Ask your friends about exploring Zambales for summer, and they’ll probably suggest places like Anawangin or Potipot. But did you know that this unassuming province cradles a greater wealth of marine life that only a few know of?
A five-hour drive north of Manila is the quiet municipality of Masinloc. Aside from being known for its sticky suman and sweet mangoes, Masinloc has the country’s first community-run marine protected area, and is home to a growing giant clam farm, a lush mangrove, and a quaint sandbar.
During the SafeProtect Marine Conservation Tour done through the collaboration of Human Nature, Route +63, Save Philippine Seas, and the Municipality of Masinloc, it was revealed that a little over ten years ago, the town was once in the throes of biodiversity death due to dynamite and cyanide fishing. When the townsfolk saw the destruction these have caused to their livelihood, they decided to step up and ask help from the government and NGOs to rehabilitate the area. It took many years and a lot of work, but Masinloc was successful in reviving its seas.
Today, visitors are more than welcome to see the carefully guarded treasures of Masinloc. Through the SafeProtect tour, you can visit three of the best spots that the municipality can offer.
San Salvador Island
San Salvador Island is a marine protected area just off the coast of the municipio. Rehabilitated through the diligence of its residents, San Salvador now boasts of a two-hectare giant clam farm teeming with corals and sea creatures. Get wet and snorkel to view its wonderful undersea colors, and if you’re lucky, you may even spot a sea horse or two!
Yaha Mangrove Forest
From afar, the Yaha Mangrove Forest looks like its own island due to its lushness. Its green density can be attributed to the efforts of the fishermen who encourage visitors to plant mangroves during low tide. Exploring the winding waterways of Yaha is like a reflective stroll through the woods, and it shows you just how much can be done when people cooperate to keep something beautiful.
Bacala is what locals call the sandbar in the middle of crystal clear waters where an open beach house stands. It is here where visitors can rest and sample the freshest catch and harvest of the day: tuna, crabs, seaweed, okra, eggplants, and bananas. Imagine eating with your bare hands while looking out to sea, feeling the wind in your hair, and tasting salt on your lips. Isn’t that the life?
The tour costs Php3,900 per head, inclusive of transport from Manila and back, snorkeling gear rental, travel insurance, and lunch. It also comes with a free tube of Human Nature SafeProtect Sunscreen, which is made of oils and extracts that are gentle on corals. The best times to visit Masinloc is during the summer as well as during the months after the rainy season, so plot your calendars now!