Meet Sarangani Bay, the 230-KM Coastal Wonder of Southern Philippines
Bernard Supetran | May 15, 2020
Down south in Mindanao, Sarangani Bay is one of the less-heralded coastal wonders of the country. Embraced by six coastal towns of Sarangani province and Gen. Santos City, the 215,950-hectare bay is listed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources as a Key Marine Biodiversity Area. Its waters boast of coral resources covering 2,293 hectares, 60 important live hard coral genera, 411 reef species, and 11 species of seagrass, making it a rich fishing ground. In recent months, the DENR has spotted various species of dolphins, killer whales, dwarf, and pygmy sperm whales that occasionally appear in the bay.
Sarangani Bay is also an economic powerhouse. It is host to the Gen. Santos City Fishport where export-quality tuna caught from the high seas of the west Pacific Ocean’s pockets, as well as other aquatic resources, are unloaded before market distribution. The volume of tuna yield has earned the city the distinction of being the country’s tuna capital. As a shipping hub, Sarangani Bay is home to Makar Wharf in Gen. Santos, a potential international transshipment port in the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area. Sarangani Bay also hosts several ship-building facilities and shipyards that support southern Mindanao’s fishing industry.Arguably, however, Sarangani Bay’s most interesting asset is its 230+ km coastline that makes it a haven for beach lovers and water sports recreation. These shores turn into a hive of watersports and family-oriented recreation during the Sarangani Bay (SarBay) Festival, the country’s biggest beach party of watersports, wellness, and musical events, which lures some 150,000 merrymakers annually. The summer-time extravaganza, though, has been called off this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
[related: Sarangani Bay Festival Bats for Mother Earth]
Dubbed the “Boracay of Mindanao,” Gumasa emerged 45th place in the prestigious Australia-based Flight Network’s Asia’s Top 50 Beaches in 2018 because of its mile-long stretch of powdery white sand and crystalline waters. Beach lovers will find a charming retreat in Gumasa Beach in Glan, a quiet escape without the maddening crowd: a beachfront dotted with cozy boutique resorts offering culinary treats and stunning panoramas.
On the western side of Sarangani Bay, sun worshippers can laze in the sun, sea, and sand at Tuka Beach, a patch of powdery sand tucked at a secluded cove in Kiamba. Its piece de resistance is the marine park, a protected sanctuary where fishes spawn, making it a haven for snorkeling and free diving.
In Maitum, the coastal waters are the habitat of the flying fish known locally as bangsi, the major product and source of livelihood for the townsfolk. It inspired the inception of the municipality’s Bangsi Festival.
Because of its lush marine life, the bay has been declared by the Department of Tourism as a scuba diving haven in the Soccsksargen Region in 2017 at a dive safari. At various points of the bay, divers can sight yellowfin tuna, dolphins, clown fishes, lionfishes, sergeant fishes, sea turtles, whale sharks, cheilinus undulatos (Mameng), dugongs (sea cows), and an assortment of exotic aquatic life. Scuba divers will be mesmerized by the remarkable assemblage of coral and aquatic animal life at the so-called Tinoto Wall right below Lemlunay Resort in Maasim town, the province’s top dive spot. Within the municipal waters is Maasim Reef which abounds in of juvenile white-tipped sharks, huge fan corals and gigantic bat fishes, and astounding gardens of marine flora.
The Sarangani Bay Protected Seascape proclamation will mark its silver year in 2021. Plans are afoot to mark this milestone. Early this year, DENR Region 12 spearheaded the first-ever SBPS Week to highlight the efforts to protect and conserve its coastal and marine resources. Fringe activities included a 3-day environmental forum and enforcement summit, trash to art, mass dance and logo making competitions, and the search for the SBPS Ambassadress. Because of the event’s success, the SBPS Protected Area Management Board declared March 5 as the annual SBPS Day, and directed local government units, partner organizations, and other stakeholders, to take part in the observance.
Sarangani governor and PAMB Vice-Chair Steve Solon lauded the maiden celebration, saying it symbolizes the commitment of stakeholders in preserving the bay as a shelter and source of livelihood and life for the areas around it. He said that the provincial government is helping preserve its ecosystem through its Sulong Kalikasan program and the Environmental Conservation and Protection Center.