Located just off the southern tip of the Cebu province is the Sumilon Island Marine Sanctuary, the first marine sanctuary to be established in the Philippines. It is nearest to Dumaguete City lying 12 kilometers to its northeast. It is no wonder why Silliman University, the city’s world class university, has taken on the initiative many years ago to turn the island into a marine reserve to be able to preserve and protect the beautiful natural habitat of some hundreds of marine species. After all Sumilon Island is bounded by 50 hectares of fringing coral reef.
Sumilon Dive Sites
The water surrounding Sumilon Island is characteristically blue and crystal clear, providing a stunning visibility of all its underwater inhabitants.
Exquisite coral gardens and drop offs, an abundant flora and fauna makes for an interesting and very gratifying dive. In Sumilon you can find manta rays and sting rays, barracudas, sea turtles and snakes and whale sharks. Hammerhead sharks are also occasional visitors.
The slope can go down up to 35 meters in depth. Hard corals are luxuriant in the sanctuary. There are also some interesting caverns to explore. Currents are generally moderate however on full moons and new moons, there may also be strong underwater currents. So a good and successful dive is still also dependent on the weather conditions.
The Sumilon Marine Reserve has been declared a no fishing zone since 1974 when it was taken into preservation by Silliman University. For ten years, biologists studied the island and successfully banned fishermen but in April of 1984, the reserve was entered by force and all fish resources went almost into total depletion.
Illegal methods of fishing were implemented and the entire zone became over fished. The corals were also destroyed. Many thought the situation was irreversible.
Sumilon Island Today
Today the island independently protects its treasures, after learning great lessons on the danger and long term effects of dynamite fishing and other illegal means of fishing. They can seriously do damage to the fishes natural habitat, resulting in a shortage of fish and seafood catch which is the island’s main source of living.
Sumilon Island has now fully recovered from the disaster and has successfully regenerated and rebuilt its marine flora and fauna. Because of its white sand beaches and crystal clear waters, it is also fast becoming a tourist hotspot. Many divers consider Sumilon Sanctuary as one of the best in the Visayas and in the whole country.