This year’s Dive7 Festival puts the spotlight on the underwater scene of Zamboanguita and Dauin
When we talk about the beauty of the Philippines, distinct tourist spots come to mind. There’s the picturesque Mayon Volcano, the old-world charm of Intramuros, and, of course, the crystal beaches of Boracay, Siargao, and Palawan. These sites have made their way to international travel lists, making the country a true paradise for any wanderer. But did you know that the Philippines is also a champion when it comes to being a diving destination?
Since 2019, the World Travel Awards has hailed the Philippines as the top spot for diving. A testament to this is the underwater scene of Central Visayas. To spotlight its submerged wonders, the Department of Tourism-Central Visayas (DOT7) held the second edition of the Dive7 Festival at the municipalities of Zamboanguita and Dauin in Negros Oriental from July 28 to 31.
For three days, participants of the festival joined in underwater and coastal clean-ups and mermaid swimming activities. The festival culminated with a photo competition where underwater lensmen of all nationalities capture the marine world of the municipalities.
During a trip to Negros Oriental, Manila Bulletin Lifestyle got to see the province’s underwater world beyond the images. And believe us when we tell you that it is a truly breathtaking sight that Filipinos and foreign guests shouldn’t miss seeing.
Silver Reef Dive Resorts at Maayongtubig in Dauin is where our journey to Negros Oriental’s underwater world started. At its core is eco-tourism with its rooms made of refurbished shipping containers, equipped with organic and eco-friendly amenities. The resort also offers free coral conservation education to its guests. With it being close to the beach, people can get an idyllic view of Apo Island, the shining jewel of the province’s diving scene, the place that we will be exploring soon.
Attending a briefing about scuba diving is a must for all novice divers. Leading ours is Glenn John Carballo, the president of Negros Oriental Dive Association. During the orientation, we were able to know the dos and don’ts while diving, how to manage body pressure, a rundown on the gears and equipment used for diving and how to use them, and the basic gestures for smooth and clear communication while underwater. Nerves aside, everything is pretty to learn.
Prior to going to the ocean, we must first apply what we discovered in a controlled environment. After donning our masks, regulator, air tank, and fins, we put our skills to the test by diving in at the resort’s 16 feet pool. It is filled with seawater so one can get real experience. Each participant is paired with a diving instructor, and as for this writer, I’m paired with Kuya Wingel, a local of Negros Oriental. He deserves this shout-out for being so patient. Make no mistake, it was daunting going down 16 feet with the ringing in your ear and only basic gestures to communicate. But in less than a minute, when you realized you’re already at the bottom, confidence will kick in and soon enough you’re swimming with such grace.
Off to Apo Island
Going from the resort to Apo Island takes about 40 minutes. While on the boat, you get to savor the beautiful horizon Negros Oriental has to offer. Right ahead is a majestic view of Apo Island with its lush greens and natural rock formations. Once we’re in the right spot for diving, we get a blurry glimpse of the submerged world.
After getting suited for action, anxiety kicked in again when we learn we have to jump from the boat to get to the water. With one hand on my regulator and the other on the buoyancy compensator, we took one step away from the boat, and immediately the clear sky became a sea of bubbles. Looking down, we got our first look at the corals. That dive was like our baptism and when we got up, we were no longer afraid and just excited to see more of what was beneath.
Apo Island is a true divers’ haven and is home to over 400 species of coral and 650 kinds of fish. The 72-hectare volcanic island is part of the Apo Island Protected Landscape and Seascape (AIPLS), which makes sure that it remains a sanctuary for local marine life. As you dive down, you get to see more of them, from the famous Blue Tang and Moorish Idol to the vibrant Parrot Fish and Blue Sea Star. Near the shore is where you can spot huge green sea turtles. While it’s truly tempting to go side by side with these creatures, we must respect them by not touching them and keeping our distance away from them so as not to disturb them in their natural habitat. Don’t worry, just being there and witnessing the gentle giants from afar is already a one-of-a-kind experience that will make anyone fall head over heels for Apo Island’s marine beauty.
Future of Dive7 Festival
Before the second Dive7 Festival ended its festivities, DOT7 announced that its third edition in Negros Oriental is set to take place from July 27 to 30, 2023.
“One of the strongest products of the Philippines, being an archipelagic nation, is really diving. We are also known to be at the center of the center of marine biodiversity in the world,” said Maria Rica C. Bueno, assistant secretary of tourism regulation, coordination, and resource generation. “The DOT will always be here in partnership with the respective local government units and our dive communities in pursuing this goal, especially at this point in time that our secretary is [putting] her thrust to strengthening the collaboration of the DOT with LGU and tourism province sector and stakeholders, in working hand in hand in promoting, developing tourism in our country. This is just the beginning.”
Dive7 Festival was made possible with the help of the Central Visayas local government units and the diving community, and DOT7’s partnership with Sliver Reef Dive Resorts and the Philippine Airlines, who are staunch supporters of enlivening tourism in the country after years of the pandemic.
To know more about it, visit Dive7’s official Facebook and Instagram pages.
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