IMAGINE a garden, filled with earth-colored branches and twigs, brain shaped mounds, white and beige bushes, tomatoes, blue green baskets, caverns with odd looking creatures, a parrot, an angel, an idol, and even a snake.
Now, imagine it is underwater and what you have is....... a coral reef.
The Acroporid branches and twigs are hundreds, maybe even thousands of years old, the Favid brain-shaped mounds are equally ancient and seem to be from another world, and the white and beige bushes are anemones, whose tentacles are friendly to the tomato clownfish, but harmful to anyone else. The blue-green sponges blend softly with the corals, and there are caverns and crevices where fish and invertebrates reside.
The parrotfish, Moorish Idol, and angelfish are just three of a hundred or so resident reef fish species.
The celebrity is a banded sea-snake, which indicates a well-developed food web.
From Davao City, make your way over to JP Laurel, locate the Paradise Island signage, continue seaward for 400 meters, and you will find yourself at the sandy shore of the Samal Channel. Across the channel lies the Island Garden of Samal. Enjoy a refreshing, scenic, and pleasant five-minute pump boat ride, and you will alight at Paradise Island Resort Pier One where you can literally step right into this Garden within a garden.
We are fortunate. All over the world, divers spend their hard-earned savings on expensive scuba equipment, accommodations on live-aboard dive boats, international air-fare, and hotel bookings for lay-By, just so they can experience a visit to the species-rich coral triangle bounded by Australia’s Great Barrier, the Indonesian Archipelago, and the 7,100 islands of our country.
We only need to ride a 16 passenger boat, pay an environmental fee, and bring swim goggles.
The panoramas are blue, bubble free, and beautiful beyond imagination. Feast your eyes on the documented 79 species of hard corals and 26 species of soft corals, not to mention more than 100 species of reef fish.
What about finding Nemo? Not a problem
Why is this coral garden, Paradise Reef, so precious? Corals and coral reef fish colonize new areas because their larvae are carried by currents from their spawning sites to other places in the ocean where the landing surface is ideal, the nutrient bearing currents are ample, sunlight is plentiful, and the seawater is free of silt and pollutants.
Paradise Reef is a spawning site...kind of like a bank...that keeps hundreds of different kinds of precious coins that were collected throughout history. Spawning is when the bank multiplies those coins and dispenses them into the ocean. So the future of coral reefs on the Western side of Samal Island depends on this bank.
Visit this garden within a garden. It is Paradise Reef within the territorial waters of the Island Garden of Samal. Together we can make it our Marine Protected Area.
For personal guided tours, e-mail the author at email@example.com.