Underwater photography of a Lion Fish in the Philippines

Diving Sumilon Island’s Marine Sanctuary: Dumaguete Side Trips



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In January, the Silliman Marine Lab hosted a group of American marine biology students for a two week study abroad program sponsored by Bethel College in Minnesota. Aside from getting a chance to escape the Midwest winter, the students had the opportunity to see some of the best reefs in the Philippines and learn a little about the issues facing their continued survival. The first stop on the reef study was Sumilon Island, just a short boat trip from Dumaguete, and a place that until then I hadn’t had the chance to visit.

  • Sumilon Island - Early January 2005

    Sumilon Island - Early January 2005
    From a distance, you can see Sumilon Island as a thin line rising out of the Tañon Strait. Cebu can be seen on the left side of the frame.

  • Sumilon Island - Early January 2005

    Sumilon Island - Early January 2005
    Yup, looks like a taunting.

  • Sumilon Island - Early January 2005

    Sumilon Island - Early January 2005
    Unlike their "Finding Nemo" relatives, the tomato clown fish will bite and seem to be a lot more aggressive.

  • Sumilon Island - Early January 2005

    Sumilon Island - Early January 2005
    I stayed back and let the camera zoom get in close.

  • Sumilon Island - Early January 2005

    Sumilon Island - Early January 2005
    The underwater classroom in progress. Sure beats sitting in an auditorium.

  • Sumilon Island - Early January 2005

    Sumilon Island - Early January 2005
    Sumilon seems to have a large population of clown fish, but not very many larger species.

  • Sumilon Island - Early January 2005

    Sumilon Island - Early January 2005
    For lunch, we got off the boat and ate on this nice beach that faces Cebu.

  • Sumilon Island - Early January 2005

    Sumilon Island - Early January 2005
    Sumilon's sandbar looks pretty idyllic from the hillside above.

  • Sumilon Island - Early January 2005

    Sumilon Island - Early January 2005
    A few boats from nearby dive shops were anchored near the sand bar.

  • Sumilon Island - Early January 2005

    Sumilon Island - Early January 2005
    Here's a few more Sumilon clown fish.

  • Sumilon Island - Early January 2005

    Sumilon Island - Early January 2005
    The clown fish camouflage makes sense for living in an anemone.

  • Sumilon Island - Early January 2005

    Sumilon Island - Early January 2005
    The students didn't waste any time in getting suited up and into the water with their scuba gear.

  • Sumilon Island - Early January 2005

    Sumilon Island - Early January 2005
    Ian Johnston (pictured here) is the lucky teacher to be in charge of this international reef exploration expedition.

  • Sumilon Island - Early January 2005

    Sumilon Island - Early January 2005
    If it weren't for the flash of the camera highlighting the bright orange color of the clown fish, this fellow would be pretty tough to spot.

  • Sumilon Island - Early January 2005

    Sumilon Island - Early January 2005
    Sumilon used to be a marine resource management success story until it was opened to unregulated fishing again and the fish populations collapsed.

  • Sumilon Island - Early January 2005

    Sumilon Island - Early January 2005
    The small fish populations and corals seem pretty healthy though, so it should only be a matter of time before the reef is balanced and the larger fish return again.

  • Sumilon Island - Early January 2005

    Sumilon Island - Early January 2005
    Sometimes the boatmen would help them in to the water by almost tossing student and scuba gear over the transom.

  • Sumilon Island - Early January 2005

    Sumilon Island - Early January 2005
    Right away I spotted this lion fish hovering at the edge of the coral wall.

  • Sumilon Island - Early January 2005

    Sumilon Island - Early January 2005
    This lion fish looked pretty dramatic when backlit by the sunlight above.

  • Sumilon Island - Early January 2005

    Sumilon Island - Early January 2005
    As long as you don't get too close everything's ok.

  • Sumilon Island - Early January 2005

    Sumilon Island - Early January 2005
    Further along in the dive I spotted this clown fish peeking out of its anemone home.

  • Sumilon Island - Early January 2005

    Sumilon Island - Early January 2005
    Not everyone in the group was scuba certified so about half of the students snorkeled the reefs to make observations for their marine biology field journals.

  • Sumilon Island - Early January 2005

    Sumilon Island - Early January 2005
    I'm not exactly sure what the boatman was doing here, but I think he was taunting some tomato clown fish.