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  • swimming toddler father

    We have more than 7,600 islands in the Philippines — we will never lack for breathtaking islands.
    PHOTO BY Alexine Parreno

    I met Adriana’s father scuba diving, so it’s safe to say our whole family loves the water. Adriana could very well be a mermaid when you see how comfortable she is in the sea. At 8 years old, she snorkels without fear in the open sea; and just this summer, she had her first scuba diving experience.

    Does this mean we spend on expensive resorts several times a year? Definitely not! We only average one to two beach trips, and we always choose inexpensive beach destinations.

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    Where to go in Negros Occidental

    In 2018 on two separate occasions, we snorkeled to see a shipwreck in Sipalay and visited Danjugan Island, a world-famous island and marine sanctuary, both located in Negros Occidental.

    The shipwreck in Sipalay was Adriana’s first snorkeling experience out in the open sea, far away from the beach. It turned out to be a great choice as we were all impressed with the corals and colorful fish in all sizes.

    Sipalay shipwreck Negros Cccidental
    We rented a fisherman’s bangka, and we paid less than Php2,000 for the whole boat including marine fees and lunch of inihaw na baboy also prepared by the fisherman!
    PHOTO BY Alexine Parreno

    At Danjugan Island, seeing all living things on land, sea, and air harmoniously coexist made us all question our desire for modernization. The rate is Php1,250 per adult for a day tour (ideal only if you stay at a resort nearby). Kids 6-12 are half-price, and 0-5 years are free.

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    In March 2019, I enrolled Adriana in formal swimming classes (Php4,000 for a beginner course). She only had lessons when she was 5 and has since managed to get by with her own version of “langoy-aso” or doggy-paddle. Seeing her swimming comfortably with proper form, assured us she was ready for bigger adventures. 

    After she completed her swimming classes, Adriana and I snorkeled in Carbin Reef in Sagay City, Negros Occidental, home to the largest marine reserve in the Philippines, covering an area of 32,000 hectares.

    snorkeling Carbin Reef
    This was our first mother-daughter beach adventure, and we braved the choppy water to see thriving giant clams in abundance, some even bigger than Adriana!
    PHOTO BY Alexine Parreno
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    A definite highlight for me was getting “punched” on the mask by a clownfish. I wasn’t anywhere near its anemone, but I guess the clownfish was just doing his role as a protective daddy.  

    We spent Php2,000 for boat transfers, canopy rental, environmental and entrance fees. The boat can fit more than 10 adults, so if traveling as a group, this comes out very cheap.

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    We then headed to Suyac Island Mangrove Eco Park, which was also in Sagay City. We saw 300-year old mangrove trees and went on a paddle tour of the island.

    Suyac Island Mangrove Eco Park
    Seeing the intricate mangrove ecosystem and how they are essential for our survival was a definite eye-opener.
    PHOTO BY Alexine Parreno
    Suyac Island Mangrove Eco Park Negros
    We spent Php360 per person, including entrance fee and paddle tour. Boat transfer is included with Carbin Reef boat rental.
    PHOTO BY Alexine Parreno
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    Where to go in Occidental Mindoro

    sea turtles Pandan Island
    In May 2019, we swam with sea turtles in Pandan Island in Occidental Mindoro.
    PHOTO BY Alexine Parreno

    At Pandan Island, turtle sightings are guaranteed every day, as often as you want. Definitely worth the long journey! The best part it’s only Php1,800 per night for accommodations!

    scuba diving for kids
    Adriana finally gets her scuba diving lesson (Php2,500 a session) at Bubble Maker Scuba Diving also in Pandan Island.
    PHOTO BY Alexine Parreno

    The minimum age for scuba diving is 8 years old, and it is typically done in a swimming pool. But it can also be done in the sea if the water is calm. We can’t begin to tell you how proud we were to see her underwater like a little pro!

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    These excursions not only gave my daughter the thrill of the experience and the health benefits of swimming. But our travels have helped me raise a better human.

    Children learn that the world is vast without having to use their passport.

    Seventy-one percent of the earth’s surface is covered in water, and the oceans hold 96.5% of all earth’s water. Adriana’s never been outside the Philippines, but she’s seen enough of the sea to know that it’s a big, big world.

    It’s better than Nat Geo, Animal Planet, Discovery, and all the educational channels on YouTube combined.

    Seeing marine life up close and personal can nurture their interests. You may have a future marine biologist, environmentalist, aquatic veterinarian, or marine environment economist.
    Seeing life underwater shows children the vulnerability of nature and the impact that humans make.

    We always find food wrappers, detergent and shampoo sachets several meters deep in beautiful coral gardens.
    PHOTO BY Alexine Parreno

    You can also find the trash in shallow waters; some even have fish and hermit crabs living in them. Coral bleaching and man-made damage to coral reefs are also common. Seeing marine life destroyed will inspire your child do something, no matter how small.

    Our little humans become braver and more open to challenges.

    It’s natural to fear the unknown, but once overcome, they’ll feel like a winner. Imagine us raising an entire generation of brave, nature-loving kids!

    For your next family getaway, we encourage you to select a beach destination with lots of marine life. Before your trip, have the family practice snorkeling in a swimming pool; if necessary, ask friends to teach you how to use a snorkel, mask, and fins. To get your kids interested, you can read fun underwater stories together.

    If your kids say they’re not yet ready, that’s okay too. What’s important is their constant exposure to the sea, and one day soon, they might also transform into little merfolk. Always make safety your priority when in the water, and we guarantee you’ll have the best family adventures!

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