Every dive is like celebrating the ocean wonders and consequently proclaiming the exquisiteness of God’s creation.
We were back in the province this summer, it was unplanned. My mind was entertaining the thought of the possible sighting of giant humphead wrasses in Pandan, my buddy got some secret information from a local. Trusting and believing it was a reliable source, we changed plans and cancelled the Ticao Pass prospect. My personal objective was purely economics, diving in Masbate was way expensive and requires two to three days leave on my part, weekend is practically out of order. For me, time and expenses are always of the essence. It was a good decision in the end, there were changes of my Legazpi flights so I got it cancelled at no cost with a full refund!
It was a long road to Pandan, having flown to Iloilo we need at least four hours to reach this northern town. Yes, another offbeat dive destination and I was grateful there was available dive operator in the area. Our dawn bus ride went fluid alright, traversing interior towns passing Banga, Kalibo, Ibajay until we got off at Nabas intersection for Pandan. We arrived at the diveshop before our appointed time and enough spare for the preliminaries. Our Austrian DM explained that it started raining already and we were lucky for a sunny Saturday but the waters could be bit hazy. There were no others booked for the day so it turned out to be an exclusive dive for us.
Our first descent was at Mag-aba Deep Wall, it was deep indeed but the plan was at 32 meters and I guess there was no need to go much deeper, it was rich and colorful even at 25 meters. It was bit hazy with suspended particles but still vibrant as it is! There were large sea fans in yellows and orange lining the wall, there were crinoids, barrel sponges and nudis. We inspected crevices, search around and float weightlessly. We found triggers, sweet lips, snappers and the colorful wiggling juvenile anthias. Of course, the anemones with the playful clownfish caught my attention, trying for some photos but it was still hazy and not enough light. We ascend after 55 minutes, with my air still at 80 bars, my deepest at 31.9 meters.
Out surface interval was spent on the boat as we move to our next site, DM Nikki entertained us with his stories mentioning offbeat sites islands away. But there was no mention of the giant humpheads, perhaps he has no knowledge or maybe it was just a myth. Suddenly, it went downcast and started to rain with the matching lightning. Our interval went longer as we waited for the sun to shine again, but nil. DM Nikki hesitated for the next descent with the weather condition, the rain stopped but it was still dark. It’s our take if we want, but in my mind it was a long trip and definitely one dive isn’t enough! Angel was hesitant too but I needed his consent, after a little prodding he agreed but warned not to go far from him. My face was splitting with a big smile. Lah! 🙂
We splashed for our last descent at Patria Aquarium, and it was giving me hint why it was so called as such! 🙂 The good thing is even if it was stormy, the water was warm and calm, there was never any hint of current. We descend to a slope decorated with corals and resident fishes until we got into fish traps, I do still cringe seeing one underwater. It was sort of abandoned but I saw a long trumpet fish trapped inside, I watched and wondered how long would it take the poor trumpet to get out. We swam taking our time watching the anthias, snappers, damsels, banded wrasse and the perennial variety of clownfish. There were blooms of anemones around, there was a shrimp couple lurking in a crevice with its long antlers waving. I summoned Angel to come over for my finds, he was watching me from afar. There were fish everywhere more than I can count and name all, it was so peaceful. The anemone bloom took my time away, just watching the colorful animal surrounded with wiggling fish other than the clowns. I hovered round and round and I stayed longer in that small colorful reef with active marine life. Indeed it was like an aquarium! Unmindful of time, I was stunned my NDL went down to 1 minute at 13 meters, left with no choice but to swam up slowly. We ascend after 62 minutes with my air still at 80 bars. It was good and what a waste if we allow ourselves to be intimidated with the dark skies!
Aiming for Seco Island as side trip the next day, we rushed to Tibiao after our dives and spent overnight at Fish Spa. Arrangements were made, all we need to do is drag ourselves out of bed for the 4am boat cruise departure. But alas, there was no sign of life when we woke up the next morning , it was dark and quiet. Obviously, it was cancelled and we went back to sleep.
We opted to proceed to Culasi for Malalison Island, another gem in Antique sought by many. Cruising to the island is easier being organized by local tourism office, but like other tourist destination it becomes over crowded. The white beach is packed by weekenders, old and young alike. We went beyond the waterfront and trek the hills (with a guide) under the sun, the surroundings become brownish, the greens withered from the summer heat. The hills are not alive yet still fascinating in a way!
Trekking the rolling hills in its midst offered serenity, only a handful went for the trek. It was bit arduous but discovering the other side of the island was rewarding. There was another white beach, secluded and had a fantastic view. It was not crowded, just perfect for swimming. Perhaps, some other time we can frolic and just relax, even stay longer in the island. We sat silently watching the horizon, watching people until our boat came to fetch us.
No giant humphead wrasse and no Seco Island but it was sure a captivating trip to Antique!
DM Nikki gave us discount in our diving bills because he found us “nice”, maybe he meant we are well-behaved or courteous. He offered us to come back again next summer for diving and overnight camping to an off beat island! 🙂
This trip was like driving through going full circle of the province south-north-south, having Iloilo City as my point of entry and exit.
Our Seco Island cruise was cancelled as there were no boatman willing for the trip, it was the town’s fiesta that day!