Diving in North Cebu!

What about discovering a paradise island in a remote place, coupled with amazing dives! Imagine a stretch of white beach, idyllic environment, summer breeze and the depths… A tiny island in the northern most tip of Cebu province lies Malapascua – a dive destination every diver wouldn’t want to miss, the home of tresher sharks! And Kalanggaman – a virgin and unheard island belonging to Palompon, Leyte.  Angel has been raving about this unknown island which I didn’t seriously consider as our future destination.  But when I discovered that it’s one of exotic sites  in north Cebu diving, we included it in our list of dream destinations.  Angel and I has been looking forward for our Easter break, exploring the depths in these two interesting and intriguing islands  –  was just a perfect summer get away for our weary souls…

 Long Weekend

Our sked for north Cebu has been set many months ago and have chosen weekend after Easter, since it’s a long weekend, no need to get a leave from work.   It was a long week and arriving home on brownout, I packed up my gears almost midnight after a nap to make most of the time.  I only had about three hours sleep as I need to wake up early for my flight. I sneak away again from home while everyone still asleep.  😛  Luckily, I bumped no one I know at the airport – I’ve always wanted my get-aways private, I just don’t want to chatter about things explaining my trip.  I was rewarded with great sights when we get airborne – over Bohol, hundreds of choco hills and the islands of Panglao, Balicasag & Pamilacan, plus a colorful rainbow!  I always took rainbows as a sign of a great wonderful trip…

 It was a sunny morning when we touched down Mactan International Airport, and every time I set foot in Cebu, I had that proverbial feeling that I’m on familiar grounds like home.  Actually, this place has always been my fave get away aside from being venues on conferences, conventions or meetings relative to work. In short, I always landed in Cebu work wise or just plain whims to transport myself to another location to break the tedium of things. I had good friends also in this city.

 I met up with Angel at the North Bus Terminal for our trip to Maya, it was our first to visit north of the province just like when we went to Moalboal last year, our first visit to the south. It was a long trip passing coastal towns of Consolacion, Liloan, Compostela, Carmen, Catmon, Sogod, Tabogon, Bogo & Daan Bantayan and city of Danao. When we reached Maya, the summer heat was scorching but watching the island from afar revives my spirit, excited what’s in store for us for the next two days! We cruised for Malapascua for 30 minutes but made longer since guests were dropped in different locations respectively,  good for us since the boat  docked right at Bounty beach near our lodge at Mike & Diose’s Beach Cottage. I was almost running after I jumped out of the boat to our lodge – the sight was enthralling! Although we booked on budget room, it was decent and comfy enough and I was amused with the mosquito net, drape style like those kinds seen on queen’s room.  🙂

Backpackers Dream

Angel and I were just thrilled and wanted to do things fast, we rushed to unpack our gears and to hang out our wet suit (folding it is a no-no), and we need to check at the dive shop for the skeds. We found out that the only means of transpo in the island are single motors traversing the foot path or trails.  Divelink is quite distant from our lodge so we were transported courtesy by our host.  Indeed, the dive shop shared a building with the Tresher Shark Research and Protection Center. Voila! The dive shop was kind enough to accommodate our requests: morning dive at Monad Shoal and two dives at Kalanggaman Island!  🙂  In the last days I was trying to negotiate for Kalanggaman, calling other dive shops but was never encouraging as they will need at least eight divers. Actually, the staffs at Divelink were generally friendly and I was delighted that they knew my dive mentor personally.  🙂  After settling things for the dive trip we retraced our way back to our lodge.

 We went back on foot asking directions from the locals but we had our first stop for our late lunch (3pm) at Gingging Flower Garden – good food but never pricey. We made stops also to buy our needs for the next two days until we finally get back to the cottage – whew! – it was a maze-like trails. We wanted to make most of our time as it was nearing dusk. Get around the place, took photos, look out into the beach, and finally had our refreshing swim in the blue, blue waters. So relaxing… I guess our chosen lodge seems a perfect place for this Easter break.  Ah, this is island living!

 We agreed to retire on bed early as we need to be up at 4am, so after our hot drinks, pep talk, stories and laughter , we set our alarms and yield to our tired bodies and hop to our “queenly” beds and doze off!   🙂

Milestone Dive

As usual I woke up earlier than Angel, I had preliminaries to do – set up UW cam hoping it would still work and my contacts. So far, this is my earliest dive – Threshers are early sharks and so is cleaner wrasse. So we were required to be at the shop at 430am, you think that’s insane? None at all, if you want an encounter with the threshers!

