Freedom Weekend: Peak, Trails, Falls, Depths!

The colorful depths of Pescador Island!

Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.   ~Frank Lloyd Wright~

Moalboal is one of my favorite dive destinations, despite the disappearance of the phenomenal sardines run in our last visit more than two years ago I have promised myself to be back once more with my dive buddy. The itch was pestering me again since last year especially with the comeback of its marine life phenomena, the anticipation of the return was consuming! The plan involved not just the perks in Moalboal but also the charms of Osmena Peak and the anticipated return to Kawasan Falls after five years. It was another package of adventure – from the heights to the depths! The long weekend in June was all perfect, I just needed a break from work pressures.

Dalaguete for Osmena Peak

Osmeña Peak
Osmeña Peak – directly above the town of Badian. The vast sea is decorated with Badian Island.

We sped off for Moalboal after a quick stopover at the diveshop in downtown Cebu for Angel’s reserved gear. We were just in time as the van was almost leaving as we got to the terminal, summer’s end gave us a cherry warm welcome in the queen city of the south. The trip was long but the sceneries along the way were enough to absorb my attention. I never get tired passing these southern towns – the old churches, old squares and those big old acacias lining the road! It was first things first – drop off gears at our lodge and see our DM for our Sunday dives. Our friends in our favorite backpacker lodge were there to welcome us, and meeting the new Manager of our favorite dive shop was just heart-warming for the comeback.

We passed by towns of Badian, Malabuyoc, Ginatilan, Samboan and changed bus at Bato to proceed to Santander, Oslob, Boljoon, Alcoy and finally Dalaguete – it was dark already. We walked and asked around for our lodge and we were accordingly accommodated. The simple room at Pink House was comfortable enough for an eight-hour overnight, sufficient for a good night’s rest to brace us for the next day’s quest.

The next early morning, in a street corner across the old town hall, we found a helpful Manong who carried us with his motorbike to the foot of the peak in Mantalongon. The communities we passed by were already in motion for their daily bustle. The cool morning breeze and the rural scenery was a great start for the climb. We passed by school children on their way, the vegetable farms & backyard gardens and the bagsakan center, where there were ongoing packaging of produce , hauling and the usual trading that accompany with it. It was all green and refreshing.

It took only about twenty minutes to climb the peak, but our guide misunderstood us and after walking for thirty minutes wondering where the jagged peaks are – we walked back for the summit which was just behind us. There were climbers already when we looked up, the climb was not arduous but enough to pump more oxygen for the heart! Indeed, the view on top was breathtaking – 360 degrees view of green jagged hilltops, the vast ocean decorated with Badian Island yonder and the blue endless skies!

But again, the litters along the trails and on the peak itself were purely disgusting. I picked up a large plastic bag and gathered up all the trash inside. A sad reality – the influx of tourists is always accompanied by unsightly trash. It was an opportunity for a clean-up climb/trek for us.

Badian for Kawasan Falls

Just refreshing! After trekking the trails through the ranges in southern Cebu and traversing the hills in search of Kawasan Falls, the longing for that cool and fresh water was our inspiration to walk past down the winding roads. On the way, we picked up trashes and had a large bagful of litters. After four hours and walking sixteen kilometers, we reached Bukal Springs, the first layer of the falls. After five years we were back reaching in a different entrance and perspective, accompanied with new discoveries.

We walked further the trails and had the needed stop in a hut – it was past 12 noon already and we were famished. Believing it was the resort we visited last time, we were surprised of the changes in the spot – well, it’s been five years!

Kawasan Falls! Green foliage, gushing waters, aquamarine pool – such wonderful sight. Nothing much has changed since five years ago….

