Discover the Hidden Gems of Danajon Bank Marine Reserve

Bohol Danajon Bank Marine Reserve is a breathtakingly beautiful marine sanctuary located in the Bohol Sea, Philippines. Covering an area of around 100,000 hectares, the reserve is home to a diverse range of marine species, including more than 600 fish species, 50 coral species, and several species of dolphins, whales, and sharks. The reserve is a popular destination for tourists from all over the world who come to explore its pristine waters, enjoy the beauty of its coral reefs, and experience the unique culture and traditions of the local people.

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Getting to Bohol Danajon Bank Marine Reserve is easy, as the reserve is located just a short boat ride away from the town of Anda, which is around 100 kilometers east of Tagbilaran City, the capital of Bohol province. The best time to visit the reserve is between December and April when the weather is dry and sunny, and the waters are calm. During these months, visitors can enjoy swimming, snorkeling, and diving in the warm waters of the Bohol Sea and explore the colorful underwater world of the marine reserve.

One of the best ways to explore the marine reserve is to go on a guided snorkeling or diving tour. There are several tour operators in Anda who offer these services, and they can take you to some of the best spots in the reserve where you can see an incredible array of marine life. Some of the most popular spots for snorkeling and diving include Jao Island, Mabaw Reef, and Tawagan Island, where you can see colorful corals, schools of fish, and even some larger marine creatures like sea turtles, sharks, and rays.

Another great way to explore the reserve is to go on a kayaking tour. Kayaking allows you to get up close to the beautiful coastline and explore the many coves, bays, and beaches that dot the shoreline of the reserve. You can also paddle through the mangrove forests that line the coast and see some of the amazing birdlife that calls the reserve home.

For those who want to learn more about the marine life and ecology of the reserve, there are several educational programs and workshops available. These programs are designed to help visitors understand the importance of preserving the marine ecosystem and to teach them about the different species that live in the reserve. Some of the programs available include marine biology workshops, coral reef conservation programs, and marine wildlife photography workshops.

The Danajon Bank or Double Barrier Reef, located off northern Bohol Island, is the only double barrier reef in the Philippines and is 1 of only 3 such sites in the Indo-Pacific. The reef is spread across almost 130 kms and consists of 3 large reefs.

Caubyan is the largest covering about 143 square kilometers. There are 5 smaller reefs in the northern outer region and 1 large reef, Calitubas, in the inner region. The overall area of the Danajon Bank is 272 square kilometers with an aggregate coastline of 699 kilometers including 40 islands. The Danajon Bank makes up over 1% of the total area of coral reef of the Philippines (estimated at 27,000 square kilometers).

Sixteen municipalities and 1 city include the Danajon Bank within their area of jurisdiction. This encompasses 4 provinces and 2 regions. In Region 7, 10 municipalities belong to Bohol and 2 to Cebu. In Region 8, 4 municipalities belong to Leyte and 1 city to Southern Leyte. The shoreline of these municipalities and city covers 699 kilometers. 

Ten National Integrated Protected Area System (NIPAS) sites occur within these seascapes. To date, 60 community and municipal-based marine protected areas (MPAs) have been established within the area in various stages of protection and management. The Fisheries Improved for Sustainable Harvest (FISH) Project activities focus on 4 Bohol municipalities with jurisdiction on the Danajon Bank.

Location and Significance

Danajon Bank is one of the few documented double barrier reefs in the world and is a very rare geological formation. Located off the northwest coast of Bohol, it comprises two sets of large coral reefs that formed offshore on a submarine ridge due to a combination of favorable tidal currents and coral growth in the area. It is believed that the reefs were formed over the last 6000 years.

Danajon’s double barrier reef is a larger and better-defined structure than other known double barrier reefs in the world. The outer reef lies 11 km offshore, and is composed of several units up to 23 km long each. The inner barrier is 2 km wide and separated from the littoral by an inshore channel 26 m deep at most.

