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Pygmy seahorse Miniature syngnathids

Last few months we been Pygmy Lucky! We have start to see a lot of pygmy seahorses around Moalboal at Quo Vadis Dive Resort. So let’s take a closer look into the life of an pygmy seahorse.

Introduction

Pygmy seahorses are a group of seven species of miniature syngnathids (technical name for seahorses and pipefish)  They range in length from 1.4 – 2.7 cm between the tip of the tail to the end of the snout. So they are in the same size as your fingernail roughly, that is tiny!  

Distribution

They are found in the Coral Triangle region of southeast Asia but also all the way to southern parts of Japan and northern parts of Australia. The status of pygmy seahorses is classified as being ‘data deficient’ because very little is known about their habitat distribution and population trends.

Life cycle

The tiny size of the them makes it hard for them to live along. They attach to a host – gorgonian corals – and use this as a protection. They blend perfectly in by their colours which makes it very hard for predators to find them. Since they are very bad swimmers and can’t handle currents they use the fans as an anchor so they don’t get swept away.

Feeding

They don’t have a digestive system so they eat like all the time, non stop! The favorite food is tiny brine shrimps but other crustaceans are also on the menu. They are slow feeders though, in fact, most of their life is spent either resting or eating.

Photograph pygmy seahorses

If they are exposed for strong lights they can pass out and get swept away with the currents. Of course you don’t want this destiny to this tiny cuties. So make sure to turn off your strobes if you using any and use a focus torsh instead. 

By years of local experience Quo Vadis dive resort dive guides have learned to find out where some of the resident Pygmy Seahorse lives around here in moalboal. So if you are on the haunt for the Pygmy just let us know at Pernilla@quovadisresort.com Stay tuned up for part two “Five facts about Pygmy Seahorses.”

Photocredit to Chris, Pernilla Yannick & Sofie for letting us sharing this incredibly photos!

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Underwater Photography Tips for beginners

1. The first thing to get if you want to make beautiful underwater photographs is Good buoyancy. This you will gain by time underwater and by practicing your buoyancy skills. This is something all new divers should practice since it’s not only helping you to take good photos but also helps you to avoid hurt sensitive organism like corals. We offer the peak performance specialty here in Quo Vadis dive resort. MASTER your buoyancy before getting into the water with an camera. If you do, Lets Go!

2. Get close to the subject you want to take a photo of, remember water reduces color, contrast and sharpness. To get a good photo of a sea horse you need to stay still and get close, but not to close…

3. How would you feel if a big scary monster were following you with a giant camera and trying to get pictures? Not so good right? Underwater creatures should be relaxed when you snap a photo. Never chase or disturb the creature. If the marine creature tries to get away from you this is a clear sign, you are to close!

4.  For best composition – get your camera under the subject, shoot at an upwards angle, don’t center the subject, try to fill your frame with the subject. Never take the photo from above, this will not make the subject justice.

5. Dive with a private guide. Then you can spend as much time as you need taking photos on your favorite frogfish. Let your guide know what you find interesting and he will have more time on focusing on creatures that interest you.

6. Know your camera. Practice with your camera in the housing on land, then take it down in the water. This will help you to learn the settings and how to adjust the camera.

7. Know your settings. Set your camera to the highest resolution, and the lowest ISO. Use auto white-balance when using a flash/strobe, and custom white balance or underwater mode when not using a flash. Don’t use the digital zoom in the camera.

8. Do’t shoot photos with more than a meters distance. This is also called “shooting through too much water”

9. Read. There is plenty of information about your camera in the instruction manual and you can find a lot of good tips on YouTube and online.

10. Practice, practice and practice even more. It take a bit of time before you start to get satisfied. But the learning part is one of the most fun part as well. Enjoy it! You will see how your photos will improve over time. To compare a photo from the beginning to later on is always very satisfying.

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Dive the airplane in Moalboal

Some dive center call this dive site Airplane or Airport, we choose the name Umbrella for this particular dive site. If you take a look at the shore line before entering the water you might spot the reason behind the name of this dive site. It’s due to some very interesting rock formations which have a similar shape to that of an umbrella. 

The air plane wreck in all it's glory. Photo credit Tanakit YamMo Suwanyangyaun

The airplane wreck in all it’s glory. Photo credit Tanakit YamMo Suwanyangyaun

Around 22 meter below the surface you will find a propeller airplane on the sandy bottom, just before the wall drops down to 50 meters. It was donated from around 16 years ago to fill the purpose as a artificial reef and a pretty awesome dive site. They drove the airplane from Cebu city to Moalboal, it was to large to transport so they had to cut of the wings for the journey.