We spend some time on the raft under the falls – soaking ourselves to our heart’s content. It was truly refreshing! Still wondering for the changes of the area, we ended our dip to continue the trails down the highway. But to our surprise, the front layer of the falls was all down there in its splendor! There were more people and guests, and the structures were exactly the same we had five years ago. It’s the same Kawasan we knew – the massive falls, the foliage around the cliffs and the wide pool of aquamarine waters beyond the gushing falls! We lingered for few minutes trying to absorb the marvel of nature’s wonder.

One sheer discovery – Kawasan Falls has three layers, each with different charm and spectacle!

Moalboal for the Phenomenon

The next morning we promptly rushed to Cebu Dive Centre at 8:00am earlier than the appointed time, Cameron – a Briton, the new shop manager deals client seriously but friendly – the professionalism I am expecting from PADI shops. Although we were earlier hinting for Pescador Island for the sardines, he simply dismissed that the run have transferred at the house reef which is easily accessible by shore entry. Cameron, arranged three descents for the day that includes Pescador!

We cruised shortly north east of the island, the site is notoriously rough so it is necessary to be early. I was silently thrilled after the short briefing from Danny, knowing that we will penetrate the cathedral – cavern diving again! Indeed, the water was choppy already when we got there. I was last for the entry and Yoyo’s assistance was just needed, the current surface was already strong. Pescador is simply amazing, noted for its mushroom-like formation it held many surprises and its rough surrounding waters added appeal for divers.

Indeed, we feasted down under and completely fascinated by array of rare sightings in the depths. We entered the cavern in one hole and had a magnificent view of the cathedral’s holes – while inside in a distance, the lights outside illuminated a human skull. Two eyes, nose and mouth – in an abstract scene, only the focus minded will see. It was like coming face to face with a giant monster underwater. It was rare sight not to be missed! We exited in one of the hole resembling its right eye. There was moray eel, electric clams, banded pipefish, ornate ghost pipefish, puffer and yellow frogfish! We lingered for the rare yellow froggy hoping it would yawn, but it didn’t. There were juvenile tropical fishes, anthias hovering over corals and variety of hard and soft corals. We ascend after 53 minutes with my air at 70 bars.

A yellow frogfish – rare find!

We escaped the raging waters in Pescador and had our second descent at Visaya Reef. Again, we were not disappointed – we silently roam the slope combing the corals. We sighted cleaner shrimp, trumpet fish, some nudis, puffer, scorpion fish, and the rare emperor shrimp and pygmy seahorse! We swam more and found a resting turtle with a remora, I have to tug Angel’s weight belt to get his attention. It is his favorite specie! Well, he approached and ended chasing it again for photos. We ascend after 51 minutes, my air still at 100 bars. We cruised back for the diveshop, our lunch served as our surface interval.

You’ve got a friend – most marine critters live symbiotically.  Scorpionfish resting on a blue seastar!

Nature has its own works, the transfer of the sardines was one. More than two years ago I was perturbed that it was gone and was silently hoping it would be back in its own right time. Now, this phenomenon graced the shallow waters of Bas Diot just near the shores. I agree with Danny and Yoyo that the sardines are safer in their new abode, the shores are patrolled and nobody could fish them. They could freely swim without fear of predators. Larger fishes would rarely come ashore!

The turtle with a remora resting on corals

Donning my gears on water, we readied for our last descent to experience once more the phenomenon. Not far, we were at 15 meters and as we looked up, the large herd darkened above us, probably just five meters from the surface. We swam getting a good view and the whole stretch was literally decorated with the fishes grouped together – probably millions! It was such a rare sighting. We literally got the whole stretch covered, immersed in the afternoon waters swimming coyly, feeling the serenity of the waters. I belong with the marine life, as if I was one with them in spirit. There were at least eight sightings of turtles randomly darting in our view adding more splendor to the scene.

Angel was just nearby, it was necessary as I don’t have dive computer and we both agreed not to get lost. Unexpectedly, he held my hand and looked in my eyes. As if saying, “It’s beautiful, do you like it?” I looked back and gripped his hand affirming, wanting to smile but can’t. We both love the sardines run, how can anyone ignore the exquisiteness of creation? How can anyone disregard the treasures in marine life? We swam back to shores after 50 minutes still enthralled of the sardines and turtles.

