With the end of 2015 fast approaching I felt it high time I test your concentration span with another of my “slightly” long emails. There hasn’t been much to report as far as activities here in Rawai Beach, but I did get away for a month-long trip to the Philippines which I’ll regale you with a bit later.

As a longtime shell collector I have amassed a rather large library of shell books. One of my favorite books on this subject is “The Compendium of Seashells” by R. Tucker Abbott and S. Peter Dance. First published in 1982 it has been republished several times and became probably the best selling shell book of the last fifty years. I had the pleasure of meeting both authors. In fact Tucker and his wife Cecilia visited my shell museum in Port Gamble several times and I spent a week camped-out in my motorhome in their backyard in Florida back in 1980. I also had the pleasure of meeting Peter Dance and am pleased to say that he will be paying us a visit here on Phuket this coming March. If you’re interested in coming to meet him, he’ll be here for a meet-and-greet at The Phuket Seashell Museum the weekend of March 5 – 6. Email me for more information – and you’re likely to see the formal announcement of the “affair” on my Facebook page as well as other sites devoted to shells and shell collecting.

Now on to the latest adventures in the Philippines. In the past I told you of Drew Skinner and I traveling to the Visaya region of the Republic of the Philippines last July/August. At the end of that trip we decided we’d try to get back to that area in 2015.

Drew flew into Phuket September 2nd to start his two-month sojourn to this part of the world – a week here, then nearly four weeks in the Philippines, and back to Phuket for the remainder of his trip. We departed Phuket on a direct flight to Manila. We left at midnight and were lucky to have a row of seats for each of us – as the only passengers in the row we were able to stretch out and get a bit of sleep. The flight, on Cebu Pacific, was smooth and we actually arrived in Manila thirty minutes early. But, we were soon to discover why the Manila Airport has been named either the worst airport in the world or in other years, the second worst. Our plane sat on the tarmac for 1.5 hours before there was an open gate so we could deplane. In making the flight reservations I had allowed a three + hour window between our flight landing in Manila and the flight to Cebu taking off. So the 90 minute delay didn’t affect our schedule.

We arrived in Cebu about 10:30 AM and were met by Philippe Poppe who took us to our hotel, the one I had used this past December, and then on to the offices of Conchology, Inc. We were to spend several days at these offices – Drew to exchange specimen shells with Guido Poppe for specimens to enhance his collection. I was to take the time to use Guido’s huge conchological library in my ongoing project “Shellers from the Past and the Present” – as I write this we have more than 32,500 people and nearly 8,000 photos on the Conchology, Inc.’s website. While here we were able to celebrate Guido’s birthday with his family and the staff – a special dinner at a waterfront restaurant, as well as a feast of two very delicious cakes at Conchology, Inc. My visits with the Poppes are always memorable, fun and enlighting and the time passes much too swiftly.

 

Drew and I had discussed where we wanted to spend the next three plus weeks. We definitely wanted to revisit the island Province of Siquijor, as well as the Santander/Oslob area at the southern end of Cebu Island. We had decided to only make a hotel reservation on Siquijor (where we stay, the resort only has three bungalows so it’s important to plan in advance). Otherwise we’d “play it by ear” (not sure where that saying originated). So we used the Internet to make our first reservation on Moalboal, Cebu. [even now, after three months, I’m still getting “we have found you accommodations in Moalboal, from several of the online reservation services I perused during my search while in Cebu]. We decided we wanted to be away from the areas with the most resorts and so made our reservation at the Moalboal Beach Resort (in reading reviews we were intrigued by descriptions of its nearby “swamp” and rocky beaches – we never want to stay in those resorts that brag about their sandy/white sand beaches – we want rocks and varied habitat to ensure we have a better chance to collect some interesting shells). So first a taxi ride from our hotel on Mactan Island, across the bridge to Cebu Island and a slow crawl (traffic here is really clogged) to the South Bus Terminal. A bus was to leave shortly (we made sure to get an air-conditioned vehicle) and we were soon on our way. The route first followed the western coast of Cebu, then it was up and up over some impressive mountains and then a swoop down to Moalboal. At the bus stop we engaged a tricycle (motorbike with canopy-covered side car) to take us to our resort. We had read that the final leg of the road to our destination was really rugged and that was no exaggeration.

