Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) – Effect on Southern Leyte

As most of the world knows, Super Typhoon Haiyan (Philippine name Yolanda) was one of the most violent storms ever to make landfall. On Friday, 8th November 2013 it brought death and devastation to parts of the central Philippines, most notably Tacloban City on the north-east coast of the island of Leyte. The death toll will never be known with certainty, but several thousands of people tragically lost their lives in the storm and tens of thousands of others lost their homes and possessions. Debate will rage as to whether more should have been done to get people to safety. Certainly both the path and the severity of the storm were very accurately predicted several days in advance of its arrival, and hopefully lessons will be learnt for the future.

Although the impact of the storm in the worst affected areas was truly horrific, and the legacy of that will remain for perhaps years to come, the size of the area badly affected was relatively small. Here, at the southernmost tip of the island of Leyte, we are about 120 km south of Tacloban City and there was no noteworthy damage to life or property. Very strong winds raged for about 4 hours, and many trees were brought down, but the wind was not strong enough to damage even the most basic of buildings. By early afternoon that day, the sun was out, there was only a stiff breeze and it was a pleasant day, with only the sea still churning fiercely as a reminder of the morning’s storm.

There is a very large geothermal electricity generation plant near Ormoc City in northern Leyte, which serves not only the island of Leyte but many other parts of the Visayas. The transmission lines were badly damaged in the storm and electricity was not restored in Padre Burgos until 25th November, some 2 1/2 weeks after the storm. As power outages are quite common many businesses and private residences have generators. There was a huge increase in the demand for fuel to service these generators, but the fuel distributors quickly got organised to send fuel tankers by ship from Cebu, and generators and public transport were able to operate without interruption.

Here in the province of Southern Leyte there were some knock-on effects from the lack of electricity and the damage to communication lines, with banks and ATM’s being unable to operate for a few days and small businesses, which need electricity but could not afford to run generator, (such as small bakeries) having to close. But food, water and, after just a few days, fuel were always in plentiful supply, public transport was fully operational and life in Southern Leyte was almost completely normal even before the electricity was restored on 25th November.

Communications from our guests and posts on various on-line travel fora indicate that many people are still concerned about conditions in large areas of the Philippines from Luzon to Mindanao. We cannot answer for other areas, but the only issue now facing visitors to Southern Leyte is that there are still only a reduced number of commercial flights operating in and out of Tacloban airport. Certainly Padre Burgos Castle Resort, and other resorts and hotels in Southern Leyte, are fully operational and all tourist activities and facilities are available. Most notably, the magnificent coral reefs in Sogod Bay were not damaged by the storm.

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Scuba Diving in Padre Burgos, Leyte, Philippines

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Padre Burgos Castle Resort is the resort of choice for discerning divers with luxurious accommodation, superb food and top-class service for divers and non-divers alike. You can experience amazing scuba diving and many other wonderful activities in a beautiful, peaceful and uncrowded tropical setting and truly relax and enjoy your holiday.

Padre Burgos  is a year round diving destination justifiably rated by many as the best in the Philippines, with marine life of all shapes, sizes and colours ranging from pygmy seahorses through to magnificent, but harmless, whale sharks and an incredible variety of extremely healthy and undamaged hard and soft coral.

There are over 25 dive sites in the area, each offer something quite different. At Lungsodaan are Max’s Climax, Voltaire’s Rock and Bulawarte with dives ranging from 15 up to 40 metres having pygmy seahorses, frogfish and hawksbill turtles. Big fish are also common with black and white snapper, harlequin sweetlips, trevallies, steephead parrotfish and various unicornfish.

Closer to Padre Burgos Castle, lie Santa Sofia and Tangkaan marine sanctuaries. Santa Sofia has fantastic soft corals and shrimpfish, pipefish, frogfish, batfish, turtles, lionfish and signal gobies. At Tangkaan the sandy seabed drops steeply away from 6 metres to around 30 metres and this amazing wall dive provides a huge variety of fish species with large schools of fusilier and snapper, the occasional dogtooth tuna and great barracuda, frogfish, scorpionfish and blue-spotted ribbontail rays. There are large barrel sponges and a good mix of soft and hard corals, including fans of Tubastrea micrantha.

Around the point from Padre Burgos Castle is Ampo reef which is recovering from an infestation of crown of thorns starfish and has well over 80% hard coral cover with amazing colours and textures. There are colourful tiny animals such as rubble dwarf gobies, mandarinfish, numerous nudibranchs and anemonefish. Angelfish are common, with regal, emperor and six-bar angels and Napoleon wrasse are regular visitors, and even cobias have been seen.

IMG_4616Limasawa Island is host to half a dozen dive sites including Adrian’s Cove and Zack’s Cove which are 20 to 50 metres deep with steep dark walls, gorgonian fans and massive table corals.

On the far (eastern) side of the bay lie Sunnok point, habitual home to whale sharks from November through May, and perhaps the jewel in Sogod Bay’s crown, Napantao, which is surely the finest wall dive in the Philippines. Two sheer walls covered in soft and hard corals drop to nearly 50 metres, and teem with tens of thousands of anthias, damselfish and wrasse. Turtles are common as well as lionfish, large angelfish and grouper, and large pelagics such as tuna, jack and barracuda are to be seen when the current is strong.

Another ‘must do’ dive is the night dive at Padre Burgos town pier, with fantastic opportunities to see and photograph something unusual – seahorses, dwarf lionfish, nudibranches, frogfish, razor fish, slipper crabs, basketstars, waspfish, and much more.