We capped the day having sumptuous dinner at Marina – a sister resto of La Tegola Cuccina Italiana back home, one of our favorite in town! 

Climb, Trek, Swim Adventure

For sure, there’s more in southern Cebu – dive sites in Badian and Oslob; beaches in Dalaguete and Alcoy; old churches, museum, town halls; and pristine white islands. But again, it was about seizing moments and doing what one love most. I adore the mountains and my incessant passion for the depths is unrelenting. The three-day trip was a perfect climb, trek and swim quest rolled in one – coupled with new learning and discoveries. Yet when we head home, we agreed for another return. It’s pure madness I guess – a kind of madness that keep my sanity because it is with nature that I find my equilibrium!

Underwater photos courtesy of Angel using Lumix TS2 with Ikelite casing

Great Sharks Day!

Teeming with marine life!
Teeming with marine life!

“Why and what did take us too long to be back in Malapascua?”

Our first visit to this northern most island in Cebu almost three years ago was in many ways memorable, I was struck when I first set foot on its shores. I remembered I was almost running on the white sandy beach after I jumped out from the boat towards our simple cottage.  This is a backpacker’s dream spot, I thought. Although we missed the thresher sharks at Monad Shoal, we had a great time discovering Kalanggaman Island and its depths.  The place is practically left with time, no exact road network. No pave streets but a criss-cross of trails for motorbikes to traverse to any point of the island.  Practically a flat site similar to Maldives, like 6-10 meters above sea level.

Well, coming to exotic place is always posed with challenges, with everything in place the weather was our only possible hindrance. So, a typhoon came affecting Visayas & Mindanao and on the morning of my flight it was pouring rain!  It was almost cancelled but was grateful we made it when the skies over CdeO cleared, Angel was already waiting in Cebu.

Long – Awaited Return

We arrived Maya port past noon already with the sun shining bright, actually the heat was scorching which was to our advantage, obviously the weather would offer good visibility for the dives. Wishing to reach the shores fast but our cruise to the island slowed down as if teasing us again – the island looming larger in view as we approached.  The water taxi (tunda) was there to meet us and transport in groups finally to the station just near our dive shop.  It was good to see again Ms. Amelia of Divelink, somehow it’s more comfortable to dive with people you knew and trusted, unfortunately the DM assigned to us before had left the island already.

The perennial clown fish was there to welcome us!
The perennial clown fish was there to welcome us!

We left hurriedly after the necessary arrangements for the next day dives, with no decent meals since last night dinner, at 4pm we were both starving.  Before we settled in our lodgings we had a meal summarized in one – well, fitting for my abstinence! Actually we devoured our pasta and salad.

Our alarms went off at 4am the next morning, we need to be early as the assembly time was at 445am. My second time to be up that early for a dive – only for the threshers! After the long wait, Angel and I both hoped that we will encounter this phenomenal specie.  It was still dark as we got to the shop. We were joined with five Thai divers, who all looked Filipino to me.

Monad Shoal

We had a thresher shark show!
We had a thresher shark show!

The shoal is a mound that rose up from 250m depths, it had walls with sandy slope that created like a plateau, where the sharks converge every morning for the cleaning, the wrasses having early breakfast in return.  In short, they are co-mensal to each other.   There were five boats already anchored as we approached the area, we were the last to arrive I guess.  The cold waters splashed as we all entered in giant step one by one, we all went for the line for the descent. At 10 meters, Angel and I had our first morning surprise when two threshers quickly appeared in view swimming restlessly as if looking for a cleaner wrasse. So beautiful, it’s there with its long tail and prominent dorsal fins!  We were lead by our guide James down to the wall at the viewing deck, where the divers lined up waiting for the threshers to appear. Practically, it was a sit and wait activity as we were told during the briefing – like watching a movie! No one is allowed to swim around or cross the viewing ground so as not to disturb them, the air bubbles from the tank can scare the sharks mistaking it as fishing nets – based on research and observation.

