ecosystem and have the opportunity to contribute to LAMAVE’s ongoing sea turtle identification and tagging program at Balicasag Island to help Philippines turtle conservation efforts.

Where: Balicasag Island is small island situated in the southern Bohol sea a 25-minute boat experience from Panglao Island in the Visayas, Philippines.

When: Bohol scuba diving is greatest between October and Might.

How: Join Sierra Madre Divers’ Sea Turtle AWARE Specialty Identification course or take your diving to the subsequent degree with their PADI Open Water and Advanced Open Water certifications. Balicasag Island is usually visited as a two-dive day journey from Alona Seashore on Bohol.

Disclaimer: Our AWARE Sea Turtle Specialty Identification was supported by Sierra Madre Divers. As with the whole lot on our weblog, our opinions above are an trustworthy account of what we experienced. As you think about your options for Bohol scuba diving reach out to Jaki at Sierra Madre Divers (+63-385029789, [email protected]).

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