Air plane wreck

After a lot of hard work it was time for the ceremony to sink the plane to the bottom of the sea. But an unexpected problem occurred. The plane didn’t sink.  So they placed concrete in the wings before putting them back and if you take a look inside the plane you will find a few old diving tanks at the front used in order to weigh the plane down.

Our own Captain Sunny can tell you all about how he and several others helped to take the plane to its final resting place.

Dive description:

The dive site has a shallow, pretty reef starting at three meters reaching down to ten meters. The reef then transitions into a sandy slope that stretches all the way down to twenty-two meters. At this depth you can find a wall that creeps well beyond most divers certifications, though it still hosts a variety of marine life open to those of adequate qualification.

What to find?

If you want to find weird creatures and tiny critters this is one of our best sites. Here we can find: Ornate ghost pipe fish, Robust ghost pipe fish, garden eels, snake eels, nudibranch, shrimps, crabs, frog fish, devil- & bearded scorpion fish, sea moth and with luck, even weirder creatures! Once we even saw a whale shark cruising just above the airplane, but that was a very rare sighting.

peacock mantis shrimp

peacock mantis shrimp

How to enjoy this dive at the most?

If you don’t have it already we recommend you take your Nitrox licence in order to spend most of this dive at the deeper and more beautiful wall where you can look for the array of small critters.

Pegasus sea moth

Pegasus sea moth

To be able to properly enjoy the airplane you will need to take either your PADI Advanced Open Water or do a Deep Adventure dive, which you easily can do at Quo Vadis Dive Resort.

If you’re bringing a camera make sure to make a plan for both macro and wide angle pictures in addition to good buoyancy.

Entrance: Reached by a 20 minute boat ride in a northly direction from Quo Vadis Dive Resort. We enter via a giant stride entry from the bow of the boat.

Conditions: Dependent on the strength/direction of the wind, potentially flat to moderate waves. Medium to strong current depending on the tides.

Depth: 0 to 50 Meters.

Visibility:  approximately 10 to 25 Meters.

Cool facts about the Nudibranch

Being part of the rich Coral Triangle is what makes the Philippines an excellent, world-class diving destination. Philippines is famous for its never ending variety of the little beautiful nudibranch. Working for Quo Vadis Dive Resort we see these wonders of the ocean every day.

Did you know…

  • Nudibranchs, once like snails lost their shells over countless years of evolution. Today you can find many different chemical defenses among them; some can store cells within their body capable of stinging. Others can secrete acid which they release when danger presents itself. Though there is currently only one known species of nudibranch that can be harmful to humans as it eats the infamous “Portuguese man-of-war” jellyfish.

    Nudibranch

    Chromodoris annea. Photo Credit: Yannick Van Meirhaege. Moalboal

  • Nudibranchs are commonly referred to as sea slugs. Although this is true, not all sea slugs are nudibranchs.
  • Nudibranchs obtain their stunning colors as a result of the colorful food they eat. Due to each species being extremely picky eaters they will generally only consume one type of food leading to a plethora of color variations over the 3000+ species.
  • Some nudibranchs such as the “blue dragon” are capable of creating their own food through photosynthesis.
  • Following the Darwinian principle of natural selection or “survival of the fittest” some nudibranchs are known to be cannibalistic, generally eating the smaller of its species.

    Chromodoris Willani

    Chromodoris Willani. Moalboal

  • Generally they have very short life spans. Some may live up to a year, other merely a few weeks.
  • Nudibranchs are hermaphrodites meaning they are both male and female simultaneously, possessing sexual organs of each gender.

If you want to take a closer look at nudibranchs check out our Instagram @Quovadisdiveresort.

Nudibranch

Photo credit Yannick Van Meirhaghe. Phyllidia Ocellata. Moalboal

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Nudibranch the tiny wonder snail

The word “Nudibranch” is derived from the Latin “nudus” meaning naked and “branchial” meaning gills. The gills are located in the centre of the back of a nudibranch, looking like a very pretty flower. In the front of body you can find two club shaped rhinophores that detect odours.

Nudibranchs are favourites among many divers due to their sheer variety of shapes and colours. As well, anyone can spot an enormous school of sardines yet a keen eye is required to spot these tiny creatures, thus creating a welcome challenge to the avid diver!

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Where are they found?

There are well over 3,000 species of nudibranchs which can generally be found in the shallows, however, some species have be known to be found at impressive depths of 2,500m.