Practically, it was a sit and wait activity...
Practically, it was a sit and wait activity…

Indeed, after awhile threshers came to the ground intermittently when it reached five I stop counting and just enjoyed the view. Obviously I dismissed all other marine life in the area but like others focused alone on the sharks. But Angel said, there were at least eleven sightings of threshers.  We went further but stayed close to the wall with James and found more, we went back to the viewing deck as other divers left the area. The last shark I had went nearer and it was a face to face encounter – those glassy round eyes gazing and its tail finning for swift movements averting its directions as if teasing me then. It felt so beautiful I wanted to cry but quickly reminded myself my tears won’t allow me to see clearly the sharks.  I still wanted to linger on ground holding the line but my dive guide signaled for my dive computer, alas my NDL was down to 3 minutes!  He summoned me for the ascent, Angel was already moving up away to the slope. It was so amazing I hardly took any photos, it was truly magical only your heart and mind captured the scene!

I still had the adrenaline rush I carried the tank on my back up the boat (which is rare) and gave Angel a quick warm hug for an afterglow of the incredible thresher sharks encounter. It was overwhelming I can’t contain, it was worth the wait…

Gato Island

Our two remaining dives was scheduled at Gato, an uninhabited island shaped like a cat in back view, off the coast of Malapascua about 30 minutes away on boat. We were joined with two other lady divers (foreigners too) with DM Nick. The Thai divers still joining, we were divided into two groups as we increase in number, reasonable as the site requires more care and work.

Reef sharks in a cavern in Gato island, Malapascua
Reef sharks in a cavern in Gato island, Malapascua (Photo credits to Angel)

From distance, the island looks ordinary and bleak – like a big boulder punctuated with few trees and vegetation, it has a guard house being an MPA but the surrounding waters was raging. DM Nick briefed us to search overhangs and crevices and the possibility of currents.  We descend on a slope decorated with soft corals, tropical fishes, sea stars, clams, urchins and more.  Most surprising was the sighting of white tip shark hiding under an overhang, I think it was resting or sleeping unmindful of its visitors.  It was a big one, it can’t just wiggle away from us!   We found a juvenile yellow frogfish, so cute it sat on the sand near the urchin.  DM Nick inspected anemones and we found too cleaner shrimp and few nudis.  We went around on some rocks and found another big white tip under a crevice, sleeping again.  Well, white tips are nocturnal so they went to hunt prey on night when other critters are sleeping.   The shark sightings in the shallows was a real treat for me and Angel, it was unexpected.  We ascend after 49 minutes with my air still at 80 bars.

Juvenile yellow frogfish - rare find!
Juvenile yellow frogfish – rare find!

After more than an hour of surface interval we geared up for the last descent, which according to DM Nick was a mini-cave dive. We listened intently for the instructions, reminders and demo how to fin once inside – our careless movement can cause clouding up the sands.  We will traverse the dark tunnel about 30 meters long, so we need to light up our torch as we enter the waters.  The boat moored near the guardhouse but the water was still raging.  Our group entered the waters and swam first for the spot which was an advantage as we will get the viewing first!  With our torches on, we headed for the dark carefully finning, it was wide enough to accommodate us. The overhangs partly concealed the area, then we stop quietly perching controlling our buoyancy as if waiting for a scene.  Lo and behold, slowly looming were white tips swimming coyly, circling around five in all like a family – big, medium and a pup. A pair of trevally or jacks was playing, glistening as I point my torch on them. Hovering nearby were group of snappers and few groupers.  Such a wonderful sight – watching these creatures in their own habitat!

Can you find the cleaner shrimp?
Can you find the anemone shrimp?

