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Misamis Occidental Aquamarine Park-July 3, 2010

I got the idea for this Lakwatsa quite by chance. I was randomly browsing some Filipino travel blogs when I came across a brief entry from “I am a Traveler” during the morning of July 1st before leaving for work. What caught my eye, was the very nature of Dolphin Island. “Swimming with dolphins!” is what came to mind. Ok, I think I found my Lakwatsa for this particular weekend. Later in the day, I contacted Patrick Mineses and invited him to accompany me on another Lakwatsa adventure. By the evening, I had booked our tickets to Ozamis City online at Cebu Pacific (at this late juncture, PAL’s rates were 3x the rate of Cebu Pacific).

To get to the Misamis Occidental Aquamarine Park, one needs to fly from Manila to Ozamis City (around 1 hour and 10 min). Then proceed north to the Municipality of Sinacaban.


View Ozamis City in a larger map

Cebu Pacific only flies once a day to and from Ozamis City only once a day. Given that, we had to stay overnight in Ozamis, with us flying back to Manila early the next day.

  

We arrived at Ozamis City by 7am. We then proceeded to negotiate for transportation to MOAP (Misamis Oriental Aquamarine Park). My research told me everyone knew what MOAP was and where it was. The tricycle driver we talked to accepted to bring us to MOAP.

Contrary to what I had early read on other travel blogs, MOAP was a mere 30 minute ride by tricycle from the Ozamis Airport. We then boarded our two-seater tryc and we were off!

The tricycle ride itself was quite fascinating. Lush greeneries everywhere.

We even encountered early morning cyclists…

Before we knew it, we were there.

We got off at the front entrance. We paid our tricycle driver and asked him to come back for us at around 3pm. We then proceeded inside the park. We had to pay a staggering P10 per person entrance.

We went in and took a look around. It was an interesting place that a number of fish pens with Tilapia, Prawns, Catfish, etc.

We then proceeded to reception where they explained we had two choices. Go for a package tour or go ala cart. After thinking about it, we decided to go ala cart instead and pick and choose our activities. This also gave us the option not to be confined by the set meal. We then proceeded to the dock through a very very very long bridge (apparently, this place was very heavy on these bridges and elevated platforms).

Hmm… odd term…

we continued on till we reached the end…

It was still around 7:45am when the staff came over. They were also bringing loads of supplies for Dolphin Island. We then paid the first set of fees. P250/pax is the entrance fee for Dolphin Island and the roundtrip fare to and from the island.

We were off. We were on the first boat for the day which left at 8:00am. What was a little bothersome was that it was very cloudy. Barely and patches of blue in the sky. Luckily for us, it would dissipate through the morning. In fact it was a very nice day. Not at all hot.

As we approached dolphin island, I realized what was meant by it being “man-made.” Technically half-true. The structures on the island are protruding for a shallow land mass… pretty much like a sand bar submerged during low tide…

Here is what I mean. ( I took this photo from the air on the way back to Manila). You can see the structures near the leftmost section of the land mass. This made it great for shallow swimming around the area.

Getting off the boat, the first thing you would notice is a huge square holding area. But as you walk up to the railing you are greeted by a fantastic sight…

Dolphins!

The pen was home to 5 dolphins. According to their caretaker Dario and our guide Dennis, these dolphins were brought here either sick or accidentally caught by fishermen.

Unlike the dolphins you might see in a place like Subic’s Ocean Adventure, these dolphins are “wild.” Meaning they have not been trained. So they don’t exactly come up to man and interact.

For the next 10 min, I was just there watching these magnificent animals just swim around.

They swam around. Some jumped (I could never capture that).

Amongst the 5, I noticed that two dolphins were always together, not sure if it was a mother-child relationship or mates. But they seemed inseparable.

My favorite was the lone male. He was the biggest of the 5 dolphins and we were told was the most used to humans. And as I discovered later on was the most “malabing.”

Enough pictures… here is a video…

 

Rescued dolphins at Dolphin Island

 

Swimming with the Dolphins

Super excited… we quickly dressed up, put on our mask and snorkel (the available fins were broken, but we didn’t need them anyway) and we dove right in. Dennis had a bag of fish along with. While the dolphins are “wild” they will approach you if you had fish to feed them with.

Here I am having the thrill of a lifetime feeding the dolphins.

I eventually took of my vest so could move more freely with the dolphins.

Ozamis20100703 098

Here is one guy up close as I was feeding him…

Coming closer…

He sees I have a fish…

Opens his mouth and gently takes the fish from my hand…

After a little more than an hour swimming with the dolphins, the ferry arrived with a boat load of tourists (lucky we were there before the rest of the weekend crowd arrived. As learned later from the staff, during weekends a lot of people go to MOAP and Dolphin Island. They usually arrive between 9am and noon time. And we did see them arrive through the morning.

Our guide Dennis brought us out to open see for some more fish feeding.

We swam out and saw dozens of giant clams… probably a meter long each.  Hmm, I wonder if it is true that if you accidentally step into one of these they will close in tightly around your ankle.

After a while, Dennis led us back into another pen where we would meet up with another cute creature!

After the adventure with the turtle we decided it was time to get out of the water. Whew! What a morning!!!

Lunch

It was time for lunch. The island had a restaurant with ample seating. We opted simply for two items appropriate for the venue

Fried Prawns

Crabs. Yum! I don’t remember how it was cooked, but all I know is that it was cooked with a delicious coconut milk sauce.

After lunch, we leisurely lounged around for a couple of hours until we decided to take the ferry back to MOAP

Farewell Dolphin Island… It was fantastic!

As we were exiting the park with some time to spare, we pursued something interesting…

There was an interesting looking bamboo bridge.

At the end of the bridge…

more elevated platforms amidst a mangrove forrest

It’s a zoo!

It’s a fascinating collection of birds, snakes, monkey’s, and misc, animals. It isn’t a particularly large zoo but it was very nicely designed and built.

At 2:30pm our tricycle pickup came back and we headed off to Ozamis City to for the night.

It was a great day! Great adventure! Great Lakwatsa! The whole affair, airfare aside, was pretty low cost and affordable. The entire stay in the park, entrance, food, admission, ferry, activities… cost around P1000/person for everything.

If you are ever open to a non-common adventure, with the fantastic experience of swimming with dolphins. This is an option you should consider.

 

Update / Commentary

I got a few comments from some folks and fellow Travel Bloggers who don’t like the idea of MOAP. These are those that believe that such a place is either morally wrong or inhumane to the dolphins. I’ve gotten some nasty comments as well for my even visiting MOAP let alone writing about it in such a positive manner. They say that people who patronize these kind of places are misinformed. While I could write about what I think about all this sanctimonious crap, but I won’t. Let’s just say that people should be entitled to their own opinions and be given due respect to their beliefs.

If you feel such a place is against some natural order of things, then by all means, don’t go. Don’t promote it. Don’t talk about it. And certainly there are places that are outright inhumane to animals. But in my humble opinion… this is not one of them. I believe that these places are far better maintained than a zoo… and it gives people an opportunity to experience nature in a very unique way.  In the end, you should also respect those who don’t see this as a crime against nature. Let people make up their own mind. Do not impose your beliefs on others.

This is still a place I would personally promote and recommend to families.