We spent three great days at Moalboal Beach Resort and got such positive results with our collecting that we plan to return again and spend a longer time. The “swamp” proved just to be a mangrove area to one side of the resort and we collected a number of shell species that prefer that type of habitat. A short walk, at low tide, took us out to some small islets in the bay where we discovered areas of mud, other areas with corals and still others with sand and/or rocks. Each area yielded some nice shells for our collecting bags and too soon the incoming tide made us make our retreat to the resort.

At each place we stayed during this trip we had made certain that Wi-Fi was available. In some it was accessible in the room. At others it was accessible only in the “public” areas. This latter situation was true here. Since the resort is quite isolated we took all our meals at its restaurant as well as access the Internet there. This was not a problem as our room was only 50 feet away – the only time it was a problem was one evening when an hours-long downpour kept us in the restaurant for three hours (didn’t want to take the chance on getting the laptop or tablet wet). For the most part the food was quite good and we were able to persuade the staff to cook our shells for us so we could clean them at our leisure.

We did hire a tricycle for a trip to the Kwassin Falls. It was a fairly long drive and then a long (2 km) walk from the roadside parking area to the falls. But worth it all. The falls were very impressive, and even better we collected small land snails on the walk in and while at the falls found some large tree snails on some of the foliage nearby. Drew also got some spined nerites from the river.

After three days we again caught the air-con bus, but this time continued down the coast and around the tip to Santander (where we stayed last time) and on to Oslob. Here we stayed at a small family-run hotel (the Malonzo Pension House) and felt like “part of the family”. We visited another larger waterfall –Tumalag – but here the amount of water coming down the 100+ foot falls was less than it had been last year. But still impressive. We tried our luck collecting at several nearby beaches, but the tide situation didn’t give us much in the way of a low tide and we only collected a few specimens.

We had planned to next take the small ferry from Santander across to Dumaguete on Negros Island and find a place at the southern tip of that island. However, since we had had such a good time at Buco Beach Resort on Siquijor last year, we decided to skip Negros and add a few extra days to our stay on Siquijor. We didn’t regret this decision. I had been in contact with Mark and Elgie Reekie. Mark is from Bend, Oregon and married Elgie who is from Siquijor. When Mark retires (I think next year) they’ll make the move to their permanent home in San Juan on Siquijor. Not only will it be their home, but they are also building a large shell museum in San Juan. We spent several enjoyable days collecting with Elgie, land and freshwater species in the area of Lagason Falls, San Antonio and Lazi (the latter collecting in run-off from the rice paddies) as well as the tidal area near Buco Beach. Elgie was great – cheerful, fun to be with and very knowledgeable about shelling on Siquijor. Both Drew and I were impressed with the plans for the new shell museum and visited the site where construction appeared to be about 75% completed.

While on Siquijor I had a visit from my “grandson” Richard. He was on vacation from his job as a Registered Nurse in Saudi Arabia and flew down from Manila to join Drew and I for our last few days on Siquijor.

We left Siquijor and again crossed to Santander where the bus to Cebu awaited us at the ferry dock. We were to spend some more time with Guido, Philippe and Sheila, even taking a ride on their new boat down the channel between Mactan and Cebu Islands to a seaside restaurant for lunch.

 

Then it was back to Phuket, but I’ve jabbered enough for this email and will close with wish for you all to have a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays or just a pleasant Winter Solstice. And that 2016 will be your best year yet.

Regards to all.

Tom

Tom Rice

Rawai Beach, Phuket, The Kingdom of Thailand