2013 Saving Philippine Reefs Expedition: Moalboal

The Unico Conservation Foundation team featuring Denise Illing, Geoff Iling and Sheree Marris are back from this years Saving Philippine Reefs expedition at Moalboal. Moalboal is located about 90 kilometres from the province of Cebu city and lies in the waters of the Tañon Strait, which is a National Integrated Protected Areas System declared area. It boasts four locally- managed marine sanctuaries, which implement a user-fee system that generates income for the local communities.

Along with other volunteers from the UK, US and the Philippines, we set up base for the for the week-long expedition at Kasai Village Dive and Spa Resort, situated near a fishing village in the town of Moalboal. The accommodation, food and people were fabulous… not to mention the incredible dive sites around the area. But it’s more than a dive resort, it’s making a difference locally buy reinvesting back into the local community, up-skilling the locals, providing jobs and protecting nature through sustainable practices and responsible diving.

Under the guidance of Principal and Co-Principal Investigators Dr. Alan T. White and Dr. Aileen Maypa our bunch of marine enthusiasts surveyed the local marine protected areas in Moalboal and Badian by collecting the following information:

  • Percent bottom cover of living coral
  • Percent bottom cover of non-living reef substrates (e.g. rock, rubble, sand, dead coral)
  • Percent bottom cover of other living substrates (e.g. seagrass, algae, sponges)
  • Fish species diversity per unit area
  • Total number of fish individuals per unit area
  • Total number of fish species on the reef
  • Number of indicator species per unit area (e.g. butterflyfish, giant clams, lobsters, Triton shells, Crown-of-thorns seastars and others)
  • Presence of large marine life (e.g. sharks, manta rays, bumphead wrasses, sea turtles, whales and dolphins, and others)
  • Causes of coral damage
  • Presence of visitors or intruders in the area
  • Effectiveness of management protection in the area


The expedition was an enormous success with great accommodation, participants, weather, diving, and a stunning variety of marine life. It also gacve us the opportunity to hear about the latest research and projects that that talented team at CCEF were undertaking. It’s amazing to see what they can achieve with such little resources, which is just another reason why we support and respect the valuable work they do.

All the data collected during our expedition is currently being collated and summarised in a report, which will be circulated to key stakeholders in the Philippines and other countries. It will help guide and improve management efforts and give us an indication of the condition of the reefs and marine protected areas in Moalboal and Badian, Philippines. Stay tuned for the results.

To get a sense of how tough it is diving in these clear, warm tropical waters and the local marine life we were lucky enough to see check out our Moalboal gallery: Click here