Diveshop Discoveries

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The iconic dive flag

My passion for diving and the underwater life had given me that keen sense for the red flag with the diagonal line, it seemed I am drawn to it even in the midst of other travel agenda. I have promised myself to be productive in every trip, learn and discover especially marine issues and activities and possibility for diving trips in the future. I always believe that many places are worthy for diving, this country has 7,107 islands and literally surrounded by waters. Indeed, many interesting spots are not in the diving map but some brave souls just establish dive shops in rural areas even if scuba diving is unpopular in the locality. Recently I unexpectedly found dive operators in the least popular setting, new discoveries that sent flutter in my heart!

Surigao City

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Mabua Peeble Beach is just 10 minutes away from Surigao City

We went to this popularly unique pebble beach in Mabua to fulfill my promise to the kids – my nephews and nieces, it was long overdue and have to squeeze schedules for a two-hour travel from Butuan to Mabua and another two hours for the return trip. We drove to the tip of the cove for the beach cottages, and somewhere halfway I caught sight of a cottage painted white with the dive sign, it was a surprise! I thought there was only Punta Bilar Dive Center in the city. It is operated by Dirk/Doris, a friendly couple who just started the shop few months back. Mabua Divers (www.mabuadivers.com) can be reached at 09166439982. The site is a good prospect as it is in the nearby Caraga region and can be reached by land, there’s no need to fly!

Legazpi City

Recently visited the city through a work trip, at the airport while waiting for my luggage I hastily approached the tourist info booth and asked about diving, it was again surprising as the attendant handed me a calling card. I mentally noted Pacific Blue (www.pacificblueasia.com) not sure to find or visit the shop. Later that afternoon, a friend’s friend showed us around and drove us to Embarcadero and further to Legazpi Boulevard. There tucked in between with newly constructed establishments is a lowly but with large ground space is the shop. I asked our host for a short stop to inquire which he politely obliged. A Japanese which looked like a Filipino to me, attended to my inquiries – a casual conversation about the divesites and its marine life. There were damages from dynamite fishing and currently they are working on coral transplantation to revive the coral reefs in the surrounding Albay Gulf. It was interesting to note their effort to restore the marine environment, in coordination with BFAR.

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As expected diving in Misibis Bay is in dollars!

The luxurious Misibis Bay offers diving but I cringed as I inquired for the rates, the bay is still reviving from dynamite fishing damages.  A sanctuary is maintained by the resort, giant clams transported from Bolinao, Pangasinan were planted and adapting well, tropical fishes which includes over-sized groupers are decorating the nearby resort waters.

Butuan City

Right in this city where I grew up, I wasn’t expecting that diving will come right at home. In my own opinion, hardly would anybody set up a dive shop in Butuan, it was unbelievable. The notable body of water in the city is the Agusan River, with its murky waters it is not feasible for diving. The decent beaches worthy for the usual weekend outings are in Nasipit and Carmen, which is more than 25 kilometers away. Most likely, diveshops will open in the coastal towns with obvious reasons. JJ Dive Center started operations just few months back this summer, with the vision that Butuanons will embrace Scuba Diving as a sport, hobby and passion.

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Punta Diwata Reef is offshore of Punta Diwata Cave (Photo credits of wikipedia.org)

I found their announcement online through a diver Mexican contact and noticed that their dive spots include those located in Surigao City and Carmen, Agusan del Norte. These localities have notable marine environment and have existing partnership with government agencies for marine preservation and protection. I’m looking forward to discover and explore the mysterious depths in Caraga, and again there’s no need to fly!

A Good Dive Buddy

Exploration dive with task force, Linamon waters
Buddy system is basic for safety in diving

I’ m sharing this article from http://www.bookyourdive.com to remind me again to be always a good dive buddy, I have always love diving and I become particular how to behave properly underwater.

A dive buddy is someone with whom you share your diving experience in order to prevent emergencies and solve problems when they occur. The buddy system is used by divers to make sure that someone is always there, helping to maintain the safety of the other buddy throughout the entire dive.

What It Means To Be a Good Dive Buddy.

Whenever you go diving, it is important to have a dive buddy that you can trust from the time you are on the boat to the time you dive into the water and then return to the boat or shore at the end of your dive. You definitely want to have a buddy with you, to share the fun with you and be there in the event of an emergency. In the same way, you need to learn how to be a good buddy to someone else, because you want to be able to help someone in need and make sure that you can help him/her enjoy his/her dive. Here are some tips on how to be a good dive buddy.

