dumaguete series Visayas

Snorkeling in Apo Island - It's A Wonderful World Down There

Sunday, February 26, 2012Ryan Mach

Memory holds better images than photographs. A poetic, dramatic excuse for someone who has experienced something great but doesn't have a picture to show it. But then again, do all great memories have to be proven through pictures? Can't stories suffice? I may not have a picture to show you what a great experience it was, but you should believe me when I say that it's awesome. Will you just take my word for it, please? Anyway, we all know that it's the memories and remembrances that last -- oh right, photographs can be immortalized these days too.

 I didn't have an underwater camera, dammit. I just let the one-of-a-kind experience go down the drain, water if you must. Bummer right?

Here's what I did - on my birthday (that's January of this year) I went on a snorkeling trip with a bunch of divers in Apo Island. This piece of paradise, which means 'grandchild'  in Filipino and Bisaya is located off the Southeastern tip of Negros Island in Visayas. It boasts of wonderful rock formations scattered over the terrain, a protected rich marine reserve, and lovely white sands. They say it lists approximately 650 documented underwater species and 400 types of corals.

 I can't show you any of those marine species because, (and it pains me to think about it) I didn't have an underwater camera to capture the breathtaking scenery down there. While I do have a few photos of the boat that took us there, of the blue waters that glittered in the sun, of the divers who shared stories of the wonderful creatures under the sea, they're not enough to show you how good it felt to see sea hawks sleeping under swaying corals or gliding atop the waves.

The divers, clad in their best dive suits, had stories to tell every time they resurfaced from the water.

 "I saw this overwhelmingly huge grouper get past me," one diver, a Belgian national married to a Filipina, shared to the rest of the divers as they huddled. I could only imagine what he saw. "Here's the photo I took," he offered, not to me, but to his fellow divers. "Ah, that's really huge!" exclaimed one diver. "I, on the other hand, saw some snakes." I just sat on my favorite part of the boat, fresh from my snorkeling session with one of the boat crew members, listening as the rest of the divers surmounted. They just had all finished their first diving session.

Lunch was readied and served - chicken and tuna sandwich, pineapple, coffee and banana. Drenched, we munched and they continued their blabber, I mean, their story-telling. Each of them was part of the group. The largest, composed of 7 people, was from Manila. There's a group of young divers from Manila as well. And one group was a foreign threesome.

  I didn't belong to any group because I went alone.

"How about you, Ryan, how was your snorkeling experience?" asked Tanja, a Finish gal.  Ah at last, someone was interested to know about my solo snorkeling adventure.

"It was great. I saw a sea hawk, a big one, but the guy's sleeping. Not interested to show off," I mused.

"Really?" Tanja beamed. Few minutes later, she and her buddies, two young Canadians, put on their flippers and dove near the boat. They wanted to see the sea hawk I talked about. They were not disappointed, they came back an hour later with good news. They saw, not just one sea turtle, but three!

Choosy turtles!

My snorkeling buddy whose name I no longer remember promised that we'd see lots of them. Turned out the sea hawks were not partial creatures. I saw three in my second snorkeling attempt, this time at a much rougher part of the shore. Big waves were rolling and tumbling, I couldn't count how many times I swallowed seawater. Below the choppy surface, everything was serene and colorful and lovely and teeming with life. There's an array of dancing soft corals and proud hard ones, elusive barracuda, playful nemo-like fishes and a few other creatures unfamiliar to me.

It was a mind-blowing, surreal experience. Best birthday treat ever.
I wish that were me.

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