Mother Nature has a peculiar way of hiding her wonders. It’s as if she chooses who she wants to witness her amazing spectacles. For instance, snorkelers often encounter murky water that reduces visibility. Mountaineers only have a small window of time to reach the summit. Scuba divers need to dive in specific spots and conditions to see sardine runs, cleaning stations, coral spawning, and more.
The Magpupungko Tide Pools in Pilar, Siargao is one of these mildly temperamental wonders. A bit of good timing and luck is needed so you can experience their full splendor.
To understand why, you need to know what tide pools are.
Tide pools are cavities on intertidal zones or shoreline areas that are covered with water during high tide and fully exposed during low tide. Tidal pools are most often found on coraline cliffs because these rock formations are easily eroded by the constant motion of the waves and wind.
During high tide, the sea covers these pools, making them indiscernible. However, when the tide ebbs, seawater becomes trapped in these cavities, forming the Magpupungko tide pools.
The unique geography of the Magpupungko tide pools is stunning and surprising. During low tide, a shallow rocky shelf becomes visible between the pools and the open sea, forming a rough ridge which you can walk on. It’s pretty cool knowing that you are strolling on shin-deep water. But on one side, there are the aquamarine pools that may be several feet deep, and on the other side, the infinite depths of the Pacific Ocean.
The rock formations are equally awesome. There are two large and tall promontories just off the shore, one of which is leaning towards the other like a lover.
But the crown of it all is a mammoth sphere that sits precariously, yet perfectly balanced, on a rock shelf at the Magpupungko tide pools. How did it get there?
Locals call this place Magpupungko due to this rock’s position; it appears to be squatting on one another. In the Visayan dialect, pungko means “to squat,” and after adding prefixes, it’s easy to understand why the name Magpupungko fits perfectly.
Now let’s talk about the Magpupungko tide pools themselves. There are actually several tide pools that line the shore. They all vary in depth, some just a few feet deep and covered with a soft layer of sand.
Others are several feet deep, and you need to dive in to reach the bottom. The clearest aquamarine gives some of the pools a beautiful calming hue as if a piece of the sky turned upside down. The water is so transparent that corals and rock formations can be clearly seen on the surface even if they are several meters deep.
Others pools are filled with brown kelp and seaweeds that appear to be small landmasses. If you don’t know how to swim, you better keep off these carpets of kelp; the pool underneath them may be quite deep.
Rock outcroppings rise out from deep pools. More adventurous guests can climb up on these rocks and use them as makeshift diving platforms. Don’t worry, the water is deep enough so that you will land safely in the water.
Because of Magpupungko tidal pools’ unique geography, it is also home to some unique marine life. The combined onslaught of continuously rising and receding tides, exposure to the sun, entrapment of seawater, and the battering of the waves means that only the hardiest marine organisms can survive and flourish in these harsh environs.
Thus, the pools are home to reef-building hard corals such as elephant ears and brain corals. Sea palms and kelp grow healthily at the bottom of the pools, forming a kind of underwater forest. Special kinds of anemones, fish, shellfish, starfish, and mollusks make their homes in the crevices and nooks of these pools.
Venomous sea kraits also inhabit some of these pools. But don’t worry, they’re so shy that they hide whenever they sense humans coming into their turf. That makes them totally harmless.
After a couple of hours in the pool, you may feel a little bit nostalgic about resting in a real beach. Well, there’s a stretch of white-sand beach just right beside the pools. In fact, this beach is the gateway to the pools.
Magpupungko tide pools are truly a spectacle of Mother Nature. They are natural treasures that ought to be protected and cherished. They are habitats of some of the most unique flora and fauna in our seas. And of course, they are providers of wonder and adventure.
Visit the Magpupungko Tide Pools in Pilar, Siargao now!
From General Luna or Cloud 9 in Siargao, hire a habal-habal to take you to the Magpupungko tide pools in Pilar. There’s no fixed rate, but the rate should be around₱300 to ₱400 per motorcycle.
Featured image from Nicko R’s looloo review