Home Again!

Homecoming to favorite spots in Balingoan waters

I had the opportunity to be back again in MADRI, although I was clueless for the perennial year-end dive. I was overtaken with other concerns and priorities. My dive buddy just pop-up to come over, because he wanted to have his last dive of the year with his favorite dive buddy. It was like an ambush though I have no qualms about being in the depths.  It has always been my therapy for all the unrestlessness, especially with year-end hullabaloos.

The distance of the airport and inconvenient flight skeds to CdeO wasn’t of help for a timely arrival in Mantangale, coming almost 11am the most that we could do was only for two dives instead of the usual three dives.  Luckily, the weather was sunny like summer and I could only expect good viz for our descents.

Clownfish playing hide & seek on anemones

Speeding our way under the noon sun, our first descent was at the house reef (aka Banaug Shoal), it has been a favorite spot and again it didn’t disappoint us.  My colds slowed my descent through the bouy line and thankful I made it.  The unequalled diversity of marine life is simply engaging, swarm of damsels and chromis abound as we reached the hill.  The snapper couple was also there, following us as if asking for food.  The black corals and a variety of hard and soft corals decorated the shoal.  The tangles of soft corals blocking my way felt like I was in the grasslands finding my way out.  There were nudis, the clownfish that played hide & seek on anemones, anthias, angels, moorish idol, box fish and more.  But I missed the resident moray eel, the stonefish and pygmy seahorse.  The leaf fish surprised us, I wasn’t expecting to meet her again, discreetly it was swaying with the current between the corals.  Our DM was too keen to notice this elusive specie, but we failed searching for macros in the soft corals.  The currents could have swept them off. We ascend after 44 minutes at 32.3 meters as my deepest.

Leaf fish at Banaug Shoal
Leaf fish at Banaug Shoal

Our surface interval was spent back at the resort dive shop, sitting and watching the horizons – blue waters, blue skies and Camiguin island afar!  Finishing up our left over food (fish & chips with rice pop), sitting comfortably with afternoon breeze and the rustling leaves blown by the wind – was purely relaxing. MADRI is always home to me, the familiar surroundings gave me such comfort.  There were no other guests, so it was like an exclusive dive for us!

Both dives were in nitrox with no extra cost!

Our DM suggested for Lapinig Island for our last descent, speeding our way almost 3pm to this lowly uninhabited island, the waters went choppy already. There was mild current as we descend on the sandy slope. We went around searching for macros but we found more trash, so it was some kind of clean-up which we always do as our commitment.  There were sea fans, nudis, clownfish, anthias over corals, butterflies and more tropical fishes.  The spot is a ground of bristle worms, there were plenty of them embedded on the corals.  We stayed over an hour going around feeling the warm afternoon waters, my deepest at 28.9 meters.  Both dives were in enriched air with no extra cost!

It was over two months from my last dive during the International Clean-Up Day, the two descents undoubtedly freshen up my dried-up gills!  It was such bliss to be back in Mantangale, surely there will be next time to be home again.

Captivating Depths

My quests in the blue world were not without challenges, some phenomenal but mostly intriguing.  Summing it up I enjoyed every bit of these experiences, always coming home with renewed spirit and increasing admiration and love for the depths.  It meant traveling far, passing a night at the airport, spending fortune, neglecting comforts, entrusting my life to strangers and extending limits of my self-imposed modesty. Sometimes it was surprising I have gone that far. The scale of challenges is increasing. Yes, I have gone that far.

My search around the country is still on-going and few of them stand out for their mystic and charm, like sucking senses and left a diver fazed in wonder. Here are few sites that captured my heart and curiosity, it felt like I can’t get enough from my descent on its depths.

  • Pescador Island, Moalboal
    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA This lowly island held surprising secrets, the phenomenal sardine’s run will stir your curiosity how  these           millions of small fish come together and synchronize for a tornado.  It is so tempting to come and be amongst in their assembly and get lost in their midst!
  • The Canyons, Puerto Galera

    Dropping at Escarceo Point, drifting fast with the currents passing field of colorful acropora corals, and race over  several drop-offs to reach the Hole in the Wall. Steadying for the entrance, I was completely surprised as I was sucked in the hole in a split second!  There, the Canyons teeming with marine life.

  • Akitsushima Maru, Coron

    All the World War II wrecks concentrated in Coron Bay gave me that rush for the penetration but Akitsushima is different. She is simply beautiful, one of the few true warships among the wrecks. We penetrated chambers, crevices, holes and square openings.  Mysterious and truly engaging, the dark and its secrets and historic value held so much attraction to me.  Its externals is teeming with fish life, remnants like broken crane, canon ball hole, artillery and funnel.  It is an advance dive due to depth and currents.

  • Monad Shoal, Malapascua

    Watching a flock of quirky thresher sharks swimming before me on early morning was one of my unforgettable underwater experience, I almost cried in amazement! I can sit at the viewing edge and watch them until they are gone. Threshers are deep inhabitants but a herd always gathers every morning at the shoal to be cleaned from parasites and algae on their bodies by wrasses, more of a symbiotic relationship as these wrasses were fed from the sharks.  Monad offer guaranteed sightings everyday on early mornings!

  • Banaug Shoal, Mantangale

    The shoal is about 22 meters depth from the surface but this underwater hill can never be outdone in terms of diversity in marine life.  The swarm of damsels, red snappers, angels, sergeants, wrasses amidst hard corals and tangling soft corals, it is always as colorful as it was. Moray eel, stone fish, leaf fish, lion fish, nudis, sea stars are just few that inhabit the small hill.  It is always tempting to go deeper to explore what’s beyond.  This may not be in the diving map but its richness can be at par with exotic dive destinations.

Have you tried diving from any of these sites? I’m still in search for sites and I know I will never exhaust them in my lifetime.  There is yet a lot of secrets to unravel right here in my home country.

NB.  All photos courtesy of Angel using Tough 8000 with PT 045 casing

Coming into Silence

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 –

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.

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

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.

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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