Heading for Calamian
My fascination in Coron has never been put to rest, after two trips last year I still wanted to get back for one lofty reason – to dive and exhaust the remaining wrecks in Calamian. The excitement and challenge in exploring the monsters is nagging my subconscious. So catching our schedules and considering the weather, Angel and I planned for a return to Coron. And as usual there was much to attend to at work, but time management and organizing things have become an art to accommodate more important pursuits much less my dive trips. And I did forego other schedules – exit conference, AGAP convention in Bacolod, meeting in CO, World Food Day celeb at the office and our community Sunday assembly. Arriving midnight from work travel and packing up for over an hour, I slept late but have to wake up early the next morning. I have to be at office for important instructions, then rush at the nearest ATM for my cash needs!
Sitting at the pre-departure area, I was thankful all passengers were strangers. I still wanted my out of town trips to be quiet and discreet possible. The Lord have heard our prayers for a good weather, it was a bright sunny morning! There were few air pockets as we approached the metro, as we hover I was imagining body of waters after the flood & typhoon, of course there was none! Well, that’s the magic of the media, those watching the tv innocently thought there’s a big flood in the metro. This time, there wasn’t much smog I saw, it was clearer I think – maybe the typhoons and monsoon rains have washed away the pollution a bit! J Surely, there’s always a purpose even in misfortunes, for the better.
I have much time to spare, our flight was still at 3pm, so I went to the airport café (Terminal 2) and took my brunch leisurely. After my people watching at the terminal I took a cab for Terminal 3 and waited for the counter to open. By chance, I struck up conversation with waiting passengers for Cagayan de Oro – just like me, proud Mindanaoans! J I waited for Angel until he called up, catching up from work. I boarded the bus last, obviously all are looking at me. L I climbed up with Angel on the aircraft – a Bombardier Q300 – a small plane but I guess better than the Dornier. We were seated apart and having one near the EXIT – I learned being one I have responsibilities in case of emergencies, I was given the assignment to read the instruction card – I thought I would just lean on my seat relaxed while watching the magnificent sights below. Getting on a small plane is lot better because you get a better and clearer aerial view of the islands – at 12000ft elevation. It was bit drizzling and there were air pockets again when we approached the Calamianes – now I found the air pockets entertaining, the feeling of the craft going up and down is exciting! J The view is splendid – the scattered islands, the calm sea, green mountains, white beaches – so serene, so laid back. I caught sight of Banana Island, the herd of cattle at the ranch, the new airport building. We touched down smoothly at the airstrip – bit washed by the drizzle. Indeed, the Bombardier is lot better….
We took the aircon PAL Express shuttle van for the town – not jeepney anymore! Going through the roads, I was impressed that the network is almost 75% cemented, last year it was just a dirt road and it was so dusty and following another vehicle seemed like a curse! The view was breathtaking, the country scenery felt like Bukidnon, I was pointing out to Angel the cattles grazing on the meadows with the herons picking by the side – simply beautiful! The van dropped us at Seadive Resort past 4pm – the travel was much shorter compared last time. There’s nothing much improvement in the town proper, things are quite the same. As soon as we got our room, it felt like we wanted to start off our adventure! J But have to make calls first back at work to put things in order. WE went to the diveshop to arrange for the dive trip – the European owner attended to us: sites, equipments, time, filling up “Dr. No” form and requested for DM Nonoy as our dive master. We brought our own gears (except mask) so everything would be intact in the crates. I found myself smiling with Akitsushima, Okikawa & Lusong Gunboat as dive site for the morrow. J I was telling Angel we’re so blessed with good weather!
It felt good to be back in Coron, last year I was left alone for my dive after all DIY friends (Batch 9) left. I bought the fish id at the front desk I was eyeing last time, it was just too expensive but now I found it necessary – after more than a year. As planned we went to Coron Bistro for our dinner, I was telling Angel I felt intrigued to try dining with them – the pizza daw is yummy! We’re both famished already… The staff was just friendly and had our Hawaiian Pizza quick, we didn’t wait long – I commended it’s too quick. Other diners were foreigners indeed, but the food was just great – pizza, garden salad & fruit shakes – Angel and I enjoyed it a lot. The small pizza was large – I burped with the three slices I got! J My headache (for lack of sleep) mysteriously gone even before we had our dinner…
Akitsushima, Okikawa & Lusong Gunboat Plus Maquinit Hot Springs
As usual I was up earlier the next morning for the preliminaries – my contacts, setting up the uw cam and packing. We got ready for the day about 7am, and went out side the resort and had our breakfast at a carenderia – cheaper and quicker we thought. We found out DM Nonoy can’t make it with us so we had DM Jaime instead, we had one joiner – Jan, a Danish national. The cheery weather was just too perfect for our dive! J We were transported by a speed boat to the dive boat and cruised for over an hour until near Manglet island – we assembled our gears on our way…
We had a briefing from DM Jaime before our first descend at Akitsushima, it’s a deep dive and we need to hold on to the bouy line for the descent, and must stay close to the buddy. Again, it was hazy at first and as we go deeper we sighted fishes until we saw it – like a monster lying there! We followed DM Jaime, going inside chambers, crevice, and square-like opening. It was dark but our torches served us well. It was devoid of any equipment, just the structure now. It was one of the few true warships among the wrecks. We went around, went outside and sighted the broken crane, hole left by canon, part when guns had been, etc. We ascend after 35 minutes at 114 feet as deepest! Angel and I smiled to ourselves – it’s our deepest so far. J
On our surface interval, we cruise to next site south of Concepcion Village near the Pearl Farm. We had our lunch too which I found too early, we need to wait for another hour for our next descent. In between I called up Gay whom I had three missed calls, as usual the first question was my location – arrrghh! Why is it that there’s always someone who’s tracing me?