The Philippines has been recently recognized as the “center of the center of marine shore fish biodiversity” in the world, with the peak of marine biodiversity occurring in the central Philippine islands. It is likely that given its location in Central Philippines, the Danajon Bank area has been historically as evolutionary source of fish and coral species in the Philippines.

Danajon Bank has a high degree of diversity in its marine flora and fauna. Its location inside an “inland” sea (the Camotes Sea) contributes to endemism within the high diversity of fish, coral and other invertebrates and algae species. The large reef structure, relatively protected from strong currents and storms encourages a wide variety of micro-habitats to flourish inside and adjacent to the reef lagoons and slopes. Its location also protects if from strong monsoon winds and heavy oceanic swells.

Overall, the Bank is a most important source for biodiversity and a large breeding area for many species of finfish, shellfish and invertebrates. It is also a critical pathway of the Asian southward bird migratory route.

Danajon Bank plays a major role in the fishing industry of the Province of Bohol. About 54% of the fishers, 44% of the non-motorized boats and 62% of the motor crafts of the entire province are found in the 9 coastal municipalities bounding the Danajon Bank. In addition, it is a critical fishing ground for fishers from Cebu, Leyte, and Southern Leyte who have for many generations relied on fishing in the area for their subsistence and livelihood.

Other Attractions in the Area

In addition to the natural beauty of the reserve, there are also several cultural attractions in the surrounding area that visitors can explore. The town of Anda is home to several historical sites, including the Anda Lighthouse, which was built in 1916 and offers panoramic views of the Bohol Sea and the surrounding countryside. Anda is also home to several traditional villages where visitors can experience the unique culture and traditions of the local people. These villages offer a glimpse into the daily life of the people who live in the area, and visitors can learn about their customs, traditions, and beliefs.

One of the most popular cultural attractions in the area is the Kultura Splash Wave, a cultural and water park that offers a unique blend of entertainment and education. The park features several exhibits that showcase the history and culture of the Philippines, as well as a variety of water attractions, including pools, slides, and waterfalls. Visitors can spend the day learning about the local culture and traditions and then cool off with a refreshing dip in one of the park's many pools.

Another popular cultural attraction in the area is the Bolinao Museum, which houses a collection of artifacts and exhibits that showcase the history and culture of the region. The museum features displays on the traditional fishing practices of the local people, as well as exhibits on the history of the Spanish colonial period in the Philippines. Visitors can learn about the fascinating history of the region and gain a deeper understanding of the rich cultural heritage of the Philippines.

For those who love nature and the outdoors, there are also several eco-tourism activities available in the area. Visitors can go on hiking tours of the nearby hills and mountains, where they can explore the lush forests and see some of the amazing wildlife that lives in the area. There are also several adventure activities available, including zip-lining, rock climbing, and ATV tours, which offer a unique and exciting way to explore the rugged terrain of the region.

When it comes to accommodation, there are several options available in and around the marine reserve. Visitors can choose from luxury resorts, budget hotels, and eco-friendly lodges, depending on their preferences and budget. Many of the resorts and lodges in the area offer packages that include guided tours of the marine reserve and other attractions in the area, making it easy for visitors to plan their itinerary and make the most of their time in Bohol.

Overall, Bohol Danajon Bank Marine Reserve is a must-visit destination for anyone who loves nature, culture, and adventure. The reserve offers a unique and unforgettable experience that combines the beauty of the underwater world with the rich cultural heritage of the Philippines. Whether you want to snorkel, dive, kayak, hike, or simply relax and soak up the stunning scenery, this marine reserve has something for everyone. So, if you're planning a trip to the Philippines, be sure to add Bohol Danajon Bank Marine Reserve to your itinerary – you won't be disappointed!

Coastal Resources: Status and Threats

(Coral Reefs, Mangroves and Seagrass)

Danajon Bank approximately 270 square kilometers of coral reefs whose productivity could be worth US$ 8 million per year if managed well. The area surrounding the double barrier reef is composed of coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass habitats in shallow and relatively well-protected waters.