We proceed to traverse the tunnel and went to a sandy slope punctuated with soft corals, headed to a reef and were surprised when a white tip quickly passed by and disappeared in a blink of an eye.  We sighted banded sea snake – a pair of juveniles and a big one slithering on the corals. There was a lionfish, anemone fish and the shy moray eel.   Keen eyes were needed for the macros, the cleaner shrimp and the jumping juvenile scorpionfish didn’t escape DM Nick’s searching mode.  We surfaced after 56 minutes with my air still at 100 bars. Exhausted and the waters still choppy, I hold on to Angel as we swam back to boat. Still overwhelmed we were asking ourselves as we took our seats on the boat, “Why did it take us too long to be back in Malapascua?”

The shy moray eel...
The shy moray eel…

Simply Euphoric

High in spirits, we chatter now and then about the sharks – at the diveshop, on our way to the lodge, during dinner, in the sleeping room.  Angel declared it as his best dive, next to Tubbataha cruise I commented.  Indeed, you’ll never know the mystery of an island – more than on the surface.  Many are paradise in the depths, its unspeakable grandeur is more than what the eyes can see.  This trip was without challenges but turned out to be about sharks – a great sharks day.  And guess what, the proverbial rainbow appeared before us as we cruise back to Maya port the following morning, its other end in Gato Island! It wasn’t drizzling and the early morning sun decorated the horizons, yet the rainbow – right, our heavenly sign of a blissful trip…

Early Ecstasy

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It was a face to face encounter with Thresher Sharks (Alopiidae) early morning one Saturday at  none other than the Monad Shoal, Malapascua Island north of Cebu province.  After almost three years I finally had a close encounter of this interesting pelagic.

It was one magical moment!

Thresher Shark Research Conservation Project


Malapascua Island is almost synonymous to thresher sharks, not to mention the pristine white beaches, generally this pelagic drives the local dive and tourism industries, fuelling 80% of the regional economy.  Myself included was first drawn to this southernmost tip island of Cebu province almost three years now, aiming to catch glimpse of the phenomenal presence of the shark in shallow waters.

This pelagic thresher Shark (Alopias Pelagicus) is an oceanic species whose biology and behavioral ecology are largely unknown  due to study limitations.  Fisheries and by-catch data indicate that it is found in warm and temperate offshore waters, matures late, has low fecundity and is vulnerable to over-exploitation.  International conventions have recognized almost all shark species to be threatened, promoting nations to implement protection policies.  These listed species comprise those which have received comprehensive scientific investigation, and whose biology and behavioral ecology are well understood.  The fact that thresher sharks regularly visit a sea mount in the Philippines presents a unique opportunity to study this rarely observed oceanic shark.  Preliminary investigations of the site identified significant relationships between shark presence and cleaning activity conducted by resident Cleaner and Moon wrasses (Labriodes Dinidiatus and Thalassoma Lunare).  Cleaning activity relating to sharks has never been investigated in the wild before, but this observable interactions seen at this site explained why these mainly oceanic sharks venture into shallow coastal waters, where they are vulnerable to fishing and disturbance from dive tourism.  Understanding their behavioral ecology will provide important information to support the protection plan for the specie.

Monad Shoal is located within the Visayan Sea, 8.16 km due east from the southern beach of Malapascua Island.  The sea mount is an open water site rising 250 meters from the sea floor to 15=25 meter depths.  Early morning presence of thresher sharks on the shoal attracted local dive and tourism industries to Malapascua Island.

It is with these facts and reasons that the Thresher Shark Research Conservation Project initiated, it started in 2009.  The project aimed to investigate the behavior of thresher sharks  in response to resident cleaner fishes, the correlations between parasite presence, to improve established methods of observing the specie, to assess also the population dynamics of visit frequency, and to provide relevant information to conservation initiatives in relation to managing impacts of fishery and dive tourism.  The project is developing a model for managing Monad Shoal as a protected area for the thresher sharks.

