[linked to the article: The 1st Hinatuan Enchanted River Head Spring Exploration]

Hinatuan’s Enchanted River underwater cave is a dissolution cave, judging from the walls of mainly limestone. There are neither coral formations nor speleothem formations.

Dissolution caves are formed when the aquifer is dissolved resulting in conversion of tiny water spaces into major cave-size cavities of varying dimensions over thousands (millions?) of years. The process of dissolution is caused by water on the earth’s surface being converted to weak carbonic acid (HCO₃) by the debris from dead vegetation. Carbonic acid, a strong solvent of limestone, then seeps down to the aquifer below.

A coral cave is formed by encircling growth of coral colonies.

Flooded caves, as the name implies, are dry caves in their earlier form which then get flooded in periods when the sea level rises, e.g. end of the last ice age (more than 10,000 years ago).

The Hinatuan’s Enchanted River cave system is uniquely high-flow, a tribute to the very high rainfall in the area brought about by the moisture-laden wind from the Pacific and theDiwata Mountain range. Mount Hilonghilong near Butuan City plays a particular role. As the moisture-laden wind from the Pacific hits northern Diwata, it is suddenly deflected upwards creating a sudden drop in temperature as it rapidly gains altitude thereby resulting in condensation of the moisture it carries. The heavy volume of water that sips into the aquifers and caves punches out to surface in strong outflows. Hinatuan’s Enchanted River cave system is one such.

The Hinatuan rainfall (2008) compared to the Philippines average (PAGASA)

Implications for Cave Diving:

There have only been a few underwater caves explored in the Visayas-Mindanao area. The earlier finds lack a common characteristic – high flow current. In the context of cave diving education and training, the Hinatuan Enchanted Underwater Cave offers a unique opportunity for skill development in entering high outflow systems. This and the tight vertical constriction of the long entrance to the chamber more than satisfy the cave diving skill requirements of “Propulsion against high outflow systems” and “Moving through constrictions”. This is the unique contribution of Hinatuan Enchanted Underwater Cave to cave diving and cave diving education in the eastern hemisphere. Heretofore, one would have to go to Little Indian River Spring in northern Florida (USA) to experience a high-outflow system.

The potential of cave diving tourism alone in Hinatuan is great. In the eastern hemisphere, the Asia and Oceania region, there are approximately 1 million scuba divers. One percent (10,000) are interested in cave diving. Until the discovery of Pawod cave in Mactan just a few years ago, one would have to go to Florida,USA for his/her cave certification.

Implications for Open Water Scuba Diving:

The Hinatuan Enchanted Spring offers a complete package in what should be an exciting scuba diving course. The terrain and visibility is perfect for skills development. Advance courses in deep diving, night diving, rescue diving, photography, etc. can be completed in the spring. The possibilities are endless. To add to the ambience of this exotic place, this will be a year-round training site, without regards to the inclement weathers of amihan and habagat.

Negative points of the area:

By far, the biggest problem is lack of hotel facilities in the area. In the short term, the diving community will be very happy with a modern camp ground within the Enchanted Spring area.

The campground has to have excellent bathroom and shower facilities and water and electrical connections. Presence of an international-standard camp ground will solve this problem at the moment. By nature divers in general and cave divers in particular are “outdoors-type”. The next problem is access to the area. Divers, by the very nature of their equipment-intensive activity, travel “heavy”.

The inter-island vessels plying the Cebu/Manila to Mindanao routes are more than acceptable for the international tourist. The overland trip from Nasipit port is acceptable. However, the local road to the Enchanted Spring is not. Serious thought has to be given to paving this 6.5-kilometer stretch from the main highway.

Access from the sea may also be considered for those divers travelling on boats. There is a strong possibility that a docking area can be developed about 600 meters from the head spring. The equipment and other goods would then be ferried to the site.

Lastly, the word has to get out somehow that the peace and order situation in north-eastern Mindanao is just as good as Cebu. People, especially outside of the Philippines, shudder under the thought of “going to Mindanao”.

Final Points:

“The more people are different, the more they are alike”. In the Mayan culture of Central America, half a world away, people refer to these springs as cenotes (sen-o-tes) which literally means “windows to the outside world”. This is the only means by which the underworld inhabitants – not criminal underworld, but what we would call in our culture as “enkanto” – can have a glimpse at the outside world.

The cave divers all over the world respect these beliefs; they refer to the dive sites as cenotes.  This Hinatuan wonder is a true fresh water spring, a cenote, perhaps the enkanto’s window to the outside world. In my publications and communications, I will refer to the area as Hinatuan’s Enchanted Spring.

Doc Amores 2010

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