Molopolo Fish and Bird Sanctuary: The Emerging New Diving Capital in Leyte

Several international and local travelers visit Southern Leyte for the pristine reef diving and snorkeling, from just outside Maasin City, all the way around Sogod Bay via Padre Burgos. One of these diving and snorkeling sites is the Molopolo Bird and Fish Sanctuary in the municipality of Macrohon.

A photo of the shoreline of Monolopo Bird and fish Sanctuary
A photo of the shoreline of Monolopo Bird and fish Sanctuary

Where to go

Molopolo Bird and Fish Sanctuary has been placed third as the 2013 Best Marine Protected Area (MPA) Award. This 25-hectare lot that straddles between the barangays of Molopolo and Sta. Cruz is a home to virgin coral reefs, variety of marine life such as sharks, rays, twin giant clams, some 30 species of fish, wild ducks and various species of migratory birds.

Finding Nemo photo by Molopolo fish and Birds Sanctuary FB
Finding Nemo photo by Molopolo fish and Birds Sanctuary FB

The town where this sanctuary is located has a land area of 120 hectares. The town center is 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) away from Maasin City, which is the capital of Southern Leyte; and is 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) away from the town of Padre Burgos. Its coastline has many mangroves, resort beaches and springs. A tiny islet named Barangay Molopolo became a barrio since 1845, a name from the abundant mangrove trees along the coast.

A photo of tourists feeding the fishes with bread crumbs
A photo of tourists feeding the fishes with bread crumbs

How to get there

By just traveling 15 minutes from Maasin City and along Macrohonís national highway the fish and bird sanctuary is one of the most accessible tourist spots in Southern Leyte. If you are from the western part you can take the Baybay-Bato-Maasin route and the central part by the Mahaplag-Baybay-Maasin road via the Maharlika Highway.

There are five designated bus terminals in Southern Leyte: Maasin, Liloan, Sogod, Hinunangan and Silago. But these terminals are open spaces used by buses as parking areas and are therefore not equipped with buildings and other facilities. There are at least four (4) bus companies taking the Manila-Maasin route: Philtranco, Cedec, Inland Trailways and Ciudad. Bachelor takes the Ormoc-Maasin-Davao route.

Land Transportation

Tacloban ñ Maasin: 220 pesos per person
Ormoc-Maasin: 150 pesos per person
Baybay-Maasin: 110 pesos per person

A view of the bamboo bridge to the fish sanctuary where you can feed them
A view of the bamboo bridge to the fish sanctuary where you can feed them photo from http://ishare.com.ph/

Air Transportation

If you are brave enough to fly in the clouds, you can also go to Macrohon through airplane. To get to Southern Leyte by plane one has to fly to Tacloban Airport and take a bus/ or private van from there to any point in Southern Leyte. The province has only one existing airport that is located in Pananawan, Maasin. This airport is considered a feeder airport with a total runway length of 1200 meters and width of 30 meters. At present, however, the airport does not service any commercial flights.

By sea, travel to Cebu from Maasin port takes an average of 6 hours by ship and 2 hours by Supercat and Oceajet. A ferryboat from Liloan to Surigao takes 3 hours. Southern Leyte has a total of 12 seaports, 2 of which are declared as national ports, the Maasin and Liloan ports and the 10 are municipal ports. The port of Hilongos is another sea route to Cebu. The port of Bato in Leyte, is a connecting point to Ubay in Bohol. From Maasin port, you can take a multicab and travel to Macrohon for 15 minutes.

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Water Transportation

Cebu-Ormoc: 660 pesos per person
Cebu-Maasin: 600 fastcraft/ 450 ship per person

Where to stay

Being a road less travelled by, Southern Leyte offers peaceful and meditative retreats in the way of out-of-the-way shores and ancient citadels of faith. In recent years, there has been a drive to promote tourism in the region. There is a new Zoo and Wildlife Park in Brgy. Danao, Maasin City. Not far from Sogod is a zip line over the tallest bridge in the Philippines. There are also an increasing number of non-divers who come to see the Whale Sharks between October and April. With this increase in numbers, there is also a selection of new hotels along the coast.

Unfortunately there are no hotels situated in Macrohon but there are a lot in Maasin City. Here are some:
Jaimee’s Hotel & Resort

Enjoy great services, state-of-the-art facilities, excellent food and amnesties. This hotel is perfectly located Barangay, Ibarra Beach (near Maasin City, Southern Leyte) to allow travelers explore all the beautiful places that Southern Leyte has to offer. You can call them, +63 535701040 or email, reservations@jaimeeshotel.com.

Ampil Pensione

If you are in tight budget, you may opt to stay here! Enjoy exceptional service, comfort and convenience in a very affordable price. Delight in their economy rooms at 250 pesos per head for a twin bed with fan and 125 pesos per head for triple and quadruple beds. You may also enjoy their standard room (450 pesos/night), deluxe room (550 pesos/night) and superior suite (800 pesos/night). You may contact them at (053) 570-8084 for your reservations.

GV Hotels

Located in Tomas Oppus Street in Maasin City. Practical accommodations that include all basic amenities without the extra cost makes GV Hotel a great choice for budget travelers. Their room rates starts at 350. Call them at +63 53 523-0267.

What to do

It became popular because of its fish feeding activity. The visitors can buy specially-baked bread in the MPA canteen. There are also 10 designated areas for snorkeling. A tour is available in the site and witness the diverse and abundant marine life with a see-through glass bottom boat. It is also the hatching ground for sea turtles. Too, some of their abaca-based products, ceramics and handicraft items made from coconut and bamboo are also displayed in their one-stop-shop display area.

The mating call of wild ducks and sea cranes can be heard upon reaching the sanctuary. The beautiful beach itself invites the visitors to swim and have fun splashing to its clear and solemn waters.
If you have no fear of heights you can climb the observation tower and have a panoramic view of the mangrove forests which protect both sides of the sanctuary and of the pristine reefs which is only one kilometer away.

However, your visit will not be complete if you donít traverse the long bamboo bridge that leads to the protected marine grounds and feed the different variety of fish there.

An aerial view of Molopolo Fish Sanctuary from Google Maps
An aerial view of Molopolo Fish Sanctuary from Google Maps

The impressive reef which is one kilometer from shore has been Christened ìunofficiallyî as the Ruperto Kangleon Reef. But of course, this must be formalized by Macrohonís beautiful Mayor Fe Edillo in a ceremony befitting Southern Leyteís greatest war hero.

The beauty of this place can never be denied. It is like a paradise set by God before our eyes. Thus, this deserves to be promoted and protected as well. The area also has unique features which could be interesting and educational for visitors who do not only want to have fun but also to learn new things.

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