Camiguin's Marvelous Underwater World
amiguin . . .an island-province on the northern coast of the Mindanao archipelago in the Philippines. It is the country’s second-smallest province, a veritable treasure trove of natural attractions, both on land and under the sea. Especially under the sea. Camiguin has volcanoes, waterfalls, natural springs and varied flora and fauna in the terrestrial environment.
And then, there are beautiful corals, sea turtles, a myriad of fishes, performing their wondrous routines in the pristine aquatic habitats. The shores and underwater bounties of Camiguin are multi-faceted, all marvellous, tantalizing and inviting. Diver’s paradise is what it is. It is also beachlover and snorkeler’s haven. Dive, paddle and swim in tranquil bliss and be embraced at once by the beauty of the marine environment made possible with the determined management and dedicated protection of the marine areas by the Province of Camiguin and partners like the Camiguin Coastal Resource Management Project of the New Zealand Aid Programme, municipal governments and communities. The 31 Marine Protected Areas distributed within Camiguin’s municipalities. Hosting banner species in each municipality, these MPAs are being rehabilitated and protected and are Camiguin one of the top diving destinations in the Philippines.
It matters not where you are in the province’s five municipalities –Mambajao, Mahinog Guinsiliban, Sagay or Catarman– each has a remarkable story to tell, and an even more fascinating underwater spectacle to show. Mambajao, the province’s capital, hosts seven marine sanctuaries and other notable dive spots. The White Island Marine Sanctuary, on the fringes of an offshore island, is located two kilometres off the coast of Agoho, to the west of Mambajao. The sanctuary, named after Camiguin’s popular sand bar which is shaped like the letter C or like the letter I, depending on the ocean tide or season. White Island is popular among swimmers, sunbathers and snorkelers.
The Baylao Marine Sanctuary hosts a steadily growing mass of branching corals where a wide variety of fish species congregate. The reef also offers underwater photographers the opportunity to hone their skills with marine life subjects excellent for macro-photography. At Kabiling Tupsan Marine Sanctuary, one beholds more steadily growing and well-protected corals, and breathing, living organisms of different species, shapes, sizes and colors. This shallow reef is one of the best live coral covers in the island. Mambajao also hosts the Magting Marine Sanctuary, offering an assortment of life forms and high fish density and diversity. Experienced and advanced level certified divers are sure to enjoy deep and drift dives at this MPA. And then, there are Old Volcano and Jicduf Reef, the crowning glories of Mambajao. Old Volcano is a series of pinnacles rising 80 feet from the ocean floor. It is a unique underwater formation of molten rocks through and around which anthias, clown fishes, damsels and other colourful fish glide. Jicduf is a shoal spanning about ten hectares. Its rich aquatic life lends itself very well to underwater photographers, advanced and novice divers.
On the east coast is the Municipality of Mahinog, where the lush, perpetually green forest island of Mantigue waits majestically for the wanderlust – welcoming, fascinating. The beach beckons, and so does the sea – particularly at the Magsaysay Island Mantigue Marine Sanctuary. Discover a bewildering world, skim the surface, or dive deep down with the marine sanctuary’s big-eye jacks and sea turtles.
Mahinog not only has Mantigue to be proud of – it also offers the wonderful sights at its Burias Shoal, San Roque, Benoni and Binaliwan Marine Sanctuaries. The gentle whale shark is known to, at times, pass along this area. In the southern municipalities of Guinsiliban and Sagay, well-protected marine sanctuaries offer more sights to gaze at and enjoy. Guinsiliban’s Cabuan Marine Sanctuary and South Poblacion Marine Sanctuary showcase more relaxing dives with their calm underwater currents. Carefully swim and be mesmerized by the graceful butterfly fishes, beautiful damsels and fairy basslets amidst a back-drop of lively coral reef communities. In Cantaan, the multitude of giant clams, signature species of the MPA, sit, testament to nature’s bounty and the Guinsilibanons’ love for their marine environment. Sagay, towards the west, has two of the four marine protected areas to be proud of– Alangilan and Balite. Like the people of Guinsiliban, Sagayanons take pride in the natural beauty of their marine sites. Snorkelers and divers are never less than awed by the beauty of Sagay’s underwater. Alangilan and Balite are home to colourful corals and bountiful fishes. If not diving, guests can interact and chat with the locals over drinks and “pulutan” of squid, Sagay’s most famous product.
In Catarman, the trip is about relishing the story of the volcanic holocaust of 1871 and witnessing the spectacular rhythms of the underwater world, in the Sunken Cemetery, Pasil Reef Marine Sanctuary, Catibac Marine Sanctuary, Lawigan Marine Sanctuary and Poblacion Marine Sanctuary. One will also be amazed with the underwater topography of Catarman’s best dive sites. Think underwater canyons, caves and crevices hosting the gentle and graceful sea turtle, schooling snappers, large wrasses and parrot fishes. In Camiguin you may, shoot a few photos, or a full-length video, bring the images, and the memories, home. And then you are coming back soon, because each visit is an experience all its own . . . in Camiguin’s well-preserved marine world.
Old Spanish documents indicate that the renowned explorers, Ferdinand Magellan and Miguel Lopez de Legaspi landed in Camiguin in 1565, respectively. The first Spanish settlements in what was later to be known as Guinsiliban as established in 1598. Guinsiliban comes from the old Kinamiguin word " Guinsilipan" which means to look out for pirates from a "Watch tower." An old Spanish watchtower where the Camiguinous kept watch for Moro pirates still stands in Guinsiliban.
The first major Spanish settlement established in 1679 was called Katagman of Katadman (known now as Catarman). This settlement grew and prospered to what is now Barangay Bonbon. On May 1,1871, Mt. Vulcan Daan erupted and destroyed the town. A portion of the town center is presently located. Today, all that remains of old Catarman are the ruins of the ancient Spanish church, a convent and a bell tower.
Sagay, located south of Catarman, was formally established as a town in 1848. The word Sagay is derived from the name of a poisonous fruit tree that grew in the area.
Mambajao became a town in 1855. The name was coined from the Visayan term " Mamahaw," meaning to usher breakfast and "bajao," which is leftover boiled rice. In the early 1900s, Mambajao prospered to become the busiest port in Northern Mindanao.
Mahinog was established as a Municipality in 1860. the name Mahinog comes from a Cebuano word meaning "to ripen" or to become ripe." Although Guinsiliban was the oldest settlement in the island, it was only in 1950 when it became a Municipality. Both Mahinog and Guinsiliban were formally governed by Sagay.
Places to See
As a natural paradise, the island is perhaps unmatched anywhere else in Southeast Asia. This exquisite island province of varied ecosystem stirs the imaginations and baffles the mind. Camiguin boasts kilometers on untouched coastlines with swaying coconut trees and is dotted with hot and cold springs. Fine beaches offer sun-filled days of relaxation and the clear blue water, enchanting marine life and coral reefs beckon diving enthusiasts from all over the world. Get entranced by the beauty of nature as you trek the heights of Camiguin volcanoes, discover and explore unknown trails and caves, delight in the spray of majestic waterfalls, or simply be taken in by the panorama of fields and seas.