Monday, June 3, 2013

Hibotkan Rock Sanctuary: Banate’s Most Popular Excursion

CPU sophomore tourism students with their  BBRMCI guides during their snorkeling activity in Hibotkan, Banate, Iloilo for TUMANDOK 2012, photo by Nene Paguntalan



Many coastal and marine attractions in the province of Iloilo have the potential to provide crucial ecotourism positioning for the region. Some destinations are already developed. However, protection and promotion remain constraints.




Outdoor recreational programs in the northern towns in Iloilo have gained wide popularity among domestic travelers, especially students and young professionals. With its warm and crystal-clear waters, it is home to some of Iloilo’s best snorkeling hot spots. Some sites have shallow waters and others plunge down to great depths, but wherever you go in the area, beautiful coral gardens provide abodes for hundreds of brightly colored tropical fish. 


as seen only during low tide, Hibotkan is a haven for the snorkeling tourists, photo by Nene Paguntalan


When it comes to getting wet and interacting with the underwater world, your adventure begins with a relaxing motorized boat ride to your first snorkeling stop to the beautiful and exotic Hibotkan Rock Sanctuary in Banate, Iloilo.




Teeming with life, the sanctuary covers 25 hectares but only 1 hectare is exposed to the sun during low tide. There 16 families of corals are found with 34 species being observed. The corals found in the sanctuary are a precious resource for Banate because of their beauty and biodiversity. They provide shelter for a wide variety of marine life and for the community with recreation. It is also abundant with tropical fishes.  It is found in between the municipal waters of town and Guimaras Strait and is a paradise for tourists who enjoy snorkeling, scuba diving and underwater photography. 





underwater photo taken in Hibotkan in Banate, Iloilo, photo courtesy of BBRMCI



Hibotkan forms part of the Marine Protected Areas found in the towns of Anilao and Barotac Nuevo and Viejo as members of the Banate Baywide Resource Management Council Incorporated or BBRMCI.




The BBRMCI is an active Council formed in 1996 supported by the Iloilo Provincial Government that promotes and implements programs on Coastal Resource Management. The declaration of these areas as protected via Municipal Order 001-1999 allows the protection of marine resources as well as the regulation of fishing operations and other activities in the area. It is also an educational and outdoor recreational council that actively supports the ecotourism program of the province with a view to building greater awareness and commitment to environmental protection. 





coral garden in Hibotkan, Banate, photo courtesy of BBRMCI



Before visitors could enjoy snorkeling in the area there, they would have to take a 3-kilometer motorized boat-ride from the Banate Seaport going to the Marine Sanctuary. From there, they will enjoy viewing the magnificent underwater world. This excursion is a truly unique and enjoyable experience.




Watch and listen as the professional staff from BBRMCI help you with your snorkeling skills as well as provide helpful information regarding the marine life and environment in the area. Complete snorkeling gears may also be rented out through the office.





CPU sophomore tourism students with their BBRMCI instructors explore the seas of Banate,
photo by Nene Paguntalan




The Iloilo Provincial Tourism Office is taking a district approach to tourism marketing by combining promotional efforts and is now acknowledged as sharing popularity unattainable by individual destinations. It has improved the growth in destination awareness with greater media exposure; and, improve product positioning with an effective branding and allegiance building among neighboring towns to rapidly penetrate its target markets.





taken in Hibotkan, Banate, photo courtesy of BBRMCI



So if you are feeling adventurous, hold one yourself! It is an experience you will never forget. There are lots of good places that have become a popular spot with local folks. Surprisingly, there are a number of inland resorts right around the poblacion area if one would plan to stay overnight. Opportunities to link the niche snorkeling markets with other land-based attractions have already been explored.

Banate is about 50 kilometers north from Iloilo City and offers good tourist attractions. To get to Banate, one can take a bus or van at Tagbak Terminal in Jaro, Iloilo City. For more information, please contact Miss Roselle Bactung at 09164002420 or at 3620068 or call the Office of Culture, Arts, History and Tourism of the Iloilo Provincial Government at telefax (033) 3384910.






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