SINACABAN, Misamis Occidental - The province is perhaps one of the very few places in the Philippines where one can swim with and feed the dolphins up close. The Misamis Occidental Aquamarine Park (MOAP) and the Dolphin Island are the main reasons why we visited the province.
We took a bus from Ozamiz City to reach the town of Sinacaban where the park is located. After the 15 minute bus ride, we alighted at the park's access road along the national highway. About five minutes walk from the highway, we reached the main entrance of MOAP.
The park is owned by the provincial government of Misamis Occidental and features fish hatcheries and a mangrove forest. There is a minimal entrance fee of Php10.00 per person. We really felt safe inside the park as members of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) are assigned to maintain peace and order in the area.
|boat dock: jump-off point to Dolphin Island|
The park is also a resort that offers accommodation to visitors. From the park's fish hatcheries, we walked through the concrete walkway, passing by MOAP's guest rooms, and leading to the MOAP Ocean Grill Restaurant. Further is the boat dock that serves as the jump-off point to the Dolphin Island. Luckily, we arrived early enough to catch the first trip (8:30AM) going to Dolphin Island. Joining us on the boat were the staff of Dolphin Island.
|Dolphin Island: a man-made structure serving as rehabilitation center for injured dolphins|
Entrance fee to Dolphin Island is P300.00 per person which already includes round-trip boat transfers. The boat requires a minimum of 10 passengers before it can leave for the island. Groups of less than 10 persons will have to wait for other guests until the minimum of 10 passengers is completed. Alternatively, a small group has an option to "buy-out" the vacant seats at P40.00 per vacant seat. In our case (Ram & Ed), we paid P300.00 each for the entrance fee and an additional P320.00 (P40.00 x 8 vacant seats). Total = P920.00.
Dolphin Island isn't really an island but a man-made structure sitting on a submerged sandbar. At the center is the dolphin pen that serves as a rehabilitation facility for injured dolphins. Around the pen are walkways connecting the different facilities of Dolphin Island.
After a 15-minute boat ride, we finally reached the Dolphin Island. Being the first batch of visitors, we opted to start the day by feeding and swimming with the dolphins inside the pen. For another fee of P300.00 per person, you get a lifejacket, snorkel, a kilo of fish (feed) and 20 minutes to swim and play with the dolphins. We highly recommend that you get Kuya Dario as a guide. He is the main man who takes care of and train the dolphins. He does his job with passion and will give you all the trivia and tricks when interacting with the dolphins. He will also serve as your photographer (don't forget to bring your underwater camera).
There were three dolphins inside the during the time of our visit. They were very well trained that they would avoid biting your hand while being fed. They wouldn't snatch the fish off your hand if you clench on the fish. As they swim around and away from you, they will also maneuver to avoid hitting you with their flippers or tail.
|start of the snorkeling area|
After the dolphin interaction, Kuya Dario led us to the snorkeling area. We consider this as our best snorkeling experience so far. Fishes here feed right from your hand. There were about three to four groupers (lapu-lapu/pugapo) swimming under us and following us wherever we swim. Kuya Dario also showed us live giant clams (taklobo). We were also able to watch clownfishes residing inside the tentacles of sea anemones.
We had so much fun that morning that we did not notice that it was already close to lunchtime when we finished snorkeling. We are very thankful to Kuya Dario for being the best guide and for "towing" us around. If we will have another chance to visit the province, we will definitely include MOAP in our itinerary.
|How to get there:|
from Dipolog City
At the Dipolog City Bus Terminal, take the Rural Bus bound for Ozamiz, Pagadian or Cagayan de Oro. Tell the conductor to drop you off at the Aquamarine Park in Sinacaban. Total travel time is 6.5 hours, fare is Php230.00 (air-conditioned bus). From the national highway (Ozamiz-Oroquieta Road), walk towards the Misamis Occidental Aquamarine Park (~100 meters). First trip leaves Dipolog at 1:00am and last trip is at 5:00pm
from Ozamiz City
At the Ozamiz City Bus Terminal, take the Rural Bus bound for Dipolog or Oroquieta. Tell the driver to drop you off at the Aquamarine Park in Sinacaban. Travel time is less than 30 minutes, fare is Php15.00 (air-conditioned bus). From the national highway (Ozamiz-Oroquieta Road), walk towards the Misamis Occidental Aquamarine Park (~100 meters).
|How to get back: |
to Ozamiz City
At the national highway, take the Ozamiz, Pagadian or Cagayan de Oro bound buses and get off at the Ozamiz City Bus Terminal (fare is Php15.00, travel time is ~30 minutes). Take the tricycles stationed at the terminal to take you to your destination in Ozamiz City. Fare is Php10.00 per person (or Php50.00 special rate, if you don't want to wait for other passengers)
to Dipolog City
We recommend that you proceed to Ozamiz City Bus Terminal (see above) as most Dipolog-bound buses that pass in front of the park are already full. At the Ozamiz City Bus Terminal, take a Dipolog-bound bus, just ask the terminal crew where the queue/line for Dipolog is (there is a separate queue for air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned buses. Air-conditioned buses usually come from Pagadian, Zamboanga City or Cagayan de Oro, and would only drop-off or pick-up passengers at Ozamiz City, so be prepared to wrestle your way into the bus. Air-conditioned buses bound for Dipolog leave every hour. There are non air-conditioned buses that begin their trip from Ozamiz City and they depart from the terminal every 30 minutes (usually only half full). Travel time to Dipolog is 7hours, fare is P230.00 (air-conditioned bus).