Sometimes we need to go somewhere, be it on surface or depths, just to be alone.
Coming to this lowly quiet town in Western Visayas was one of those quirky option after getting low cost airfare to Iloilo, its been some time since I last visited this heritage city. And being one of my favorite cities, coming again after a long lull was such pure bliss, much more for the depths! I just missed the randomness of going alone on the road.
It is far, secluded, bucolic, lowly and unexploited and in a deeper way held so much attraction to me. It is not in the diving map, diving trips in Panay is unheard of (except the expensive, touristy Boracay) at least for me. Despite challenges again, I arrived late (about 9pm) at the dive resort with my hosts eagerly waiting for me. Leaving home early to catch flight, I was more than twelve hours on the road. The desire was just too great for this surreptitious spell, my gills are utterly dry and my fins itching. The aborted dive plan in Zamboanga needs remedial compensation.
Complicated but not Hard
My DM was no less than the owner of The Divehouse, the initial plan was do an early first dive together with other two divers, but I end up alone with my DM separated from the others. I searched DM AJ’s eyes for an explanation.
“Complicated?” I echoed my answer in wonder. He smiled assuring it’s not a hard dive but somewhat complicated for the newbies, referring to other guests who were just certified recently. So we cruised going west off the town coast, catching a glimpse of the old town church partly hidden from trees. The captain dropped anchors after thirty minutes guided by GPS.
Our first descent was a site they called Mamam which was briefly described by DM AJ as with white sands, rock mounds, swim-throughs and good marine life. I jumped in to follow my DM about two minutes later. Only to find out later he was just checking if we got the right spot, but it was not so we need to abort as he signaled for up!
We made it in our second attempt, we found the shoal as we went deep at 30 meters. It was a small colony of diverse marine life: variety of tropical fish – moorish idol, damsels, midnight snappers, triggerfish, groupers, parrots, sea whips, sponge baskets, sea cucumber, variety of soft corals and more. The highlight of it was the resident school of barracudas – which I found intriguing. They didn’t quickly disappear but swam calmly away, but my DM led me to get an obstructed view behind tangles of whips and soft corals. Watching them swimming coyly among themselves as if relaxing was a wonderful sight, felt like I was in company with them in their abode! We ascend after 45 minutes with my air at 1200 psi, 33.4 meters as our deepest.
I had a long relaxing surface interval – late breakfast alone and long wait for the team with two boatful of other guests who went to Nogas Island. Cruising westward again for my last dive with DM Boy, my mind was racing for more surprises deep down expecting another rich encounter as in the first. They called the site Bao-bao, another unspoiled colony and a deep dive again. We descend through the anchor line slowly mindful of the afternoon current, and indeed it was another display of active and varied marine life. There were surgeons, butterfly, snappers, groupers, angels, banners, breams, anthias, sand perch, unicorns, sponges, soft and hard corals and more. I was amazed of the richness down the flat blue waters, somewhere down it held important dwellings of delicate and precious marine species. The highlight of which is the giant moray eel, it’s head big as coffee cup! I did spend moments just watching the eel in awe, I swear it was the biggest moray I have encountered. I went 32.5 meters as deepest after 45 minutes with 1200psi of air left. Both dives were in enriched air at 32%.
Discovering Anini-y in the depths was a real surprise, a revelation of the richness from this sleepy town in down south of Panay. Sometimes there are events that are just meant to be despite the challenges. There are people that comes our way who become instruments and inspiration for those important moments. The delayed flight, road traffic, late arrival for the transpo, costly taxi trip to the town, costly accommodation – it paid off without doubt! What I witnessed could never be put exactly in this account, it was another priceless encounter and treasures in my heart to keep.
Nogas Island, Anini-y Church, Siraan Hot Spring. Just few of reasons to be back in this town’s bosom. Most importantly, my gills and fins shall ache for its paradise beyond the surface. Alone, away, somewhere is always a rewarding one. I don’t doubt it anymore.
1. The town of Anini-y is 81 kilometers from Iloilo City about two hours by land and can be reached by bus or van from Molo terminal.
2. The only diveshop in town is The Divehouse owned and operated by Mr. Boy Saldana with his friendly DMs – AJ and Mike.
3. Diving in nitrox is available at the Divehouse.
NB. Photo credits to http://www.divehouse.com