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skin diving

Dudz, Luz, Ian and me at Masaplod Sur

Jul 17, 2010

In Search of Mr. Leatherback (turtle)

Location: Masaplod Sur Marine Reserve, Dauin, Negros Oriental

A Stuffed Leatherback
Masaplod Sur had always intrigued me since I chickened-out upon seeing Mr. Leatherback, my petname for this huge yet-to-be identified turtle, which my marine biologist friend Rene Abesamis said might be a rare leatherback. He explained that when a Leatherback sighting is made, it makes to it their marine bio journal - that's how rare it is.

On my later visit to the Silliman University Marine Laboratory (SUML), I chanced upon a huge taxidermied leatherback, whose size is comparable to the one I saw. It was caught by a fisherman here in Negros! Leatherbacks are indeed found in these waters! Also, the head and fin size ratio to its carapace size somehow matched my recollection - the head was bigger and the front fins were longer compared to the green turtle. This gave me a stronger argument that what I saw was a Leatherback. Additionally, I noticed that the Leatherback's Louie Vuitton-ish (according to Rene)carapace has ridges spanning its entire length. Ha! Now, I have a telltale feature to confirm a sighting. In General MacArthur's famous words, "I shall Masaplod Sur" became my personal battle cry.

Dauin Coastline

Aborted KooKoo's Nest Dive
My chance to visit Masaplod Sur happened by way of circumstance. My friends Ian, Luz and Dudz tagged me along to try-out KooKoo's Nest. We unknowingly boarded the expensive non-stop a/c bus to Bayawan where we paid the painful P90 fare (a jeep would have cost us....P25?). Then at the Antulang junction, the motorbike guys wanted P150/head one-way to KooKoo's Nest! That was the deal breaker. In the ensuing dead-air, I uttered, "How about Masaplod Sur instead?" We were on the way to Masaplod Sur after that.

Putting Up the Brave Front
This time, I was prepared to brave the menacing Titan Triggerfish, the barracudas and most of all, Mr. Leatherback himself. Bailing, or tucking my tail between my legs was not an option. I also psyched myself to face-up and dive deep into the sinister-looking drop-off....corals, then rubble, then a descent to the deeper coral region where it extends down until the corals blend seemlessly with the deep into a monochromatic hue.

Head on a Vise Grip
On the drop-off, I went for my first full-on plunge, diving deep and fast. It was met with a piercing pain in my head, my teeth, and my whole face. I was already in a lot of pain when I realized I couldn't equalize! I shot back up to the surface but the pain lingered. I tried doing a few more plunges hoping whatever caused it would correct itself, but the pain just got more noticeable. I was forced to stay on the surface. This is my first time to experience this. Maybe my sinuses were clogged? Perhaps I had a cold but was unaware? I don't really know.

Ho Hum
The rest of the dive was uneventful except for a few highlights - an aloof green turtle (somehow, this didn't really excite me anymore), and a huge Titan (bigger than the one that attacked me) that wasn't on a war path. Well, I also noticed that by hovering on the surface, doing very little movement, the bigger fishes came out of the corals feeling unthreatened. That's also a first for me. Usually, I'm too busy swimming underwater and scaring the fishes away!

Chilling Out
What followed after Masaplod Sur was equally exciting. The crew went back to Dumaguete to try Bossing's Tempura (they claim it's the best in Dumaguete). Later we went to Robinsons, then to Escaño for a lechon chicken dinner. We capped the night watching the movie Im Man, a biographical movie about Bruce Lee's Wing Chun teacher.

Cuernos de Negros Mountaineers
I would have gone home but I got a text from Jesah, the team winner in the recent Eco Adventure Race. They were hanging out at Sundown. Ian and Luz dropped me off there and I was drinking with her friends, the Cuernos de Negros Mountaineers. Not surprisingly, we have common friends in the climbing community. Yeah, these guys are cool!

--- TheLoneRider

Dauin Poblacion 1 Marine Sanctuary Links on

How to get there from Dumaguete:

  • take a tricycle and ask to be dropped-off the jeep terminal going to Dauin (the terminal is near Robinson's Place) - P8.
  • at the terminal, board the next jeep for Zamboanguita or Siaton or Dauin. Just tell the driver to drop you off at Dauin's Poblacion District 1 Marine Sanctuary. P15, 40 minutes.
  • upon disembarking at the highway (almost immediately after Dauin's Poblacion), walk towards the beach...5 mins.
  • pay P50 (snorkeling, all day) or P150/scuba dive to the caretaker and dive!
P7144825 P7144829 P7174851 P7174854
P7174855 P7174856 P7174860 P7174864
P7174870 P7174873 P7174874 P7174875
P7174883 P7174884 P7174891 P7174893
P7174904 P7174908 P7174911 P7174913
P7174919 P7184920 P7184922 P7184924

Reader Comments:

Michael McCleary
(Jul 20, 2010) That leatherback turtle is a great story in any historical/scientific book. Many interesting facts on Wikipedia about your new friend or friends since the one you saw could be a male looking for a mate or a female looking for a soft sand beach to lay her eggs. Either way a great story with possibly more to come. Hope to see this beautiful creature when I come to the Philippines in a couple of months. Best of luck turtle spotting and keep up the good work. P.S. The leatherback turtle is on the critically endangered species list.

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