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Danjugan Island - A Real Ecotourism Sanctuary


How do you protect a 43-hectare island from degradation?

For the longest time, the tiny island of Danjugan in the town of Cauyan in Negros Occidental had been subjected to a lot of the usual human-induced pressures. Its beach forests were cleared to give way to coconut plantations, and its surrounding seas and coral reefs were subjected to all forms of destructive fishing, foremost of which were dynamite fishing and the use of cyanide.

Add to this, a mining site in the nearby mainland of Negros was dumping unimaginable amounts of silt that smothered what was little left of the marine resource in the municipality. It was the usual story of a spiral towards environmental demise, and along with it, the way of living of the people in the area.



















So, how do you save an island from that sorry conclusion and revive its ecological functions?

For a non-government organization named Philippine Reef and Rainforest Conservation Foundation, Inc. (PRRFCI), a pioneering strategy (at least in the Philippines) was to buy the whole island!

With funding coming from a British NGO called World Wide Land Conservation Trust and from the wallets of its Bacolod-based members, they were able to raise enough funds to purchase the island. Fortunately, the only structures situated on the island were of the caretaker's and his house was replaced by a ranger and research station.

Destructive and invasive species (like cats!) were deported to the mainland to save the remaining bird populations. Yes, ferral cats have been responsible for killing a lot of birds in natural areas. What's more concerning about cats is that they kill birds and other small animals just for fun and not for food! One cat can kill as many as 20 birds in one night. Ground birds such as some species of doves are most vulnerable to cat attacks. Passenger rats are also being eliminated with the use of traps as they really create havoc both to plant and animal life in that small sanctuary.

With the help of the local population and the local government unit, the coral reefs in the area were also protected from destructive and illegal fishing methods. And fortunately, the nearby mining company shut its operation.

Those events happened more than 15 years ago.

And now, Danjugan Island has turned into an ecological jewel that is able to regain its natural beauty and environmental functions. It also provided the locals an opportunity to more sustainable fishing livelihood...... and a bonus in pride and bragging rights that they have done something very significant.

All those 15 years that Danjugan was struggling to regain its footing, groups of "tourists" or volunteers have made the island their piece of paradise and laboratory, courtesy of Coral Cay Conservation (CCC). CCC is another UK-based organization that brings volunteers to places where they do environmental assessments and community works.

Now that the stint of CCC is over and there is a need to continue protecting Danjugan Island. Ecotourists are welcome to visit the island and witness (and enjoy) what real ecotourism destination is all about.

With only about 25 tourists allowed to stay overnight on the island, this destination can offer its visitors exclusivity in communing with nature. You can even "rent" the whole island with nine of your friends! Or if you came to the island with a group, you can decide to hie off alone to a lagoon, a cove, or a shallow snorkeling area and enjoy the whole area all by your self.

A real natural environment, you can do birdwatching and see the nest of sea eagles situated just at the back of the accommodation units.

With an almost 100% live coral cover in the reef areas, snorkeling and scuba diving are the top activities in Danjugan Island.

When I say real ecotourism destination, that would include real ecotourism facilities such as ecolodges. Yes, the sleeping units do not conform to comfort creatures but to people with the genuine interest to commune with nature.

There are no air-conditioning amenities and electricity is limited to light bulbs as solar power is the only source of energy on the island. Even waste in the comfort rooms are sanitized through composting and the use of indigenous enzymes (you've got to see it to believe it!).

I really hope that Danjugan Island becomes a major ecotourism destination in the Philippines just to show to the Filipinos (and the whole world!) that ecotourism indeed works in saving our natural environment and providing the economic needs of the locals.


Im just a bit affected that some dive resorts operated by foreigners are not including Danjugan as part of their tour programs just because they don't want to pay any user's fee. They would rather bring their visitors to nearby reefs that are less impressive, but they could dive for free. Said reefs, by the way, also regenerated because of the influence brought by the Danjugan Island conservation initiatives. Now, how do you explain that to the locals who can see the divers and the resort operators enjoying their resources for free? Anyways, I think I should not make this an issue since I believe that people who don't want to be part of environmental efforts do not deserve to see and experience the rewards to being in those areas. At least it gives more space for those real ecotourists and operators to enjoy the destinations.

How do you get to Danjugan? The town of Cauyan is about three hours away from Bacolod City (almost the same travel time if coming from Dumaguete City). From the coastal village of Punta Bulata, the island is a just a 10-minute ride away by boat.

Please contact PRRFCI if you want to visit the island.

To know more about Danjugan Island, you can click on this link: http://www.prrcf.org/about_danjugan.html

or contact:
Philippine Reef & Rainforest Conservation Foundation, Inc.
12 San Antonio St, Sta Clara Subd, Bacolod City 6100
Philippines

Contact Person: Gerardo Ledesma (President)
E-mail: mailto:mglledesma@gmail.comTel. +63 (34) 441 1617
Fax. +63 (34) 4410855

Some photos courtesy of Gerry Ledesma (aerial shot, hawksbill turtle, facilities)



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1 comment:

  1. We are currently building a dive center close to danjugan... Philippine Bluewater Expeditions offers dive tours to danjugan! Situated in punta bulata resort which is only 10mins from the island we are in the best position to offer diving tours for this marine sanctuary. For more information visit www.bluewaterexpeditions.net or email info@bluewaterexpeditions.net and we would be glad to arrange a dive trip for you.

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