Each year, a good number of migratory birds arrive in the Philippines to escape the harsh weather of the countries in the north. The Philippines has been an important stopover for these migratory birds since it is a part of the East-Asian-Australasian Flyway. These birds travel halfway across the world in search of food and a place to stay for winter.
Being a signatory of the Ramsar Convention or the Convention on Wetlands, the Philippines works to ensure a number of wetlands across the archipelago are well-maintained as part of a global effort to prevent the extinction of these migratory birds. The Philippines has six Ramsar sites, including the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecosystem Area, Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, Tubattaha Reefs Natural Park, Naujan Lake National Park, Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary and the Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary.
The Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary is located around four kilometers from the island of Mactan and around fifteen kilometers to the east of the Queen City of the South. It has the biggest concentration of migratory birds in the whole country. Of the 97 bird species in Olango Island, 48 species are migratory birds. The sanctuary serves as a stopover point for around 40,000 migratory birds during peak migration from November to February. These birds come from Japan, Northern China and Siberia. The place was proclaimed as a protected area on May 14, 1992 through Philippine Presidential Proclamation 903. The Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary is also among the first components of the National Protected Areas System (NIPAS Act) of 1992 or Republic Act 7586.
The Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary can be considered as a paradise for birdwatchers. The records of the sanctuary shows that some of the bird species seen during the migration period are the Little Egret, Common Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Terek Sandpiper, Little Heron, Chinese Egret, White-collared Kingfisher, and Olive-backed Sunbird, among others. The best time to view the birds is around two hours prior to the peak high tide from September to May. During this time, a huge concentration of birds can be seen at the sanctuary.
While the sanctuary is open from 9:00 AM until 5:00 PM from Monday to Sunday, it is closed on select Philippine holidays. The facilities at the sanctuary are very basic, which is essentially a small bathroom in the office. There are no lodging facilities at the sanctuary, but you can pitch a tent at a campsite close to the sanctuary itself. Since the sanctuary has no restaurant or convenience store, it is advisable to bring your own provisions if you are planning to stay overnight at the sanctuary.
How To Get There
Getting to the Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary will require you to take a pumpboat ride at the Punta Engaño Pier in Mactan to the Sta. Rosa Pier on the island. From the pier, take a tricycle to the sanctuary. Since tricycles do not normally pass through the sanctuary, it is advisable to negotiate with the driver for a roundtrip to and from the place.
The Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary plays a significant role in the survival of many local and migratory bird species. This significance was highlighted when vulnerable and near threatened bird species were spotted at the sanctuary. While bird-watching may not be something everyone would want to do, visiting the place can be a good way of understanding the importance of wetlands in the survival of a good number of bird species around the world.
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