They can be found in tropical waters and freezing waters alike, such as in the Antarctic. Though why freeze when you can find them in the warm waters here in the Philippines, which is one of the countries with the most diversity of the nudibranchs in the world? If merely reading about them is not enough then you should book your next holiday with Quo Vadis Dive Resort and we will make your dreams happen!

Stay tuned for part two cool facts about nudibranch!

If you can’t wait check out Quo Vadis Dive Resort’s Instagram for more pictures.

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An interview with Anna Oposa: Chief Mermaid of Save Philippine Seas

Who is Anna Oposa? As stated in her website’s biography:

“Anna R. Oposa is a multi-hyphenate changemaker, being a writer, speaker, and project manager, though she is best known as the co-founder and “Chief Mermaid” of “Save Philippine Seas (SPS)”. SPS is a movement to protect the country’s coastal and marine resources through information, communication, and education campaigns and community-based projects.”

anna Oposa

We were fortunate enough to meet Anna Oposa when she came to dive with us at Quo Vadis Dive Resort, here in Moalboal. She is a momentous inspiration to us all with her resolute devotion to ocean conservation. Through creating a website/petition (savephilippineseas.org) in an attempt to raise awareness of the atrocities occurring to the environment due to ignorance and negligence, it was not long before it turned into a movement as a result of being fueled by members sharing equal passion. With such drive it is unsurprising what she has achieved, playing a key part in getting the thresher shark listed as a protected species in the CITES convention which took place in October 2016.  In addition, through educating children and adults alike in the long term effects their direct actions cause and suggesting alternatives so that a harmonious relationship with nature may one day become a reality.

As divers we too share in Anna’s love of the ocean and is something we aim to convey to whomever may walk into our centre. Through a collective understanding and respect towards nature in general it’s almost unfathomable what together we can accomplish in terms of preservation and even growth!

Anna and Quo Vadis Vice president Pernilla Sjöö on one of our boat trip to Pescador Island.

Anna and Quo Vadis Vice president Pernilla Sjöö on one of our boat trip to Pescador Island.

 

Here is what Anna Oposa had to say in response to the questions we asked:

May you explain a little what your company is about?

“Save Philippine Seas (SPS) started in 2011 in response to an illegal wildlife trade case called the ‘Rape of the Philippine Seas,’ in which tons of protected species such as turtles and corals were seized. A handful of people who did not know each other, but met online because of this issue, decided to start a social media campaign called SPS. I was the youngest one in the group, just fresh out of college – only graduating a month before. When the issue died down, I continued with the advocacy, but first as a passion project. In 2013, we decided to register it as an NGO out of necessity—we were getting more and more donations and sponsorships and needed to be a legal entity.

This year, we celebrated our 5th anniversary. Half a decade! I still can’t believe it sometimes. We have two major projects, Shark Shelter, which is based in Daanbantayan, Cebu, to conserve and protect the country’s first shark and ray sanctuary; and the Sea and Earth Advocates Camp, which is an environmental education and leadership program for Filipino youth in partnership with the U.S. government and the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines.”

 

What motivates you?

There are many motivations, and it depends on the situation that I’m in. Sometimes, I am motivated because I am angry that the people who are supposed to be doing their job to protect our seas are not doing it. Other times, I’m motivated because I’m inspired by the people I work with, or the progress that we’re making.

My constant motivation is this: marine conservation makes sense for an archipelago with the richest marine life in the world, where millions of people depend on the sea for their livelihood and food. We take care of our sea, it takes care of us.

 

What is your favourite sea creature and why this specific one?

Oooh… For sentimental reasons, of course the thresher shark is the love of my life because I have spent so much blood, sweat, and tears trying to conserve them and elevate their status in the Philippines. They are beautiful, graceful creatures.

I also really, really love seeing soft corals. It feels like I’m in an underwater meadow.

Anna and her friend the Thresher shark

Anna and her friend the Thresher shark

 

What can we do to help save the Philippine seas?

Step one is understanding how our daily choices are connected to the Philippine seas. That shampoo sachet and straw you’re using could end up in the sea. The sunblock you’re using could contribute to coral bleaching. By being able to connect that, you’re able to change your daily lifestyle choices, specifically reducing use of plastic or buying more eco-friendly personal care products.

 

Who or what is your source of inspiration?

I never run out of inspiration. There are so many people I look up to in this field, and I’m lucky that I not only get to work with them but call them some of my closest friends. When the going gets tough, it is so important to have your core group of friends to give you advice and encourage you to keep going. I am also constantly inspired by the communities and youth we’ve trained the last five years, and how they’ve grown and taken on so much.

