Exploring Basay’s coastline

 In Basay, Conservation, Exploration, Fieldwork

For those of you who are not familiar with Basay, it is the most western municipal of Negros Oriental facing the Sulu Sea, about a two hour drive from MCP. It is a gorgeous, little coastal town surrounded by rice, sugar cane and corn fields with spectacular forested mountains just behind. With a Marine Protected Area of 40 hectares fringing the coastline, we were about to find out what Basay had to offer.

MCP had an exciting opportunity to visit this stunning part of the country. The Fisherfolk President of Andulay/President of the Fisherfolk Association of Negros Oriental, had kindly invited us to assist Basay with photographing their local reef.. We were delighted to help the local barangays and community explore their “enchanted” coral reefs and coves to discover and photograph what wonders were found under the surface. We also wanted to help promote eco-friendly tourism.

At 5.30am three divemaster trainees, (Nina, Grace and Helene), and myself packed our gear and extra necessities that we would need for the trip. We drank enough coffee to last us the journey and we were on the road just in time for sunrise (something we are all way too lazy to get up to see usually haha). Driving South along the coastal road from MCP, on to Siaton and up around Bayawan, with possibly the greatest roadtrip chillout music, we arrived at 8.30am ready for a morning briefing (and more coffee). We were absolutely stunned by the community’s welcome and the beauty of the area. The local president of the Fisherfolk Association, Rico, briefed us about the MPA and what can be seen. After a boodle fight breakfast (a Filipino barehanded standing up help-yourself  buffet) we kitted up and jumped in along with divers from Siaton.

After we descended we were blown away by the mountainous reef landscape.  We were amazed by coral towers as tall and wide as two store houses, crevices, swim-throughs and dark overhangs throughout the whole dive. The latest MPA assessment by the DENR documented Bamboo sharks, which we were really hoping to see, but with limited exploration time unfortunately didn’t (Next time!). It is definitely the type of reef where you would expect to see these predators. We were most impressed by the hard and soft coral cover, huge table corals stretching out, and high numbers of fish and invertebrates. It’s hard to describe size of giant clams, but we saw GIANT giant clams tucked into the substrate, spiny lobsters hiding in the walls of the coral towers, and many different species of nudibranch, some of which I have never seen before. We even saw a huge triton alive! (super rare to see unfortunately). We had fusiliers circling around us, peacock groupers shying away from us, many different species of parrot fish, wrasses and snappers, all signifying a healthy reef. We all noted, and were pleasantly surprised, how little trash/fishing line, anchor damage we saw. Even though the visibility wasn’t as good as it could have been we were still pretty mesmerized. My favourite part of the dive was coming up to our safety stop, hovering over these stunning towers, with the light coming through, trying to peak down into the cracks to see what we can find. The crew, our surface support, free dived down to proudly point out corals and marine life making sure we saw it ALL before ascending.

We ended our day with a huge thank you from Rico, Neil and the community of Basay and drove back with the memory cards full  and the sun setting behind us.

Until next time Basay… 

Aoibheann Gillespie-Mules

Volunteer Coordinator/MSDT

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The opening talks at Asia Pacific Day for the Ocean