In late 1997 I was a Founder and the President of the Lifeguard Association of General Santos City but that’s a future article! As a diver, someone gave me the idea to do check out dives in the waters fronting the recreational beaches to check for under water hazards which could be dangerous to customers! To me, this sounded like an interesting idea so I made my plans not only to check out what was under the water but to make sketch maps also! Now, as a diver I had never bothered to dive in this area before everyone said to me that it was no good and a waste of time diving there as there was nothing of interest to see but during the next few days I was amazed at the corals and marine life that I discovered all along that stretch of beach front! They were so wrong!
There is a row of Beach Resorts in the Bawing Area in one line along the beach starting with, Tropicana, Maharlika 1 and 2, Rajah, Dupalco and Family, the last two had nothing of interest under water but the first four had plenty! In my opinion, the best of the three beaches was and still is Maharlika 1!
There are two Beach Resorts, Maharlika 1 and 2 which are owned by two Muslim Brother! Maharlika 1 in my opinion is the best as the facilities are better! There are more than 200 day cottages and a small store, they do not sell alcohol but just outside the gates are probably 10 small stores all selling the local booze! On the beach are always plenty of local people trying to make a living by selling things to customers like watches, sun glasses, DVDs, nuts, ice cream, hammocks, cheap jewelry and cultured pearls, fresh fish and squid, even full roast pigs are for sale per KG at times! Basically if it can be carried then it can be sold! There used to be at least 10 Karaoke Machines all close together but luckily now they have all broken down so the beach stays quiet one again! Sometimes my preyers do get answered!
There is an area where the two Beach Resorts join and at low tide much of this are is out of the water and people always go there to turn over the rocks to find small crabs and shell fish! For some reason only known to themselves, the DENR Region 12 have taken a 1.2 Hectare piece of this exposed beach and made it a Marine Reserve and no Take Zone! There are signs stating that the area is protected but unfortualy nobody is there to enforce this law so the people still go there by the hundreds to gather shellfish!
Now, you might say, what is so special about this beach as so far it sounds just like any normal local beach but on this beach, just about 20 meters from the high tide mark there is a fresh water swimming pool which covers about 4,000 square meters and it is fed by a high flow natural spring! The water is much cooler than the ocean and it is only about 4 feet deep so its a pretty safe swimming area for most people! This pool is drained and cleaned every Friday and only takes about 4 to 6 hours to fill up again so it shows how much water is flowing through here!
At this time, I have done more than 1,000 Scuba Dives here as this place is my preferred Dive Training Site as I can do the confined water training in the pool if necessary and then into the ocean for the main diving practice! At the end of the Ocean dives we can just jump into the fresh water pool nce again with all our gear to both swill the salt water off of ourselves and also off our equipment! During the week the beach is usually quiet but on a weekend it can get very busy and on public holidays its total chaos as every cottage will be full of people! Now its very strange that all these people travel for many miles to get to the beach packed into trucks like sardines but most do not swim or anything, they just go into the cottage, eat, drink, sleep and go home! If that is the way that they enjoy themselves then good luck to them!
Now the diving is excellent as there is so much variation of things to see, there are both hard and soft corals which make great habitat for the marine creatures, there is sea grass where the Sea Horses, leaf Fish and Pipe Fish can easily blend in, there are sandy areas where the weird sand dwelling creatures like Snake Eels and Gobi’s live, Green Turtles are not uncommon and a resident shoal of Yellow Tail Barracuda are always present! Lion, Puffer, Surgeon Fish are plenty along with every-one’s favorite Nimo the Clown Fish who can be found in many colors!
A lot of divers, especially under water photographers like this area for Macro Photography which in simple terms means taking pictures of small creatures like Shrimps, Crabs, Snails and Sea Slugs (Nudibranchs) and anything else tiny that they can find! There are also some extremely rare creatures like the Weedy Scorpion Fish which looks like a weed and the Frog Fish which can swallow prey equal to its own body size, Bamboo Sharks which are small nocturnal hunters of shell fish can sometimes be seen on Night Dives! To date, no Underwater Photographer has gone away upset at not seeing good and interesting things! There is an excellent area for Snorkeling where the tops of the corals are just about 4 feet below the water surface but it is very rare to see anyone in this area as people do not know about it and do not ask!
All along this stretch of beach we have deployed over 2,000 Artificial Reef Domes, I will tell you about this very successful project in a later article! The first of these Domes were deployed at Maharlika!
This beach area could be really good if it was developed correctly as all the natural amenities are in place such as good access from the main road. The power supply is almost constant. There is an abundant supply of fresh water in the form of a spring! Great Diving and Snorkeling areas, even the sand on the beach is good even though its not white! Unfortunately, to attract tourists does not seem to be a priority for the government who want more business investment which is also good for the area!
I for one really hope that areas such as Maharlika and in fact the whole streach of beach can be preserved and improved for the future but unfortunatly big business is getting closer all the time so I am very afraid it all might dissappear! London Beach has already been sold for a Bio Fuel Depot and industry is movin in all the time! It will be a great shame if the local population has no place to swim because the rich people own all the beaches!