Please visit for more details. You could be  part of this research conservation project.

Tryst with Angel: Mactan Island

Punta Engaño, Mactan Island

Now I aim to dive every month as every diver should be.  And I have few plans as I begin for another diving year, schedules and preparations were put to order.  My mind thinking to mix some pleasure while on a work trip to Cebu but it turned out the conference was cancelled, and the final venue is not close to the waters.  I became restless and alternately devised another trip plan.  Surprisingly, Angel invited me to join him in Mactan over a weekend suggesting for a dive.  I was ecstatic and grateful, it was just perfect as a start for diving pursuits with my favorite dive buddy.  The next thing I did was made myself free on the weekend, bought my tickets, and work harder to put things in order before getting some leisure. 

Perfect Get-Away

The week has been full at work, and on Friday I was running for meetings. But the thought of weekend lifted my spirits, and I could almost smell the sea waters.  🙂  My Saturday mornings has been reserved for early walks but I was up very much earlier as usual to catch my flight.  And the usual sneak-while-everyone-still-asleep thrilled me once more! It was a crisp morning and the cold winds embraced me as we boarded the plane, the horizon promising a sunny day.  The flight was smooth and just like with my previous Cebu Pacific flights we touched down Mactan International Airport earlier than schedule. The skies were downcast but hoping there would be no rains during our dives.

I watched the morning commotion on my taxi as I rode to Punta Engano, not the usual way to go straight to downtown Cebu. This weekend, we will be stationed in Mactan island and guess what?  We are staying at Hilton Resorts & Spa – yes, the famous pink Hilton of Cebu!  Midtown Cebu, Grand Hotel, Montebello, Crown Regency Suites, Days Hotel, Cebu Plaza, Waterfront were few of the hotels I find shelter in other occasions but never on luxurious ones like Hilton. 😛  Courtesy of Angel who got a gift certificate for  two-night stay for two as one of his complimentary award for his travel blog.  It was an honor to share his prize, experiencing a luxurious stay at pink Hilton is not in my list.  🙂  

Everything is pink as I stepped down from the taxi, after some preliminaries at the front desk I shoot up to 22nd floor, buzzed Room 2203 and sadly woke up Angel who barely slept 3 hours. 😦  He was still in stupor as he let me in. 😛 I reached out to the terrace and watched the morning horizons overlooking the beach, calm crystal waters and green vegetations yonder. It was almost two months from our last trip and so there were catch up stories to tell, then went down to Vanilla Beach Café for a sumptuous breakfast.  I watched in awe of the abundance of food, all free!  But I needed a light meal for my dive, Angel wanted to try everything he fancied with!  😛 I love long breakfasts with stories but we need to rush to Maribago beach for the dives, we are expected at 10am.

For some adventure and to save transportation costs, we chose to commute to Kontiki Divers. After a wrong stop, few inquiries and 200 m walk, we reached the diveshop on time.  Ms Diana was out there to welcome and introduce us to DM Julian, it was some kind of exclusive dive for us – no other divers to join us!  Without delay, we went off to the shore for the diving boat – alas, it was high tide and we need to wade in the waters!  We discovered that there was lot of resorts lining up the beach which includes the Maribago Blue Waters. 

First Dives of the Year

Our first stop was Agus Bay, we descend on a sandy area then getting deeper to a wall with reefs.  It felt good to be back in the depths, so relaxing – indeed a second home.  We drifted watching the scenery, there is really something peaceful with the fishes.  There were damsels, fusiliers, variety of anthias,  banners, variety of angels, some butterfly, lionfish and more.  There were gorgonians I passed by trying to look closely for macros. But alas, I forgot to put on my contacts!  😛  I planned to have it when I got to the hotel but simply slip from my mind.  There were bubble corals, tubes, some table but no sponges.  I tried to touch something that looks like sea cucumber but turn out to be a hard coral.  There were few nudis  and pelagics were nowhere.  After 48 mins with 27.8m as deepest we surfaced near Maribago Blue Waters, the boat waiting to pick us up.

