MATI City is rich in highlands and islands and these can sure be tapped sustainably to boost the city’s tourism industry.
Two of the emerging spots in the city are Pujada Island and Sleeping Dinosaur Trail. It offers travelers and adventure seekers another reason to explore or rediscover the lone city in Davao Oriental.
But as these two tourist spots lure more visitors yearly, what are the efforts of the local government and the community living nearby to maintain the set-up of this serene island and green trail destination especially that these two belong to the so-called Pujada Bay Protected Landscape and Seascape?
The bay, where Pujada Island and Sleeping Dinosaur are, is a declared marine protected area under Proclamation 431 inked by then President Fidel V. Ramos on July 31, 1994. According to Department of Environment and Natural Resources, it is 21,200 hectares big bay encompassing four islands: Pujada, Sleeping Dinosaur, Waniban, and Oak.
From Barangay Tam-isan in Mati City, hop on a boat for rent which is available for as low as P200 per person on weekends and P4,000 - whole boat rental – on weekdays (For Pujada Island tours, contact Lanes via Pujada Island Facebook Page).
After a 25-minute boat ride, there awaits a 156-hectare island that offers unspoiled beauty of lush greenery and deep clear turquoise waters. Pujada Island is the biggest island located within Pujada Bay, just between the fishing villages of Taganilao and Macambol.
It is home to various species – marine or not – from turtles, dolphins, corals, sea cows, whale sharks, and birds – Philippine Eagle at that. It is a perfect spot for snorkeling and swimming. Above all, the island – as of the moment- is peaceful and calm, an ideal getaway for those who are seeking a nature adventure.
Unlike before, there are now available kiosks on the island for tourists to avail. The Lanes management – the group who rented a portion of the island, however, ensured that influx of tourists coming to the island will not equate to destruction of its beauty.
It strictly implements “No littering” and “No-Bringing-Of-Glass-Bottles-To-The-Shoreline” policies. Anyone caught littering around will be fined P500. But these are never enough.
For Jaime Elyera, 50, caretaker of the Pujada Island, he will do everything in his power to preserve the island as he wants to live forever to what he has considered not just his home but also for the rich flora and fauna.
This island is sure an eye catcher for travelers passing by en route Mati City. But it is more than just a perfect backdrop for taking photographs. Tourists can now explore the island through the Dino Trail.
Wait, why is it named that? Simple explanation is – the island’s shape resembles that of a dinosaur in deep sleep.
For locals and tourists, getting on top of this island is a goal. The trail is friendly for everyone, it is easy and can be achieved just for a few minutes but the reward for trekkers – once they get on the destination – is grand and beautiful.
From Mati City highway, ride a “habal-habal” (motorcycle-for-hire) and ask them to take you to the coastal village of Dawan, the area where the foot of the island’s hill is. From there, after a 20-minute trek, you’ll reach the top destination allowing one a breath-taking view of mountains, mangroves, and the clear waters of Pujada Bay.
With this place gaining popularity, comes a problem of waste mismanagement. This, after trekkers irresponsibly throw garbage while exploring the Dino Trail.
Good thing, this problem has been controlled now by the local government and private owners through a Sleeping Dinosaur Trail Management Plan. An environmental fee of P10 is also collected from visitors to sustain maintenance works for the island.
The Pujada Bay is rich in sea grasses and corals that serve as home to both endemic and migratory aquatic species. It is home to endangered species like sea cows, whale sharks, marine turtles, and dolphins which visit the area within November to May.
To maintain and preserve what the bay and its tourists’ spots like the islands of Pujada and Sleeping Dinosaur have, a strict implementation and observation of the Pujada Bay Protected Landscape and Seascape declaration must be made and maintained.
At present, the city’s Bantay Dagat fellows, Philippine Coast Guard, Barangay officials, and the residents are working together to keep Pujada Bay to its just shape and state. After all, upbeat tourism industry is good, for as long as it is done the sustainable way.
Thank you everyone for journeying with me in this five-part Mati City series. Cheers to more adventures, discoveries, and learning this 2019 and beyond.
For suggestions, comments, and questions email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on social media @acejunerell.