DM Jaime take out 1 kilo weight from me – so now I only have 2 kilos weights – an improvement I guess! We had our briefing again and geared up for Taiei Maru – an auxiliary oil tanker of the Imperial Japanese Navy. It sits almost level and had maximum depth of 85 feet. This time, Rommel was tasked to lead and DM Jaime at the back watching and following us. But there was much to see in Taiei – going through chambers, the deck, and inner part of the ship. Penetrating the wreck is exciting – going down a hole, square-like opening and dark passageway. It felt so free floating, flapping fins must be with care not to touch anything and without disturbing the silts. The fish life is more abundant here and fortunately, we spotted the lone sea turtle but swam away so quickly. Oversized grouper, giant humphead parrotfish, lionfish, puffers, lot of nudis, giant clams, super big nudi swimming, fusiliers, sweet lips and lot more – it was simply beautiful! We ascend after 45 minutes with big smiles…
We cruised for our last dive – now I always go for three dives, lesser than that is somewhat bitin. Actually the third site is a wish granted – I snorkeled twice on this site and once found divers enjoying photography while I was just on the surface. I was hoping to dive here as relaxation being too shallow – the maximum depth is only 12 meters. We descend again after an hour interval, but instead of going through the wreck we swam to the surrounding marine life. I guess we need to follow the DM – a basic rule for safety. We spotted trash and stumbled upon a fishing line, but don’t have the equipment for cutting, Angel picked up some but wasn’t able to take all – our DM is getting far already. The environmentalist in us is hurting… There was hard corals, basket sponge but didn’t find any sea fan or star feather. After the safety stop, Angel and I chose to stay longer and explored around while Rommel and Jan ascend ahead. It felt so liberating just swimming and floating amongst underwater life – the little mermaid in me is rejoicing!
We cruised back to town feeling so pleased of our escape from the upland J. As we got back at the resort, we arranged for the morrow’s hopping but after we canvassed outside. J It was so tiring and as planned we headed for Maquinit Hot Springs after haggling for the round trip fare. It was so relaxing but had to leave sooner as we were famished already.
To reward ourselves for a full day, we had dinner at the resort with their special menu for the day – mackerel in tartar sauce and crème caramel for dessert – yum! But I guess I was too exhausted because after I laid my back on the bed I drift off to sleep… Zzzzzzzzzzzz….
We attended mass the next morning at the St. Augustine Church and waited almost 9am for our boat, Rommel happened to be our host for the day – the weather is so perfect! We had our first stop at Twin Lagoon to catch up with low tide, we remembered Sohoton as we got to the area – rock islets covered with vegetations. When I first came here, I was so fascinated with the inner lagoon. The water level was just on the opening so we need to skin dive to go the other side but my snorkel was kaput. We swam up in the inner lagoon but didn’t stay much long.
We went next to Banol Beach – a beautiful white sand beach, we stayed longer here. The immaculate white sands look so peaceful and idyllic and there were no people when we got there. We leisurely took our lunch at the beach hut, Rommel entertained us with his stories. J It felt so luxurious I felt so spoiled! I keep looking up the limestone cliffs as we dipped in the turquoise waters…
Another highlight was our next stop at Skeleton Wreck, I felt that familiar rush to skin dive the wreck. Angel and I geared up for our exploratory skin diving, the visibility was just too good. We splashed unto the water, swimming and diving like kids. We took turns as we need to handle the cam steady enough for the photos. J
We chose Siete Pecados as our last site, we wanted to see again the rich marine life in the sanctuary. But our spot was not good enough, instead of the colorful corals I saw rubbles and dead corals. But large banded angelfish came near our boat with other juveniles. They were so friendly it came near my hand perhaps looking fro food. We played with the angelfish for awhile and swam coyly near the boat, Angel practicing to swim properly. J Finally, we cruised back to the resort to wind up our leisure for the day.
We bought wreck stickers, have our logbooks stamped at the diveshop and updated our logbooks. We had our dinner again at the resort, every end of the day we’re so famished but sorry the food wasn’t yummy enough for our taste – Angel and I agreed on that, we remembered our faves at Margie’s and Bigby’s! After packing up, Angel bid bye and left to catch with his boat back home….
Towards Home Again
Wake up earlier the next morning for final packing up, had my breakfast about 7am. I need to be ready as the van will leave for the airport at 8am. I turned over my key and was thankful that the driver helped me with my gear bag to the van – truly there are angels around me. I checked in and got the chance to buy something for pasalubong at the shop, I even got the chance to have some photos at the airport.
The plane was on time and the trip was smooth except for some turbulence when we got near the metro but I enjoyed airpockets now. We arrived on time, got a yellow taxi for Terminal 2 and rushed to check in for my flight back home. Thankfully I didn’t see anybody I knew at the airport, at least I don’t need to talk much. J Waiting for our boarding I took something for lunch – expensive but I don’t have the time to get down into the café.
Sitting on the plane on my way home, I can’t help praising God for his goodness – again He arranged all things perfectly, always. Smiling how I am enriched with the pleasure of experiencing again nature’s wonders and sharing with my buddy Angel. I’m looking forward for our next trip 🙂 . We touched down smoothly at CdO airport, arrived home perfectly sane and bracing myself for full days at work ahead. The little mermaid in me lurking back in my innermost self….
- Missing the Monsters! (cbartazo.wordpress.com)