Deeper in Albay (Part I)

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We were floating over a wide expanse of corals!

After discovering over a year ago that Legazpi has diving opportunities, I was back to explore Albay Gulf. It is not really known for scuba diving, I just thought it isn’t much exploited and it would be less crowded and I would have enough time taking it slow, down in the depths. Craning my neck looking for Mt. Mayon as my plane prepared for arrival, she was hidden by clouds even as we touched down. Seeing her countenance everyday was another inspiration for my three-day get away. I was noting mentally my to do’s for the day as I headed for my new house at Mayon Backpackers, located perfectly in the downtown area bit far from the dive shop. But going around the city all by myself was just as interesting as discovering one new place, surface or in the depths.

Morning Delights

My diveshop was too kind to arrange for my pick-up and being early had given me enough time to take it slow as I wait for my companions. Indeed, it wasn’t congested there were only two of us as their guests, I was joined to a 67 year old Japanese who just earned his certification few months back. Taking it slow as I wish!

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Bubble corals were also abundant!

We cruised shortly to our first descent, DM Almar briefly introduce the site which they called as Itom na Buya (Black Bouy) which I presumed originally marked with black bouys. Mr. Jin Masuda of Pacific Blue have mentioned that restoration of the bay is on-going but it was surprising that the area was colorful and was filled with variety of corals including wide sea fans in different hues. Although the fishes were juveniles but it wasn’t totally devoid of marine life and it looks healthy. There were bubble corals, branching corals, rubber corals, whips, ferns, and feather stars. There were occasional juvenile nudis, and we found a shrimp lurking on the coral. We ascend after 47 minutes with air at 80 bars, my deepest was 25 meters.

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There were lot of sea fans

Our second descent was in Pasig Out (there must be Pasig In!), a sandy slope which is not really far from dive shop shores. Our first sighting was a tombstone of diver who lost his life in accident while diving many years ago. It still standing there now covered with fossilized parasites. For sure, diving in Albay wasn’t something new and maybe the diver or the accident has been forgotten buried from lapse of time . Corals also abound in the area – bubbles, rubber, staghorns, spirals, seafans, whips, squirts and even crown of thorns. Although there was an area of coral rubbles the reviving and flourishing marine life is imminent. Juvenile fishes are contently hovering over corals! At noon, the waters went choppy already, not wanting to stay on the surface longer I carry my tank on my own.  We ascend after 40 minutes with air still at 100 bars, my deepest at 22 meters.

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Juveniles wiggling among the corals, marine life is obviously thriving in the area!

The view was perfectly glorious, my ascents and descents were decorated with the view of Mt. Mayon, watching her from the waters in a different angle was a unique experience! It was a great morning for our descents and my afternoon was more interesting. I had a long interval for my third dive which deserves another write-up. Taking it slow, you know! 🙂

Secret in the Albay Depths

P1050077My wish to explore Albay Gulf was granted, just a couple of days ago. Indeed, there is always beyond the surface. We paid respect to a diver who choose the depths as his graveyard. He died many years ago, cremated and his ashes sprinkled over this area, this must be his favorite spot.  His tombstone is now calcified and encrusted with algae.  The inscription  is not readable anymore.

Just one of the highlights in exploring Albay depths!

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!