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Swimming With Dolphins

Whale Shark Tour View

Lunch with a View – Looking to Limasawa Island from near Sunok

We are now offering guests the opportunity to swim with the dolphins as well as watch them from the boat. Yesterday’s inaugural tour was a huge success, swimming with a small pod of about 30 pan-tropical spotted dolphins. Unfortunately my underwater camera packed up so I don’t have any photos to post.

The most common dolphins in Sogod Bay are pan-tropical spotted dolphins, and we regularly also see spinner dolphins, melon-headed whales and short-finned pilot whales which can grow up to about 6 metres in length. There are also occasional sightings of Fraser’s dolphins and pygmy killer whales.

We will be using a different venue for the bbq lunches on our whale shark tours this season. It has a very nice, large and comfortable cottage and affords stunning views of Limasawa Island and across the Bohol Sea to Camiguin and northern Mindanao.

For more information on dolphin watching and whale shark tours, check our website http://www.padreburgoscastle.com.

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Ready For The New Season

Our superb new motor banca, ready to take you to snorkel with whale sharks.

Our superb new motor banca, ready to take you to snorkel with whale sharks.

Thankfully Southern Leyte was not directly affected by Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) and we are all set for the forthcoming whale shark season.

Our superb new motor banca, Monarch of the Bay, is ready to take groups of 2 to 6 people on superb full day tours to snorkel with whale sharks, watch and maybe swim with dolphins, visit the birthplace of Christianity in the Philippines, and enjoy a delicious barbecue lunch at the beach.

The start of the season is a little later this year, but there have been a number of reports of whale shark sightings from local fisherman. It appears that they have not yet established a regular pattern, as is usual at the start of the season as the plankton is not yet as dense in the whale shark sanctuary and the whale sharks are dispersed over a larger area searching for food. Of course, tourist numbers are very low at the moment and early season tours are a great time to enjoy whale shark watching with no other snorkelers around. 

The snorkeling, diving, dolphin watching, sailing, kayaking, caving, etc. are all superb and when all that gets too much there are idyllic and peaceful beaches for rest and relaxation.

Stay tuned for news of our first whale shark tour.

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Still Seeing Whale Sharks!

The season just goes on and on!

After 3 months of almost continuous sunshine and bone dry conditions, Padre Burgos is now benefiting from some regular overnight and early morning showers. But the winds remain either very light or flat calm, which makes for ideal conditions for just about everything apart from sailing. Certainly the whale sharks seem to be enjoying it, and Padre Burgos Castle Resort set a new record for the latest successful whale shark tour in Southern Leyte, seeing 3 whale sharks on 11 June, 2013. Hopefully this record will be broken soon, with more whale shark tours to come before the end of this wonderful season.

The total number of different whale sharks scientifically identified in Southern Leyte since early February, 2013 now stands at 89. This has really amazed everybody involved in the whale shark watching operations here. Although more whale sharks have been observed at both Donsol and Oslob, the recordings have spanned a considerably longer time – over 400 different whale sharks at Donsol over 6 years and about 120 at Oslob over 1.5 years. With 89 different whale sharks observed here in just 4 months, Sogod Bay really is the whale shark capital of the Philippines – and with a completely natural environment and excellent water visibility for a fabulous whale shark watching experience.

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The Vagaries Of Nature

We continue to see a lot of whale sharks, and the total of different whale sharks seen in Southern Leyte since the beginning of February now stands at 60.

Padre Burgos Castle Resort tour yesterday with just 2 guests saw an estimated 6 whale sharks. We were swimming only twice – the first time for about 20 minutes in perfectly clear water with a single whale shark, and the 2nd time seeing several whale sharks in a small area and also pairs of whale sharks slowly circling each other. This latter behaviour has been observed a few times recently, and was thought to be a male/female ritual but has also been witnessed with 2 males participating. With so many whale sharks in unusually, but spectacularly, close proximity it was difficult to keep track of how many we saw. There was also another group of snorkelers watching at least one other whale shark for the full duration of our 30 minute interaction.

Even when there are as many whale sharks around as at present, nothing is ever guaranteed and we have failed to find any whale sharks at all on 2 of our tours since the middle of February. However, something special usually turns up and the other day when I jumped from the boat to swim to a moving shadow spotted by our local guide, I was surprised to find not a whale shark but to see a stunning manta ray.

The dolphin watching has also been spectacular with about 300  dolphins being seen on our last 2 tours, together with sea turtles, morays, squid, sea snakes and a countless variety of corals and smaller fish at the snorkeling sites which we visit on the full day whale shark watching tours.

So things continue to look good for another month or so of superb whale shark watching, but remember you can never be sure what mother nature will throw up so make the most of everything she does.

 

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Turning Out To Be A Great Season

On 5th February we reported having seen 24 whale sharks on 13 tours, while the count for the season so far now stands at 93 whale sharks on 32 tours.

There are lots of whale sharks around at the moment, and things are looking good for excellent whale shark watching right through until early June. The main season for divers visiting Padre Burgos is now over (which is unfortunate as the diving is excellent all year around) so there are very few people watching the whale sharks. On our last 5 tours we have been the only boat at the whale shark sanctuary, seeing a total of 29 whale sharks.

The Physalus group have now identified about 50 different whale sharks since the beginning of February, and from my own observation there are different whale sharks arriving all the time and that total is likely to grow significantly before the end of season.

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