 

Where do you see yourself and your company in 5 years?

This is an extremely difficult question that I don’t know the answer to. Haha! You see, five years ago, I would have never imagined myself running an NGO called Save Philippine Seas, raising funds to implement projects, and speaking front of hundreds of people and government officials to advocate for the protection of our seas. And yet here I am.

I don’t know where SPS will be in five years. I don’t even know if I’ll still be part of SPS in five years. I hope someone from the SEA Camp network becomes the next Executive Director of Save Philippine Seas. It would be such a big success indicator if someone we trained took over. I also dream about a sustainable funding source for SPS and to continue our two projects, just in a bigger scale and scope.

 

What is/are your goal(s)?

I have many, and my dreams for myself are all tied to my dreams for the Philippines. I want every single Filipino to love and care for the Philippine seas. I want the shark sanctuary we established in Daanbantayan to be a model for community-based eco-tourism. I want marine conservation to be part of the national curriculum. These are big dreams, I know, and they’re probably not going to be accomplished in my lifetime. But I’m sure going to die trying.

 

What is the proudest moment you feel you’ve achieved with your organization?

I am most proud that SPS serves as an enabling environment for empowerment to many people, especially young people. When I see the people we’ve worked with gain more interest and passion for this advocacy, and start initiatives of their own, I feel like such a stage mom! My job as the Chief Mermaid is to make sure the people we work with become better than me, and I’m sure they will be in no time J

Chief Mermaid and Little Mermaid soon to dive into the waters surrounding Pescador Island

Chief Mermaid and Little Mermaid soon to dive into the waters surrounding Pescador Island

 

Dive Lo-ok, Moalboal

Lo-ok is a wall dive that contains some of the most pristine coral gardens in the area. So if you want to experience one of the best wall-dives in Moalboal you should request this site on your next diving vacation with Quo Vadis dive resort. If you stay shallow on this dive you will be rewarded with some of the healthiest reefs in this area. Trust me it’s like being a star in the movie Finding Nemo and who wouldn’t love to experienced that?

The beautiful coral garden of Lo-ok, Moalboal

The beautiful coral garden of Lo-ok, Moalboal

Witness thousands of small colourful reef fishes dancing around the corals. Here you will set your eyes on a variety of blennies, gobies, clownfishes and damsels. It’s just incredible to stay and watch the movement, shapes and colours of the reef. We often spot turtles resting among the corals, just waiting for you to have a closer look or to take a nice, close photo.

Turtle, Moalboal

The deeper part on this wall is filled with soft- and hard corals and together with healthy gorgonian sea-fans they are create a colour explosion. Take a closer look and you might get lucky to find a few gorgeous nudibranchs and why not an ugly frogfish? Sometimes we find batfish and trevallies strolling around in the deep. Some small critters also pay our dives a visit like ornate ghost pipefish and different species of crabs and shrimps.

Nudibranch, Moalboal

If times and budget allows, try to do two dives at Lo-ok, one to do the shallow  part and one for a deeper visit and when doing  the deeper part ask for nitrox if you are a nitrox diver or why not do the 1 day nitrox course since this maximise your bottom time at the deep part.

Lo-ok, Moalboal

Reached by a 15 min boat ride north direction from Quo Vadis dive Resort.

Conditions: Depending on the wind. Usually flat ocean with a mild current

Depth: 0 to 50 Meters

Visibility: 15 to 30 Meters

Green Turtles

The green turtle “Chelonia mydas” is the only species in the family of Chelonia. They are found trough subtropical and tropical waters around the world. The name itself comes from the green fat that are found underneath their shell. It’s one of the most famous creatures in Philippines and you can find them napping, eating or swimming just offshore Quo Vadis Dive Resort.

Turtle

Did you know…

  • The Green turtle can reach a weight up to 300 kilogram.
  • They can become up to 80 years old.
  • Female turtles crawls up on the very beach they were born on, to dig their nest. It’s still unknown how they find back to their birthplace.
  • They will put down an impressive amount of 100 – 200 eggs and two months later the eggs will hatch and the five cm new-born turtles will crawl against the big blue to start their journey.
  • Even if they look like a very slow-moving creature they can reach a maximum speed of 56 km/h!
  • They can hold their breath from 4 – 7 hours
  • Its two divided groups of the green turtle. The pacific green turtle is more black in the colour and the Atlantic has a more green colour.

