Assemblage of Manta Rays in Ticao Pass

Apart from Donsol that has established itself as a gathering point for whale sharks chasing the plankton rich waters of the bay, Sorsogon has another asset to offer to travelers coming to the country for adventure trips. These are the manta rays that were recently discovered in the shallow reef of Ticao Pass- a body of water within the area of Burias Island, Sorsogon, and Ticao Island which has the thickest concentration of plankton in the Philippines. The strong currents of San Bernardino Strait push large groups of plankton and other organisms to gather in the area. Ticao Pass and the surrounding areas are not new to divers. It has underwater beauty comparable to the richness of other famous dive sites in the country. It is due to its remote location and outlying distance that have made it unpopular to weekend divers.

The discovery started when a group of scuba divers headed by Conz Paz gathered to survey the reefs of Ticao Pass. During their first dive, they witnessed a few manta rays on their regular feeding time. Based on their recorded encounter, the divers returned repeatedly and found out that the numbers increased through June of 2003. Biologists concluded that there is a distinct season in which these magnificent creatures flock in the area. Few more observations have been conducted, they arrived on definite idea that these fleeting giants reach the cold water of Bicol from March thru July.

More surprises came out just after a year of investigation. New places beneath Ticao Pass such as deep walls and caves have been discovered. The most appealing site is what they called Manta Bowl- a depression in the shallow part of Ticao Pass where manta rays gather to feed. At the time of survey, divers spotted 15 manta rays on every group where “manta inhabitants” were mostly mixed gigantic specimens with over 12′ wingspans and passing juveniles rushing across. Personally proven, they asserted Ticao Pass a true site of underwater wealth.

Since Manta Bowl can be easily reached at 15m/50ft, which by any standard practically shallow, divers will have the chance to enjoy watching the mantas at satisfying bottom time. They proposed nitrox dive to be more advantageous as bottom time is increased while making a dive safer. Due to this immediate need, Bulan dive operators organized a Nitrox blending station in April 2004 to give certified divers even longer interaction with these fleeting underwater creatures of Ticao Pass.

To get there by air, Philippine Airlines and Air Philippines have regular flights from Manila to Legazpi City. By land, Philtranco Bus Co. has regular trips to Bulan, Sorsogon. The trip takes about 12 hours. From Bulan, a thirty minute boat ride will take you to the park of these magnificent giants. Though not many, accomodation and diving facilities are present in the area. Prepare enough cash.