Today, we visit a really tiny island: Cabilao. Cabilao is located at the west side of Bohol (Visayas, Philippines). 3.500 Inhabitants live there in 5 villages. The entire Island measures about 7,5 km2. And a beautiful reef surrounds it: A paradise for our tiniest creatures, a marvel in the ocean.
The entire island is a nature reserve and around the Island, there are two fish protection areas. Diving is most beautiful at north side. But there are other nice places, too.
A special show at the house reef
Let’s dive “Cambaquiz”! Located just in front of the Cabilao Beach Club, “Cambaquiz” is a split dive spot. Depending on the current you can dive one or the other. “Cambaquiz 1” is in the south of the corner, “Cambaquiz 2” in the north. There we go now.
Of course, in Cabilao you have mounted the macro gear. So it’s not a surprise that the first creature we saw was a turtle. But no worries, the small creatures are waiting. The first dive was an easy dive but nevertheless we saw a lot: porcelain crab, a tiny juvenile scorpion fish, shrimps, blennies, spider crabs and much more. It was such a nice dive, that we decided to attach a night dive at the same spot.
We were diving only for a few minutes, when we spotted a pygmy squid. We stayed, observed and took a few pics. All of a sudden it started to move in zigzag. When it came to a rest again on a piece of wood we saw the reason: the pygmy squid catch a tiny shrimp. Now it’s eating it unhurriedly, regardless the audience around. This was a great show in Cabilao!
Cabilao is worth to stay a bit longer or combine the trip with other destinations around in the Visayas. The best you can do is flying with Singapore Airlines, my favorite airline regarding comfort, connections and fares, to Singapore and then directly to Cebu avoiding the hassle of Manilas airport. From Cebu, your trip takes you with the speed ferry to Tagbilaran. There you take the bus to Sandingan, where a little boat awaits you for the last part right to Cabilao.
The diving compensates for long travel. For example at “Lighthouse”, which is a spacy slope with sandy bottom and sea grass. We met the devilfish, sea snakes, catfishes, harlequin and mantis shrimps and the blue starfish with the little blue slug on the lower side. The place is also inhabited by many different nudibranches. “Lighthouse” is widely seen as one of the best dive places around the Philippines.
Diving more places
Cabilaos pristine reef are profiting from two marine protected areas around the Island and the only traditional fishing by the inhabitants. A little bit south of “Lighthouse” is the “Gorgonia Wall”. The gorgonias are beautiful and home of the pygmy seahorses Hippocampus denise and the yellow bargibanti. Leaf fishes, Orang Utan Crabs and egg cowries made the dive a fantastic experience.
Sandingan Island is the place where the bus threw us out to take the boat to Cabilao. It’s also a great dive place and sometimes the dive boats go there, too. At Sandingan we find the red bargibanti pygmy seahorse, spider crabs, porcelain crabs, alot of nudibranches and beautiful corals.
Though the currents are changing quite frequently, Cabilao is quite easy to dive. You always find a spot around the Island with convenient conditions.
Cabilao: A quiet place to relax and dive
Cabilao is a quiet island. There’s no disco, no shopping mall. It’s best for recreation and diving. The live is simple here. People live from agriculture and traditional fishing. The resort of choice here is Pura Vida Cabilao, formerly known as Cabilao Beach Club where I stayed. And I can only recommend it. Since 2012 there are new very comfortable and very nice rooms available. Power is supplied 24h despite the Island still got no power during the night. Suzette and Uwe Steinle are leading the resort and dive base in a professional and super friendly manner. They make the paradise even better!
“Pangangan Wall” is located a few minutes northeast from Cabilao and absolutely worth a dive. Despite looking a bit empty (fishwise) one can find a lot of small creatures. One of the cutest is the pegasus seamoth: It’s really a funny fish running over the sandy bottom like a flying moth.
Back to the Resort we make a final dive at “Cambaquiz 1”, the other part of the house reef. Till 10m (33ft) depth the bottom is sandy with sea grass, then coral formations starts to occur. It’s the home of many nudibranch including head shield slugs and ornate ghost pipefishes. Porcelain crabs live in the anemones together with shrimps, small cuttlefishes swim around. Cabilao is really a paradise for macro fans and photographers!
WORDS and PICTURES By Henry Jager