Green turtle

Do you want to witness this beautiful creatures with you own eyes? Contact pieter@quovadisresort.com or look into our web page www.quovadisresort.com and we will make sure you can meet this fellow in it’s natural habitat.

Turtle

Yawning frogfish

Facts about frogfish

Frogfish (Antennariidae) is a part of the anglerfish family (Lophiiformes) and you can find a big variety of 45 different spices. They are found around the coast of Africa, Asia, Australia and North America. Normal habitats are at reefs all the way down to the depth of 100 meters. Even though the increasing habitat destruction and pollution, wild population of frogfish are still large and healthy. The shape, colours and abilities that frogfishes has fascinated since I saw it for the first time.

Frogfish hiding at Quo Vadis Dive Resort Housereeef

Crazy facts about frogfish

  • The frogfish has a modified dorsal fin that looks like a worm or a shrimp that they use for hunting.
  •  When the fish is close enough the frogfish opens the mouth so fast that it creates a suction and the poor little fish is drawn into the teeth lees mouth in one bite. This is the fastest suction among fishes.
  • They can swallow preys that is 2 times bigger than the fish itself thanks to the ability to expand their mouth 12 times of its normal size.
  • The frogfish doesn’t have a swim bladder. Therefore the frog feet’s are mostly just for walking around when they move.
  •  The colour of the body depends on the habitat. Frogfishes can be any colours and in very weird colours combinations. It’s able to quickly change colour to blend into the environment.
  •  They do have a social life with each other. Then the smaller frogfishes risking to become lunch for the bigger ones.
  • In wild the frogfish can reach an age of 20 years.

The frogfish is one of the reasons divers from all over the world they come to Philippines. At Quo Vadis Dive Resort we can find this little critters at most of our dive sites. They camouflage themselves really good trough choosing spots that is similar as them self. Our dive guides will do everything they can to find this special spots where this ugly & amazing creature hides.

 

Warty Yellow Frogfish

Frogfish at the Sardine Run

Giant Frogfish at Pescadoor island

The Sardine Run in Moalboal

moalboal sardine run

A diver slowly swimming into the hurricane of small sardines. Picture by Ruffy Biazon

I’m sure you heard about the sardine run in South Africa, where you can watch a massive, migrating bait ball during a short period of the year, usually between June and July. But did you know that you can witness the exact same phenomenon in Moalboal, Philippines all year around? Here you can watch the millions of sardines congregate together in tropical water with a spectacular wall as a backdrop, just a few meters offshore.

The sardine run is the main attraction for Quo Vadis Dive resorts divers and it’s not hard to understand why. To dive into the never-ending school of small, dancing silvery fish and let them immerse you is a breath-taking experience even for the most well-travelled diver.

moalboal-sardine-rund-11

Picture by Ruffy Biazon

The traffic is heavy down here, but it’s a sort of traffic you wouldn’t mind and it’s perfectly organized. The clouds of sardines are effortless coordinated, creating alien formations and moving together in perfection. See them shiver when they catch the rays of the sun, hear them move when the trevally’s dart in for a bite. I promise you, it will keep you hypnotized for the better part of your tank. As with anything with nature nothing is guaranteed, the school have been smaller than usually a few days but that is really out of the ordinary.

moalboal sardine run

This should be on every divers bucket list. Divers and underwater photographer are coming from all corners of the world to witness the underwater tornado of sardines. Due to the location and the fact that the big ball of sardines is to be found at only 5-15 meters of depth it’s also perfect for snorkelers. But for a truly mind blowing experience you have to dive below them, to watch them cover the sun for a few moments before your bubbles will separate the silhouettes above, letting the sun in. It’s also possible to do a dive starting with the sardines and then continue all the way to Quo Vadis House reef to get the best out of two worlds.

moalboal sardine run

You can often see some of predators hunting for the sardines, making the experience even better.

No one really knows what causes the sardines to act this way, it is poorly understood in an ecological point of view. The sardines migrated a few years back from Pescador Island to the shore alongside Panagsama. The sardine run pulls a lot of tourists and the locals understand the positive effect of this, so no net fishing is allowed in Moalboal. Only the local fishermen are allowed to use their small wooden boats to go out and fish with hooks and lines to catch enough of sardines for their family or to sell at the local market.

moalboal sardine run

Picture by Ruffy Biazon

moalboal sardine run

A turtle gently gliding past under the sardines. Picture by Ruffy Biazon

moalboal sardine run

Picture by Ruffy Biazon

Contact Pieter@quovadisresort.com or go into http://www.quovadisresort.com for more information or to book the dive of your life time.