After an hour of interval, we descend at Marine Station limiting to 25m deepest according to DM Julian. It was sandy slope until we went deeper to a wall covered with reefs. There were seafans in green, yellow, brownish and lavender.  Bubble corals were abundant, some crinoids and variety of hard corals.  There were, damsels, moorish idol, butterfly, angels, groupers, lionfish, anthias and more.  We were stunned when a large school of medium-sized bluefin trevally appeared before us! It darkened our view but was truly mesmerized with this wonderful display of creation, about tens of thousands of them. So near to us as we drifted on and passed us by.  As we get shallower we went east and found the crane artificial reef which is now fully covered with corals. I found lot of fishes nearby including my favorite puffer fish. We drifted shallower until we had our safety stop, we linger more and hopped on the corals until we surfaced right on the concrete steps of Club Kontiki.  We were 48 mins down and went 22.8m as our deepest.  It was already past 2pm and so we ran out of time for third dive as we wanted.  After a  coffee break  and some pleasantries with Ms Diana, we settled our bills and rushed back to the hotel – grateful it wasn’t drizzling anymore.

More of Mactan

Angel planned for a dinner at Vienna Kaffehaus to try if comparable at CdeO  😛 , so after dark we went searching for the resto.  Our choice:  Bauern Platter, Green Mix Salad, Kartoffel Soup plus fruit shakes and blueberry cheesecake – all yummy but his fave Pasta Pesto was not in the menu!  😛

The next morning we went to hear mass at Sto. Nino Mactan in Visayan, decided to walk back to the hotel but when we passed Mactan Shrine we went to take a look.  It has an obelisk (!), a large mural of Mactan Battle, monument of Lapu-Lapu, some souvenir shops and park. And there were  Korean tourists geting around in the park with matching guide.  Passing Shangri-La, a bit farther we dropped by at Scubaworld Diveshop – had a brief chat with the shop manager (a diver perhaps), and bought some dive supplies – I was looking for beanie hood but not available.  After a few meters, we finally got to the hotel entrance.  We’re famished already and so went straight to Vanilla Beach for our sumptuous brunch.  Again I was overwhelmed of the abundance when there’s so much people out there who have nothing to eat!

We wanted to make most of our stay at the resort, the remaining few hours were spent at the house reef to snorkel – waters again – ah, this is life!  🙂  The parasols along the white beach, the infinity pool and the calm waters were picture perfect.  But our love for marine life pushed us further and we were not disappointed, as soon as we got near the two rock islets fishes started to appear.  They have installed artificial reefs, big round concrete  culverts that were almost covered with corals.  There were anthias, damsels, groupers, triggers, pipefish, sergeants.  Angel spotted a lionfish coyly swimming under its abode, which he pointed out to me. 🙂  There were larger groupers, triggers, goatfish under the culverts.  Throngs of anthias came near us as if wanted to be fed – so beautiful!  🙂  Oh, I will never get tired of marine life…

Special Tryst

We rushed and shoot up to 22nd floor for the last time – to freshen up and finally pack up. Last few minutes in this luxurious trance.  After some clearance at the front desk, we took a cab to airport  leaving our pink abode behind us.  Such a wonderful experience, I wouldn’t splurge my hard earned peso just to spend a night in this kind of lavishness.  It was such an honor that Angel shared this luxury treat with me. 

This weekend was a perfect tryst with my favorite dive buddy, I never indulge  myself a leisure getaway on a January when work is just too full.  But things just went perfectly and we both loved every minute of it.  Mactan weekend will be a special memory for me and Angel.  Shhhhh, I suspect he was sneaking on my Cebu dive plans… 🙂

NB.  Snatch a photo somewhere from files…

Unraveling Camotes Depths!

