Zamboanga Sibugay: Scuba Diving at Buluan Island

Buluan Island Marine Sanctuary
Buluan Island Marine Sanctuary is the second best-managed marine protected area in the country for 2013.

On the topside, the relatively new province of Zamboanga Sibugay may not immediately impress first-time visitors. At the main gateway of Ipil, there’s nothing much to see beyond the obelisk monument standing proud in the middle of the rotunda besides the intriguing Provincial Capitol which combines Moro and Subanon architecture, and also offers an incredible view of the coconut-carpeted countryside. Looking out onto Sibugay Bay, however, one can behold what could possibly place the province on the tourism map, especially among beach-lovers, snorkelers and scuba-divers.

Buluan Island
View of Buluan Island from Zamboanga Sibugay Provincial Capitol
Buluan Island
The pristine coralline sands of Buluan Island also make it an ideal destination for beach-lovers

Lying around three kilometers southwest of mainland Barangay Buluan is the namesake teardrop-shaped island that was awarded the the second best-managed marine protected area (MPA) in the country for 2013. Established ten years ago, the marine sanctuary of Buluan Island is the only place in the municipal waters where hard and soft corals are still intact and undamaged by dynamite fishing, commercial fishing boats, and massive siltation.

Split Divers Diveshop, the pioneering dive operator in Ipil, took me on a fun dive at the marine sanctuary rarely visited by scuba divers. While visibility can be challenging due to siltation of Sibugay Bay, the right conditions revealed the pristine colonies of branching hard coral, so dense that swimming over them was like flying over a forest! Schools of sky-blue fusilier darted across the coral gardens and giant clams, while clownfish peered from their anemone abodes. The highlight of our dive was coming across a large hawksbill turtle hiding between the coral. Besides sea turtles, lucky scuba divers have also bumped into whale sharks in the area, according to Chuckie Ledres of Split Divers.

Buluan Island Marine Sanctuary
A hawksbill turtle hides between the thick coral gardens of Buluan Island
Buluan Island Marine Sanctuary
An endangered giant clam (Tridacna squamosa)

After the dive, we enjoyed a lunch of pork barbecue with the rangers who protect the marine sanctuary from illegal fishermen and poachers. We had the entire island to ourselves. The northern corner of the island is swathed with white coralline sand, which makes it an ideal destination not only for bubble blowers but for beach lovers as well. As much of Western Mindanao remains untapped by mainstream tourism, the Buluan Island Marine Sanctuary may open doors to making the Zamboanga Peninsula a destination for scuba divers.

Buluan Island Marine Sanctuary
Schools of blue-and-yellow fusiliers add color to the silty waters of Sibugay Bay
Buluan Island
With Chuckie Ledres of Split Divers who pioneered recreational diving in the area

HOW TO GET THERE: Ipil is three to four hours away by bus or van from Guiwan Transport Terminal in Zamboanga City. Buluan Island is 20 minutes by bangka (outrigger canoe) from Brgy. Buluan, Ipil. 

For scuba diving trips around Zamboanga Sibugay, contact Chuckie Ledres of Split Divers Diveshop at +63 9162760255 or +63 9206031655. His small home-based dive operation offers great value diving packages. A scuba diving package of three fun dives at Buluan Island Marine Sanctuary costs only PHP 2,500 per person, inclusive of boat rental and lunch meal. Minimum of two persons, and maximum of four persons only.

Special thanks to MurangLipad.com – the one-stop portal where you can compare and book cheap flights via phone or free webcall!

4 comments

  1. chuck ledres says:

    Thank you very much Edgar Yap…

  2. chuck ledres says:

    Thank you very much Edgar Yap…Thumb Ups 🙂

  3. amazing photos po bos!!
    thank you!

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