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Scuba Diving

Diving Capandan and Uba Sanctuaries of Cortes, Surigao del Sur May 23, 2013

Diving Capandan and Uba Sanctuaries of Cortes, Surigao del Sur

GPS waypoint: Capandan Marine Sanctuary N9 17.960 E126 09.695 | Uba Marine Sanctuary N9 17.374 E126 11.817
Location: Brgy. Capandan, Municipality of Cortes, Province of Surigao del Sur

Lanuza Bay
Because of Cortes' stake with the health of Lanuza Bay (together with all the municipalities that make up Lanuza Bay's coastal perimeter), Cortes has an aggressive stance on marine conservation. It is the only municipality within Lanuza Bay with 8 marine sanctuaries. Furthermore, some of the sanctuaries like Uba Marine Sanctuary, is manned by volunteers (not paid workers). I was able to talk to one of them, an elder fisherman, who said he is duty-bound to protect the sea for the benefit of his grandchildren. His remark reminded me of a saying that we do not inherit this planet from our forefathers, but we loan it from our children's children.

map location Cortes, Surigao del Sur
Laswitan Laswitan | Bakwitan Cave Bakwitan Cave | Buybuyan Beach Buybuyan Beach | Capandan Sanctuary Capandan Sanctuary | Light House Light House | Marine Sanctuary Uba Marine Sanctuary guard house | Sihagan Beach Sihagan Beach | Campiri Rocks Campiri Rocks

Capandan
Again, my able guide to this activity was Marino Tabugon (BUFA chairman). We waited for the pumpboat with the Bantay Dagat crew (including dive master) and headed out to Capandan Marine Sanctuary. Capandan is the last barangay to the north of Cortes and about a 30-minute boat ride away (after that would be the municipality of Cantilan). Like Uba, Capandan has a conspicuous guard house for the Bantay Dagat crew, perched on top of the rocks, giving it a great vantage point to overlook the 42.54 hectare expanse of the sanctuary.

Dive Impressions
With the dive master, the two of us began our descent. From my lay point of view (I'm not a marine biologist), the coral system is stable and structurally intact. I didn't see too many fish though...but I was just in a small area within a 42 hectare expanse. Visibility was perhaps 10m with no current and we went down about 15m. I didn't see signs of bleaching. The highlight for me was seeing a spotted blue stingray and a green lobster with antenae a meter long - I could only see a head and the protruding antenae. The dive master said it was probably a 900-gram lobster. Honestly, I'd rather see that lobster in the reef than on my dinner plate.

Uba Marine Sanctuary
The Uba sanctuary was devastated by the recent typhoon, as evidenced by the rubble I saw. The mostly hard corals were spaced apart, becoming its own colony. There is a generous amount of sandy bottom. I saw some parrot fish but not the phelagic big types. There is a shallow sea grass portion that make it difficult to land a pumpboat during low tide. There are signs of recovery and hopefully, the coral reef rebounds back to its vibrant pre-typhoon state.

Ending Thoughts
I am so relieved to know that at least, the LGU is providing fee-based dive gears and tours within its 8 sanctuaries. For something like a marine sanctuary to be kept operational, it has to generate its own income. If it remains largely dependent on government budget, once that budget dries up, then the future of the sanctuary becomes bleak. A marine protected area has to be sustained long term for the benefits to ripple through. Of ALL the dive tours I've done, this LGU chargest the cheapest - P250/30 min dive with P30/person on a boat within Uba. That is like stumbling upon a P1000 bill lying on the ground! If you're a scuba diver and you're within the area, do give Cortes a dive. You'll enjoy yourself and leave change for a decent meal, and you'll also help support Cortes' conservation initiatives.

Many many thanks to Vincent Duenas, Marino Tabugon and the awesome dive and boat crew of Cortes!

--- TheLoneRider

ps - If you want me to objectively review a diving gear or cover a dive for your dive shop for this website (scuba gear, party boat dive, wreck dive, snorkeling, etc.), email me.