A good dive buddy is always ready to help
A good dive buddy is always ready to help

Being a Good Dive Buddy

A good dive buddy takes safety seriously. He or she is someone who is knowledgeable about scuba safety, knows how to use diving safety devices, and is willing to perform the Pre-Dive Safety Check before each and every dive. By showing that he or she is concerned about safety, a dive buddy will put his or her buddy at ease and will create a level of confidence that can lead to an even higher level of enjoyment throughout the dive.

Another quality of a good dive buddy is someone who communicates well both on land as well as in the water. Try to establish signals that you both can use before you head down into the water, so that while diving, you will be able to understand each other’s gestures more easily and not be left confused by each other’s hand signals. A good buddy is someone who communicates how close or how far he or she is willing to be from his or her buddy, and this will also be important to know during the dive.

Dive buddies stick to each other
Dive buddies stick to each other

Before a dive, a good buddy will establish what he or she prefers while he or she is diving. For example, the dive buddy should state whether he or she likes to drift along from a distance or get closer to a site. A good buddy will be one who shares the same feelings about how to experience a dive.

A dive buddy will also be around the same skill level as his or her diving partner. In this way, one will not be held back or forced to go too quickly by the other. Having a similar skill set will allow both divers to experience the dive from similar perspectives, and it can lessen the odds of conflicts regarding how fast or how far to swim during the dive.

Coming into Silence

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Rich marine life at the shoal

Fun isn’t important, purpose is, and actions that have some real meaning…

Silence… My own breathing… Bubbles.  Holding on to a rope, descending, slowly.  Nothing in sight, just waters and the sound of my breathing.  There was only stillness as I went unto depths.  Just few minutes back, there was turmoil on the surface and I was out of breath as I swam for the line. I was gasping, my mind racing just wanting to cancel my dive.  But my dive guide was firm and with controlled voice plainly told me to hold the line.

Banaug Shoal is 22 meters depth, in between was all waters with no sign of life – there was only pure silence.  Slowly descending to this underwater hill is like stepping into the unknown hoping to land on a paradise.  Indeed it is, a self-contained spot with so much life.  The damsels swarmed us, the couple red snapper followed not wanting to be left behind.  There was a display of resident species – angels, seargents, anthias, lionfish and more.  The reef is colourful as it was, we found a leaf fish which is something new to me, I thought for awhile it was a scorpiofish! There were nudis too –

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Leaf fish at the shoal – new to me!

black/white combi was new.  The resident scorpionfish still sitting on the coral top – just waiting for a prey.  But I missed the big moray eel, he didn’t show up from his hole.  I was wondering if he was just watching us from under the rocks.  Lingered for more basking in the presence of the shoal’s residents but when my NDL got at four minutes, I signalled to the dive guide for the ascent after 51 minutes with air still at 80 bars.  Speeding back to the resort, I was left alone by the staff after we agreed for the 1 pm second descent.  The good thing was there was no other guests for the day, the place was all to myself totally.

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The resident scorpionfish on coral top

Silence…  Sitting by the waterfront reading my book, the withered talisay leaves collected my feet as the noon winds blew under the trees.

The waters became fiercer so the next descent as explained by the guide is at Lapinig Island instead of Talisayan Shoal, to take refuge from the raging waves of the open sea.  Speeding off, I was hoping the current would be manageable.  Again, this lowly island never disappointed me, we descend on a sandy slope  and slowly swam taking my time observing the rich colourful secrets of its depths.  We got to a coral area hosting Christmas tree worms creating a miniature holiday scene.  Many of them quickly hid in their holes as I drew near but few of them was generous enough, stood their ground as I took photos.  There were colourful nudis, cleaner shrimp on anemones, clownfishes, anthias and more.  The highlight of which was an encounter with a cuttlefish.  Most often, they would just quickly disappear from sight, but this one

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The grouper wanting to be fed!

choose to stay nearby in a way observing us too.  I was inching my way nearer but he was backing off inch by inch too maintaining its distance! Such magnificent animal.  For awhile we float face to face, its fins wiggling around him as it swam backwards.  I gathered a handful of trash  as we went around, as every descent is a clean-up one. I needed keen eyes for this.  The current has gotten stronger as we went shallower, I have to hold on to the coral rocks to maintain my depth during my safety stop – I was swept away up.  We surface after 61 minutes with my air at 80 bars, the waves surging on and the waters fiercer.  The cold sea air sweeping us and the salt water spraying us,  as we sped off for the shores, watching the horizons in silence.  It felt good.

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Christmas tree worm in white and yellow

Coming home to MADRI and spending time in its nearby depths in silence is one best way to revive my sagging spirits and to brace me for the daunting year-end tasks.  Just pure and natural silence.

NB.  Both dives were in EAN 30%.

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