Thanks to Candy and Alex they never stopped enticing us to go on MOAP side trip post climb. The invitation never sank deep into my mind before since I was kind of press with time for this outdoor sortie. I woke up the next day however, too late for my last bus trip back home. Comparing a roadside sleep and an ocean adventure, the former looks atrocious. So me and my friends decided to “try out” MOAP. Mac is joking about swimming in with the dolphins, or kissing turtles. I don’t know what he meant by that but I just shrugged the idea.
Forty five minutes by bus from Oroquieta City, lay the sprawling Misamis Occidental Aquamarine Park (MOAP) boasting of mangrove forest, a mini zoo, hatchery and a splendid off shore dolphin attraction. There are restaurants, cottages and even dive shops on still structures blending with the mangrove forest. A shop on the edge of the forest tells you the history of this park and how it became to be a national reservation run by the local government. I’ve never seen any marine park run by any other government institution that is well maintained as this one. And they are pretty good at it. A president won’t go into this one park if it wasn’t that good, don’t you think?
It was just however, the tip of an iceberg. The main attraction lies a few kilometers offshore, in one sandbar ‘island” that is actually a reef. This offshore area is part of the aquamarine park and fishing is prohibited in this area. It can only be accessed by boat from the mainland passing through the gates of the aquamarine park. You need two hundred and fifty bucks to get into this offshore haven. That and this twenty something minutes of boat ride is definitely worth it.
The offshore station is almost akin to an off shore oil rig, only here, the posts holding the structures above are jutting out from a shallow coralline bed. Almost half the size of a football stadium, benches were provided for viewing dolphins swimming in the center “cage”. To the left is a restaurant, with their awesome sight and respectable menu of dishes. There are shallow areas for swimming, a medium deep area for snorkeling and still another area for diving deep into the undersea.. Of course you can swim with the dolphins or feed them, but you will need few more bucks and your extended feeding hand to do that. With snorkeling, be ready with your googles and fins (or you can rent there) and swim above 1-2 feet long groupers and school of fishes. I only saw a grouper this big in some tiled fish market! Boy, I would have hated myself for not giving in to Candy’s MOAP’s invitations.
So we all changed into swimming attires, grabbed snorkeling gears and explored all swimming areas possible. I shiver at the thought of having to swim near a dolphin. Their huge size and agility is something I’m not comfortable with. Back in college I had exposures to aquamarine activities, staying for weeks in a marine reserve studying soft corals for my undergraduate thesis. Yet, I’ve never grew accustomed to the deep crevices and recesses of the undersea. Some sea creatures, like the Moray eel or the coral snakes scares me to death. Thus, while I can pretty swim or dive in any strokes available, I still get the goosebumps underwater. That’s a fact.
But this sudden reunion with sea creatures somehow poked that part in me that once frolicked underwater. My buddies talked nothing but enjoyment of seeing so many sights underwater- giant clams, corals, huge fishes, school of feeding fingerlings, all in one location. That in itself, is quite astounding.
Had it not been for the boatman asking us to go back to the mainland, we would have stayed longer. But overnight stays are not allowed in the part and we don’t have provisions for that. We took more photos, grabbed our gears and hopped in the boat. Wait, I never saw a turtle in there!Did you?
Leaving the aquamarine area, we boarded a bus en route to Ozamis and take the last trip barge for Mukas at 9pm. Candy,Alex, Pau and Mac are to go back to Oroquieta City. We got in Ozamis City around 7pm and decided to kill time since then. That killing time cost us (Onin, Joan and me) the barge last trip to Mukas, and Candy’s group, the van back to Oroquieta City.
Marooned in the city, we concluded our side trip with a sumptuous dinner in one I don’t know where restaurant. Then we hunted for a place to stay for the night but landed on a makeshift cottage inside the PNP barracks. These peacemakers’ home actually offered the safest possible abode for us in Ozamis, so I salute these guys.
We all woke up early in the morning to catch the earliest bus home. It was Monday and these bum professionals are going to work by 8am. In the bus station, we all bade our goodbyes to our friends, our hosts and still, to new found friends. It was one awesome side trip and again, enjoyment is at its best because of the kind of people you are with. I’d never forget this place and the people.