Camotes islands was never in my list for this year to explore, while I have heard about it obscurely but never thought it to be a possible dive destination. On an impulse, Angel and I packed our gears for a weekend dive trip to Camotes.  It was exciting for us both, we just love off beaten paths – it is more interesting!  Discovering one new place with little known or vague facts and information is exhilarating!

Still tired from the trip and our rushed afternoon tour the day before, we drag ourselves from bed.  As usual, I woke up earlier than my buddy for the preliminaries – packing and ucam set up.  Our version of breakfast – a mug of coffee, 1 ½ piaya, I banana – to be light for the dive and to save!  🙂  We ordered Filipino breakfast takeout for our lunch from the next garden resort and pick up gears just in time when our transpo picked us up.  We arrived at Ocean Deep 15 minutes ahead of our appointment, I was hoping we could meet the owner but didn’t.  So, we assembled the gears and I was aghast that the dive master and the receptionist did the carrying of the paraphernalia to the boat!  Far cry from previous dive shops we got into. It was about 100 meters to the boat, Angel and I had no plans to carry our 3 tanks each, sorry… 😛

We cruised to our first site at Tulang Island for Lawis almost an hour – we planned for a maximum deep of 35 meters, since it‘s a wall it would be manageable.  We did roll-back entry and when we descend, I needed 2 more weights!  We

got into some slope and the wall – what strikes me most is that there was lot of sea fans scattered around of different colors and sizes like it’s a garden.  There were anthias, scorpionfish, camouflaging clams, hard and soft corals,

fusiliers, barrel sponge, damsels, colorful nudi, anemones, clown fish and crown of thorns!  We did see lot of this sea stars and I was apalled, I was wondering if there were initiatives by the locals to protect the marine environment from this menace.  We ascend after 46 minutes having our deepest at 33 metres.

We took refuge at the white beach of Tulang Island for our surface interval, a peaceful stretch of white sand.  The divemaster took a break and left us on our own so we took a refreshing dip at the cool crystal waters, searching for shells and stones for my souvenir. 🙂   An hour later we moved on to our next descent at The Wall which we stayed for

clownfish on an anemone

56 minutes at maximum depth of 26.7 meters. Again, it was a wall with some sandy slope decorated with a variety

healthy corals

and large expanse of corals, sponges, crinoids and variety of colorful fish juveniles.  We ascend and exited at another spot at site no. 4.

Our late lunch served as our surface interval for our last dive,  as we cruised back near the Mangodlong Rock Resort.  Without consulting my dive computer we descend for our last dive at Lucbon Shoal, in awhile it kept blinking – Error!  Our surface interval wasn’t enough L  We got down to a wide coral gardens where we had an average of 20 meters as our deepest.  Variety of hard corals – there was a wide table top coral, staghorns and other kinds of

crown of sea thorns 😦

branching species in different shades and colors.  But sadly, the crown of thorns had attacked this area and it was so frustrating to watch the corals turning grey and brown in death.  What a disaster!  In my assessment, about ¼ of the area has been devoured by the sea stars.  I found this so alarming, and I was wondering if the local government or authorities have done something to save the environs.  Even the dive operators and resorts around the islands have the responsibility to protect the marine resources, after all they’re making business from it!  We ascend after an hour as Angel was getting low on air.

We cruised back to the beach area of the resort and was grateful we got back earlier as expected.  Hey, I went ahead not wanting to see who’s gonna carry the tanks back to the diveshop 😛  After settling bills, packing gears and a brief wait of our transpo, we were back at our lodgings before it gets dark.  It was such a full day but surviving the almost unknown sites with my favorite dive buddy was pleasing enough, no complaints except for the menacing crown of thorns slowly destroying the underwater paradise in Camotes waters.

The underwater scenes in Camotes didn’t disappoint us, now and then Angel and I will continue to discover more of our country’s enchanting paradise deep down.  The exquisiteness of the marine world and seeing more places in Philippines will always be our inspiration… 🙂