Highly productive, it is home to a vast array of commercially valuable reef fishes, shellfish, crustaceans and invertebrates such as sea cucumbers and sea urchins. Its extensive seagrass beds are nursery and feeding grounds for various species of rabbitfish (siganids) and sea horses, while its mangroves are spawning habitats for crustaceans, shrimps and various fishes.

A survey conducted in 2004 show that the area’s coral diversity is high, with 211 hard coral species (205 scleractinian in 15 families and 6 non-scleractinian in 4 families) inhabiting Danajon Bank.

Danajon is rich in mangrove habitats found mostly in the coastal areas of Getafe to Calape, with significant patches along the coastline of Talibon and Bien Unido. Mangroves cover an area of 5,250 hectares and fishponds in mangrove areas cover 4,750 hectares. The Danajon area also contains one of Southeast Asia’s largest human-made mangrove forests in Banacon Island with over 2,000 hectares of Rhizopora Stylosa.

Another critical fish habitat in Danajon Bank are its extensive seagrass beds that serve as feeding grounds and nursery areas for bottom-dwelling marine organisms including various species of rabbitfish, mollusks, seahorses, sea cucumbers and sea urchins. Almost all species of seagrass that occur in the Philippines are represented, although currently, fish fauna in seagrass beds are quite sparse and consisting mostly of juveniles.

Fishery Resources: Status and Threats

Given its varied habitats of coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass beds, Danajon Bank harbors various species of finfish, shellfish, crustaceans and invertebrates. These include reef fishes such as grouper (pugawo) and snapper (maya-maya) and small pelagics such as scads, roundscads and bullet tunas. Among the invertebrates that abound in the area are blue crabs, shrimps, squids and sea cucumbers. Seagrass-associated fish such as siganids or rabbitfish also inhabit the area as well as anchovies and garfish.

Danajon Bank has been subjected to extremely high fishing pressure, largely through illegal as well as destructive fishing methods. Fisheries outside of the shallow reef areas are also heavily exploited by a combination of small-scale locally based fishers and commercial fishing boats that fish illegally inside municipal waters.

Past and Current Management Interventions

A variety of management efforts have been initiated in the past and a few are ongoing in the Danajon Bank area. NGOs/donor supported projects worked with selected municipalities and resulted in coastal resource management initiatives such as activation of Pos, resource assessment activities, development of CRM plans, formulation of comprehensive fishery ordinances, the establishment of marine protected areas/marine sanctuaries, coastal law enforcement, activation of Fisheries and Aquatic Resource Management Councils (FARMCs) and introduction of livelihood projects.

In 2002, a technical working group and the Cebu-Leyte-Bohol-Southern Leyte (CeLeBoSoLe) Council was formed to oversee the management and conservation of Danajon Bank with representatives from concerned government agencies such as BFAR, PNP Maritime Group, PCG, DENR, NEDA, DILG, and the Office of the President for Central Visayas.

The sustainable use and management of Danajon Bank’s coastal and fisheries resources is critical not only to its coastal communities but also to the whole Central Visayas region. Its unique geological double barrier reef formation and high marine biodiversity has great potential for ecotourism, but only and if it’s ecological condition is first significantly improved. Indeed, it will redound to everyone’s benefit to rehabilitate the coastal and fisheries resources of Danajon Bank.

Talibon Fisheries and Coastal Resource Management Interpretive Center (FCRMIC)

Napaling Dive; Doljo Point; Pungtud Wall; Danao/Habagat Wreck Dive Site; Danao/Garden Eels Dive Site; Tawala/House Reef Dive Site; Bolod/BBC Dive Site; Danao/Crystal Sanctuary; Tangnan/Momo Beach Dive Site; Doljo/House Reef; Kalipayan Dive Site; Arco Point (The Hole in the wall); Cervera Shoal (Spaghetti Shoal);

Balicasag Island
Rico's Wall; Rudy's Rock; Black Forest; Cathedral Dive Site; Divers Heaven Dive Site

Pamilacan Island
Pamilacan Island-Northwest Side

Cabilao Island
Cabilao Diving

Danajon Bank or Double Barrier Reef
Danajon Bank

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