My Year End Dive at Agutayan Island Marine Sanctuary

Agutayan Island Marine Sanctuary

I went to Cagayan de Oro the day after Tropical Storm Sendong lashed the city. From the airport, the situation seemed normal and calm but as I came close to the city proper, the disaster brought by the storm became perceptible.

As the jeepney passed the bridge crossing the brown and murky Cagayan River in Carmen District, I saw communities along the river totally washed out. People covered with mud, barefooted and wearing the saddest faces I’ve ever seen, were everywhere. I heard someone say “hundreds are dead and missing” and my heart melted. When the jeepney stopped, a family got in and they recounted their story of the flood to curious passengers. I almost weep when the old lady said that they saved nothing, only the clothes they were wearing.

Agutayan Island Marine Sanctuary
Hello Nemo, we meet again in Agutayan waters (Cam by CBA)

My dive buddy Ate Claudia told me to meet her in Lim Ket Kai because Sir Mario Jugador, dive instructor from Dive Special, has something important to discuss with us. I already accepted and conditioned my mind that we will not be able to dive. With the state of the city which was still without water and electricity, and with the expected poor water visibility,  it was almost impossible to dive.

I told Ate Claudia and Sir Mario that it was fine with me if we cancel the dive. The situation was really out of control and I was a bit guilty that despite the horror and agony in the city, we will still sneak out to have fun.

We will try“, Sir Mario said and we boarded the pickup that took us to the town of Jasaan, 35 minutes away from Cagayan de Oro City. Passing over bridges with brown river water rapidly flowing under and surrounding farms totally washed out by flash flood.

Agutayan Island Marine Sanctuary
This huge sea turtle, probably measuring four to five feet, was digging for something

It was almost noon when we descended for our first dive. There was a rumor that a lifeless body was found in Agutayan Island in the morning so we were also on the lookout for cadavers and possible survivors of the great flood. We had a hard time going down due to strong surface current but underneath, the current was mild and the visibility was not that bad. We were able to see six sea turtles, one of which so huge probably four to five feet in length, and the usual resident tropical marine fishes, corals and other species. We ascended after 43 minutes, thankful that we didn’t see any cadavers.

On the surface, debris of the flashflood continued to pile up around the area. Locals of the town of Jasaan were able to harvest TVs, refs, gas tanks, speakers and other appliances, clothes, furniture, etc.

Agutayan Island Marine Sanctuary
One of the giant clams in Agutayan Island Marine Sanctuary (Cam by CBA)

We had our lunch on the boat and after a short rest we descended once more for our second and final dive to a site used for clam seeding and planted with artificial reefs. Numerous giant clams are scattered around the site and they are simply amazing. It was a total of 55 minutes underneath on a mild current and pretty good visibility.

It was a very memorable day that despite the odds and circumstances, we were able to have our year end dive. Thanks to my favorite dive buddy Ate Claudia, Sir Mario and Brandy and of course to our great Creator for making ways, as always.

Agutayan Island Marine Sanctuary
An artificial reef is now home to variety of marine species (Cam by CBA)

My rendezvous to this event is a mixture of sadness and excitement. It would have been a total fun if not for the tragedy that struck my favorite city in Mindanao. All I can do now is hope and pray that everything will be okay, that CDO, Iligan and all those affected by Sendong will rise again.

Hopefully, next year will be another year of fun, amazement and challenges as we revisit some of our favorite dive destinations in the Philippines and aim for new spots. Sorsogon, Masbate, Verde Island and who knows Batanes and Europe 😛

I can’t wait.

Agutayan Island Marine Sanctuary
A glass shrimp in anemone (Cam by CBA)


  1. Hello Angel,

    I so love your blog. I learned so many things, found new places. I’m from Cagayan de Oro too. Hope that you could visit again our humble city of goldenfriendship. You really did a great job with your blog.. Keep it up!

  2. galing! galing! to have a rare chance of a sea turtle encounter in the open sea is priceless. cheers to more years in travel Angel!

  3. judy

    my husband and i are also scheduled to do water rafting on january-but i don’t think we can stomach enjoying on that infamous river knowing that many died there and were swept away to the sea…we will instead donate our budget for the rafting to the victims, small as it may be.
    those of you who are planning to go to CDO for adventure and dont want to cancel it, may i suggest that you river trek at mapawa nature park instead…that is equally fun as the rafting…i should know- having done both last march. if you wish, we can go for a group river trek which is much cheaper.

    1. amber

      I agree. But is that area not affected? That’s still operational? We can try that instead. When are guys going to CDO?

      1. judy

        no, mapawa nature park is on top of a mountain, it’s not affected. i texted them a day after the flash flood…you can contact this number for your booking…btw, if you have SM advantage card, you can use it for a 10% discount. we were able to use it last time. here’ the number you can call or text: 09177067206. you can check also their website for other activities: or see: or you can find them at FB.
        we will be there between jan 17-22 pala. we will also go to iligan (for the ma. cristina and tinago falls, climb mt. agad-agad, and hibok-hibok in camiguin…then CDO.)

  4. amber

    Hello! Would you know if the white water river rafting is operational by next week? We already have a booked trip to CDO for Jan8-11. I feel a bit guilty as well that despite what happened we would still pursue our trip, but my friends would still want to go. Thanks!

    1. cba

      hi amber, first rafting adventure is now accepting reservations week after the flood. rafting in cdo river is now back to business.

      1. amber

        Hi cba,

        Thank you for that info. We still can’t decide what to do but that helps a lot! 🙂

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