It was my 50th dive – my requirement for logged dives enough to go for the Tubbataha trip! And I’ll be using first time my all new D4 computer…

It was still dark and we need a torch, clutching our gears we tried to find our way to Divelink hoping we won’t get lost in the maze-like trails, we don’t want to be late!  We arrived on time though, very much earlier than other divers. While waiting, DM Johan made a brief briefing for our first dive at Monad Shoal, I was getting excited when he said they sighted threshers and devil ray from yesterday’s descent! Angel and I were beaming and fervently hoping for the same surprise. 🙂  We finally left past 5am already, and when we reached the spot we found out that there were other dive boats already docked. We descent at 618am and positioned at the first cleaning station, we should stay 1 meter from the sea bed and wait until they come. Watching around numerous divers waiting, I was bit disappointed and felt it was too disturbing for the marine life. I stayed with Angel just nearby with our DM, not wanting to miss the events.  We waited almost holding our breath, the cleaner wrasses hovering obviously waiting also for the sharks, then suddenly out of nowhere a devil ray appeared, flapping its way upward as if to surfaced but there was no threshers. DM Johan motioned us to the next station and waited awhile but there was none, so we surfaced after 40 minutes and my air down to 40 bars.

We cruised back but missing the threshers never dampen our spirits, the early morning dive was too refreshing although bit cold 🙂 .  There’s something more in store for us for the day.  We rushed  back to our lodge on barefoot, we didn’t had our slip-ons and wearing booties in swimming attires looks funny! 😛  Imagine Angel and I walking fast in barefoot catching our breath but careful enough not to hurt our feet. It was an experience and it’s good walking on the sands, brisk walking is a good form of exercise! After a rushed breakfast, we walked back again to the shop as we were expected at 830am for the next site cruise. Well, it was a pretty sweaty morning!

Hidden Paradise

We arrived just in time for the cruise to Kalanggaman which took two hours, it was sunny and the waters calm – it was just a perfect day for our dream island escapade! Looking at the island from afar seems like one of those tropical paradise islands in Caribbean,   I guess there’s no need to go outside the country, because we have our own jewels just waiting to be discovered.  A white island with greens – it shines like pearl as what Angel described.  We had our first descent at the northern part – a wall only heaven knows how deep, but we agreed to be between 25-30 meters.  A steep wall covered with colorful corals – we were in different world enjoying the view in silence.  I had these awesome feeling every time I am in the midst of marine life, can’t be put in words. Perhaps only with Angel I share this overwhelming feeling. There were trigger fish, barracuda, damsels, anthias, common anemone fish, angelfish, butterfly fish. I pointed out a stonefish to Angel, which he tried to poke and it wiggled away, we jerked away not wanting to get contact with his poison!  But I never saw gorgonians or basket sponges.  We surfaced after 37 minutes with 29.7m as deepest with my air down to 40 bars.

As planned our surface interval was spent at Kalanggaman, which what we just wanted as we needed to set foot on our dream island 🙂  – Angel and I had our lunch there, walk on the stretch of white sands, took photos and had a swim. It was a surrender to sun, sea and sands! We hastily headed for the boat when the alarm call sounded – I wanted to explore more of the island maybe walk around its circumference.  Our next descent was at the southern part of the island, but as I jumped unto the water, I noticed some sounds at my back and informed DM Johan, he had my tank replaced as there was some leaking! I need to swim back to the boat for the necessary replacement.  Angel and I descend last as he waited for me. Angel and I stayed close as we follow other divers again exploring the reefs – it just felt good wallowing in the marine world.  We tried to search for critters, found a moray eel, a camouflaged clam, worms, few nudis. We just swam around until we got shallower on a sandy area and explored the reefs, hopping from colorful corals, we linger more until our air was down to 40 bars we surfaced away from others, and swam back to the boat.

We cruised back trying to relax for the two hour ride, somewhere halfway we spotted dolphins which made us all stand and went at the boat front to get a good view, but it didn’t last long. We arrived almost 5pm and took refuge at the shop while waiting for our gears.  After settling our bills and some pleasantries with Mr Gary, we headed to our lodge and a brief stop at Gingging Flower Garden to buy food for dinner. I guess we walked sluggishly perhaps  bit tired of the day’s events!

Another Time

We missed the threshers shark but we got what we planned for the trip, and we have more reason to be back in Malapascua Island next year, hopefully given the opportunity to have a spectacular encounter of the sharks!  We made most of our remaining hours, after gears rinsing and bath. We leisurely had dinner while discussing for the next months dive trips.    🙂 Diving will always be part of me, actually I needed it to keep things in balance, to keep me sane as they say. And nothing could be more wonderful than sharing amazing experience with a buddy who share the same passion and love for diving.

I got sunburns, reddish and bit painful but the pleasure was more than enough to cover the pain.  My sunkissed skin is just on the surface, something deep in me in mind and my heart is more important. Our short escape was sufficient to refuel our spirits for more challenges back at work and that’s  more than enough to keep me going.  Again the Lord has arranged all things for this wonderful trip,  all praises be to Him!

Watch out for our next spectacular dive trips!

NB We got no underwater photos during this dive since my cam went kaput!

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