Anda: Discovering a Diving Paradise

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Green turtles are abundant in Paradise Garden!

As divers, our adventurous spirits often spur travels to exotic dive spots. I was clueless though when we went to this northeastern town in Bohol, Angel suggested for this destination after finding a dive operator near the beach.  As a diving destination, Anda is unheard of but being a coastal town facing the Bohol Sea, most likely marine life can be rich and diverse.  This town is a corner land mass appendage in the eastern tip of the province facing Mindanao. Obviously, cruising to Jagna from Cagayan de Oro was an advantage, it was time and cost saving and I arrived much earlier for our engagement.  Angel has moved frantically our dive schedule in the afternoon owing to his route delays.

It was drizzling and downcast early in the morning but gloriously turned sunny in mid-day,  we were full in the afternoon and we needed a warmer atmosphere for the three dives unto the night.  Angel choose a 5 star PADI shop but was located farther from the downtown, Blue Star is an upscale resort facing the endless blue seas. It has manicured lawn, small pool, well maintained dive shop and exclusive but impeccable resto that offers international cuisine.  There were no other bookings so it turned out again as an exclusive dive for us!  The Deutsch owner entertained us briefly and were turned over to DM Karl after confirming our gear needs and signing up the required waiver form.   DM Karl was too encouraging of our dive site choices including the long-awaited night descent.

Cornucopia of Critters

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This friendly turtle posed for me, it didn’t get away when I came near.

All the sites were nearby, and for our first descent we cruise shortly to Paradise Garden seated at the corner of the bay, our DM warned us of current at the turn of afternoon low tide. We descend to a slope decorated with corals, hydroids, whips and feather stars until we got to the wall fully covered with abundance of hard and soft corals.   There were jackfish, triggers, snappers, banner fish, angels, moorish idols, anthias, even bivalves, and lots of juveniles. We drift with the current until we got to a wide colorful coral garden, and a turtle appeared. One, two, three, four until I lost count as I got occupied steadying myself from the current. I was so oblivious as I watch a turtle sleeping among the corals when our DM signaled for danger, I was almost touching a stonefish camouflaging near the swaying orangey corals.   Angel said there were more than ten turtles!  Indeed, it was replete with diverse marine life. It wouldn’t be called house reef of the resort for nothing.  We ascend after 60 minutes too glad for all the sightings!

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Reef wall filled with diverse marine life!

We stayed on the boat for our surface interval watching the blue horizon of the afternoon skies, while our DM told stories of dive sightings. We agreed to descend from one site, then cover one more site until we end the second dive. I was more eager as he mentioned cavern and the rare frogfish.  So we descend to a wall covered again with corals, and navigated with our left shoulder towards the wall. Floating weightlessly feeling the warm waters, we watch the yellow damsels and chromis wiggling over the reef wall.  Until we got to overhangs and crevices, we were in for colorful surprises! There were nudis – a pair of green-orange, bleu dragon, then fat yellow banana nudi – it was my first to see one. Then, not so distant was the two yellow frogfish!  The site was abundant with gorgonians in yellow, blue and violet. We find at least seven bargibanti pygmies and minute crab clinging to violet

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A wide coral field with wiggling juveniles hovering!

seafan.  We sighted barrel sponges, banded sea snake, scorpion fish, stone fish and one more turtle.  We passed the cavern but there were no more snappers but still the fish life was diverse and abundant.  We drifted to a coral area which I believe part of Paradise Garden, for our safety stop, hopping and hovering over the colorful corals with the juveniles wiggling peacefully.  So calming…  We ended our dive timed at 62 minutes!  We cruised back to the resort for surface interval to relax a bit before our last dive.

Dream Deep & Dark

Our last night dive was like four years ago, searching for mandarin fish but we went home without finding one. The mandarins has been tickling my curiosity, after an assurance from our DM of sure sighting, we tried to quench the yearning to find one.  So, at sundown we geared up and had our last descent for the day at the Wonderwall. We went down to a slope over a patch of colored dead corals.  The water was quiet, warm and balmy – just perfect for a calming night descent. We navigate slowly and cautiously, careful not to disturb the waters and our lights low. And there, I found one lurking under the corals, the colorful pattern of its body almost alike the dead corals. Then, there was another one crawling  or slowly swimming down the corals, I watched intently and waited it would go up for the “mating moment” but it was almost eternity. Alas, while I was silently observing the fish, Angel alerted with signals of his missing cam! We flashed our lights immediately for the search, which alerted our DM. I think almost half of our time was done for the search, until I noticed we were left alone in the dark deep.  After awhile, we got light signals from the surface like –“there’s something here and it’s okey!” – such a relief.  We finished off but went up too fast for the 5 meter safety stop, my dive computer went greek! I was sure there were lot more to find in the dark but we have to end, we finished off the ascent holding hands careful not to lose from each other.  We must do night dive again next time.

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A pair of colorful nembrotha kubaryana nudi!

Our two long day dives and momentous night descent was just impressive, the sightings were beyond my expectations and without doubt the underwater paradise of Anda is more than worth seeing again.  Diving in Bohol now would not be limited in the island sites, mainland province has a gem for diving. Diving in Anda was perfectly finding a psychedelic marine paradise!

NB.  Sorry, no photos of mandarin fish. 😦

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