I was on an epic motorbike trip around massive Leyte province in the southern Philippines. Along a peaceful, secluded coastline, far removed from the hustle and bustle of Tacloban City, lies Padre Burgos. Humble and unassuming...yet it beckons adventurous divers from around the world.
Words & Photos By Nathan Allen
1st Stop in Southern Leyte - Peter's Dive Resort
When Peter's Dive Resort sent me an invite to come and experience the region for myself, I jumped at the chance. Fascinating corals and thousands of colorful fish lied in wait just below the surface...and that was just the snorkeling...
On a beautiful day, our boat "set sail" out on the open sea. Next stop, Napantao Dive sanctuary on Panaon Island - just across Sogod Bay from Peter's Dive Resort.
Napantao Dive Sanctuary
We anchored the boat about 10 meters from a rugged, coconut tree lined beach. After the divemaster pointed me to the best corals, I put my life vest, mask and snorkel on and swam out.
Full disclosure: I joined a group of Peace Corps Volunteers who were all diving, but I just snorkeled on this trip.
Snorkeling over Surreal Coral Landscapes
Just off the beach where we docked, I found the coral garden above while snorkeling in about 2-3 meters of water. Pretty cool! They kind of remind me of flowers. I wonder if anybody knows the name of this type of corals? I have had no luck in my research so far...
I have snorkeled all over the Philippines, but I don't think I've ever seen this many fish. They were small, but neon blue...and shimmering beautifully in the sunlight above. I also took a photo of a unique brain coral tucked away in a coral "cubby hole". Never seen anything like it.
I also stumbled upon a massive group of Clownfish. Must have been 30 + in one location! I've seen a lot of clownfish in the Philippines, but never more than 3 or 4 in one place. I wonder if this was a breeding site, or what?
Feeling the after affects of my strenuous rifr around Leyte, after about 40 minutes in the water I was tired, cold, and hungry. Luckily, back on the beach, the team was preparing lunch with fresh caught fish grilling over a fire. The problem was that the wood was moist, and not so easy to burn.
Here's comes good ol' Filipino ingenuity to save the day....a dive instructor borrowed one of my fins to fan the flames!
There was much more to the meal than just fish...we had a full spread with rice, veggies, and even chicken, I think. We definitely didn't go hungry, I'll tell you that much. This was a pretty good intro to to snorkeling and diving in southern Leyte, but the next day I was super excited to join a boat trip to Limasawa island, to the south.
Limasawa Island Dive Site
The weather on the first day was a bit cloudy, which put a damper on my photography - both above and below the water. The Limasawa trip was much better, though. Beautiful, sunny day out on the water!
I noticed in southern Leyte the local fishermen wear conical hats, similar to the ones worn in Vietnam. I know they do a good job keeping the sun of your head, but I didn't see them worn anywhere else in the country, so it makes me wonder if there's a story behind them.
These fishermen were pretty curious about me taking pictures. At one point they started waiving their paddle in the air to get my attention for a shot! Haha.
Limasawa Island (which means "5 Wives" in Filipino) is supposedly the site of the very first Catholic mass in the Philippines, undertaken by father Pedro de Valderrama, sailing with the fleet of the explorer Ferdinand Magellan.
Anyhow, the island itself is just stunning. We weren't able to get off the boat and climb up to the marker cross on the hill (I read about it), but the turquoise sea and white sand beaches dotting the island were just beautiful.
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Coral Reef + Fish @ Limasawa Snorkeling Site
This was one of the more colorful and fascinating coral formations I came across. If you're wondering, I took all these photos with my underwater camera, the Olympus TG-5 (That link is for Lazada, Asia). The Amazon link is HERE
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I wish I knew more about the fish and coral species, so I could share the names with you. If you know, please leave a comment! I know I saw some nice table corals + other hard corals...as well as some beautiful soft corals, and even a Banded Sea Krait (snake)!
They are highly venomous, but also highly harmless...haha. They pretty much ignore you. If you were unlucky enough to step on one you could *possibly* get bit. Even then, apparently they don't always release their venom. Beautiful creatures, in any case.
These last 2 photos are my favorites from this snorkeling trip. Above is a male clownfish protecting his nest in a beautifully sunlit anemone.
Below...I have no idea what this leopard-patterned fish is called. I'm hoping somebody can tell me. It's the first one I've ever seen...so striking! I think it's some kind of a bottom feeder. * I just found out that this could be a Leopard Blenny...or some other type of blenny perhaps? I wonder if any of you have any ideas?
How To Get To Southern Leyte
You can take flights from Cebu or Manila to the smaller airports of Tacloban or Ormoc (that one's further away). If you're a bit flexible with schedule, you might find a great deal on a promo flight from Cebu Pacific Air. There are also fast ferries departing from Cebu (about a 3 hour trip) + a 45 minute bus transfer to the Resort.
If you're adventurous, you could rent a car or motorbike from Haven's transport in Tacloban and drive yourself!
Big thanks to Shelani and the Peter's Dive Resort team! As a lot of dive resorts tend to be, it's pretty simple...but a good value with top notch food & service. Plus, the snorkeling and diving was fantastic. Definitely recommended.
Be sure to check out my other Leyte posts, too...
- Nathan Allen
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