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To make scuba diving arrangements for any of the 8 marine sanctuaries, contact:

Vincent DuenasVincent Duenas
Local Government Unit Officer (LGU)
cell: 0907.444.6551
email divecortes@yahoo.com.ph

Capandan and Uba Marine Sanctuary Tips and FYI

  1. there is no bank. Bring cash.
  2. as of this writing, the only lodging in Cortes, Kamalig at P600/head. Contact the LGU for reservation
  3. For more questions, contact Vincent Duenas of the Cortes LGU: 0907.444.6551 or email divecortes@yahoo.com.ph

Capandan and Uba Marine Sanctuary Fees

  1. the sanctuary itself does not charge fees, but if you want to rent dive gear from the LGU, the rate is P250/person/30 minutes, max of 6 people
  2. boat ride fee is P30/person if within Uba Sanctuary, or P700/trip to Capandan
  3. P50 underwater camera fee

How to Get to the marine sanctuaries from Surigao City

  1. take a jeep or tricycle in Surigao City for the bus termial. The sign board should say "Terminal" or "Gaisano". 10 mins, P8
  2. Take a bus or van going to Tandag, but tell the conductor to drop you off Cortes junction
  3. at the highway junction, take a motorcycle (aka habal-habal) for Cortes LGU and meet with staff, 10 min, P20/pax

Cortes Travel Tips and FYI:

  1. bring lotsa cash. There is no bank here. Others had to go to the next big city (no joking matter) just to replenish on cash
  2. there is no internet here

How to Get to Cortes

  1. from Tandag - take any northbound bus or jeep heading to Surigao City and ask to be dropped off at Cortes, 1 hour. If you take a jeep that specifically says "Cortes", take it. It will take you all the way to Cortes proper and to some of its barangays (and not just at the junction). If you take a bus, ask to be dropped off at Cortes, 1 hour. Then take a habal-habal for Cortes proper, 15 mins, P20.
  2. from Surigao City - take any southbound bus for Tandag and ask to be dropped off at the Cortes junction, 4 hours. Then take a habal-habal for Cortes proper, 15 mins, P20.

Attractions in Cortes and nearby area

  • Lubcon Falls - from Tandag, take jeep for Cantillan or Cortes and ask the driver to drop you off at Lubcon Falls, P25, 30 mins, 15 kms
  • Laswitan - strong waves crashing against the rocks and spilling over to fill up a rock pool (while you're dipping in it)
  • Campiri Rocks - going over huge boulders, dipping in a rock pool, standing on a rock summit as waves hits and splash against it, and to cap all, you rest on the base of the light house perched on top of the rocks in full view of the magnificent Pacific Ocean
  • Bakwitan Cave - a refuge by the towns folk during the Japanese occupation and during the typhoon of 2004
  • Buybuyan Beach - small beach, almost like a personal beach, fine white sand (there are no commercial establishments on the beach...its undeveloped)
  • Sihagan Beach - fine white sand for long walks on a beach (there are no commercial establishments on the beach...its undeveloped)
  • Burgos Togonan Falls
  • Uba Marine Sanctuaries - scuba dive with gear from the LGU. At P250 per dive, you can't beat it!
  • Capandan Marine Sanctuaries - scuba dive with gear from the LGU. At P250 per dive, you can't beat it!
  • Balibadon Marine Sanctuary
  • Mabahin Marine Sanctuary
  • Tigao Marine Sanctuary
  • Poblacion Marine Sanctuary

Lodging in Cortes

  • Kamalig - this is the only lodging in Cortes, P600/head. Best to make arrangements with Cortes LGU before coming over

Cortes LGU

  • for more information on anything and everything about Cortes, you can get in touch with Vincent Duenas of the Cortes LGU: 0907.444.6551 or email divecortes@yahoo.com.ph

SUGGESTED ITINERARY
(along the Surigao coastline from Surigao City to Surigao del Sur)




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Reader Comments:

Raisa EspinasRaisa Espinas
(May 24, 2013) Where are you staying at now? Don't you get tired from all your activities? Kung ako yan, baka after the scuba, pagod na ako. ha-ha! You are one lucky guy. I want to travel alone din. Baguio siguro since I love that place and near lang.

May 23, 2013

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