Varadero Bay Tabinay
Puerto Galera is a 3rd Class municipality in the province of Oriental Mindoro, Philippines. According to the 2000 census, it has a population of 21,925 people in 4,424 households. It is the northwestern most municipality in Oriental Mindoro.
Puerto Galera is only three and a half hour away from Manila first by bus to the port at Batangas City and then by boat. Tourists can also take the tourist service called the Sikat, from the City State Tower Hotel in Manila from the Batangas City port to Puerto Galera or Sabang Beach, Mindoro.
This coastal town is well known among tourists for its numerous pocket beaches and many snorkeling and Scuba diving spots. The area was designated a Man and Biosphere Reserve of UNESCO in 1973 and has some of the most diverse coral reef diving in Asia. The marine environment has benefited in recent years from the influx of tourist dollars. This has seen a huge reduction in the number of fishermen in the area, as they gain higher revenue from tourists.
Puerto Galera is a listed by the Club of the Most Beautiful Bays of the World, and is the only bay in the Philippines to be listed there.
Among the famous beaches in Puerto Galera are Sabang beach and White beach, which have an active nightlife with numerous bars and restaurants. Both beaches also have an array of first-class and economy-class accommodations.
Sabang beach is the main destination for foreign tourists, while White Beach remains popular with local travelers. Since 2001 White beach has seen uncontrolled development. New restaurants and places to stay are rapidly encroaching on the beach itself and little remains of the once charming beach. Puerto Galera town is a pleasant but sleepy Philippine town with few attractions. It has a large central catholic church and a Pier area, with a selection of bistros and cafes. Since a few years however there are more and more clubs with pole dancers and strippers and pickup bars mainly exploited by Australians. Since the new millenium it has a steady growing sex industry.
Behind the beaches are the huge and generally unexplored mountain ranges of central Mindoro. A particular local attraction is the nine hole golf course perched on the hillside above White beach which commands spectacular views over Puerto Galera's natural harbor and the Verde Island Passage. Mangyan tribes are scattered over the mountains sides - some of the more remote tribes have no contact with the outside world. Of the eight tribes on Mindoro, the Iraya are the largest. They are based in the Puerto Galera area.
Puerto Galera has become the top diving destination in the Philippines. Excellent diving is found less than 5 minutes from the Sabang area. The diving generally focuses around the areas either side of Escarceo Point which is famous for its current rips. Strong currents are a feature of the diving in Puerto Galera and it is good advice to employ the services of an experienced local guide or dive centre. There are upwards of thirty dive sites all within a 5-10 minute banca ride from Sabang beach. Marine life is highly diverse. 180+ species of nudibranchs are found in the area and most species of fish can be seen A variety of wrecks have been sunk over the years in addition to the one genuine wreck of an engine of a WWII Japanese patrol boat.
Puerto Galera is also one of the main technical diving destinations in Asia. Technical Diving International - [TDI] has many dive centers in the area, offering the full range of TDI courses from Basic nitrox to advanced trimix.
In the summer of 1998 there was some extensive coral bleaching around Medio Island and a large section of shallow reef ('Coral Gardens') was virtually destroyed. Recent evidence has shown it have almost recovered with a larger diversity of coral species, replacing the prolific table corals.
In 2006 two large super-typhoons damaged the shallow areas around Escarceo Point. Typhoon Chanchu and Typhoon RiemMany of the faster growing coral species were destroyed to a depth of 6m. This represented about 5% of the coral reef in the area. Since mid-2008 there are extensive signs of new coral recruitment. Acropora species (staghorn and table coral) are rapidly recolonating the area, with 10~20cm growths. Within a few years most of the damaged coral will have been replaced
During the period 2001~2005 large numbers of crown-of-thorns (COTs) starfish migrated to Puerto Galera from adjacent areas. While most of the reef was unaffected, a few sites showed COTs density in the thousands/per hectare. A program run by the local dive shop association removed tens of thousands of COTs. Whether this had any real impact on the long term health of the coral reef remains to be seen. Control was made by injecting the COTs with a solution of swimming pool PH-control chemicals.
By 2008 the density of COTs had greatly reduced, down to a 'normal' range of 30 per hectare. This seems to have been a natural reduction, rather than due to any collection program.
A study by the University of the Philippines in the 1980s, found that the Batangas, Puerto Galera area has the highest diversity of marine species in the world. It forms the centre of the golden triangle - The Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia - renowned for their coral and fish species.
Puerto Galera is politically subdivided into 13 barangays.
Editor for Asisbiz: Matthew Laird Acred
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