Deluge at Duka Bay!

Ready to go!

In November, we head southeast down Misamis Oriental and revisited Duka Bay to relish once more its impressive depths. The bay has been a favorite back when I was just starting my dive pursuits. It is just few kilometers from Cagayan de Oro and I have good friends managing a diveshop in the location, this was my playground during my advance open water (AOW) course. The local government also exerted efforts for marine conservation and preservation – marine sanctuary maintenance, installation of artificial reefs, coral restoration and dive clean-ups. Their labor was intensive and the support for them was gratifying. The site is practically a good destination for weekend get- away.

Filled with marine life!

The weather cooperated with us on that Saturday morning when previous days it was pouring hard, mysteriously the viz was good enough for our dives. There were no other divers so it was again an exclusive one for us. Edward, Jolem, Badette and Lemuel of Duka Dive & Aquasports were there for us.

Paying respect for Our Lady Star of the Sea

We were aiming for Mother Mary’s statue which is something new in Paradise, it was planted early in CY 2017 and has become an attraction in the bay. It was our first stop, she was there standing in the middle of white sandy slope away from the crowd. So alone, so serene. It reminds me of MUSA in Cancun, Mexico – but with only one statue it is a far cry. Marine critters started to inhabit the statue, actually promoting coral life. We proceed to that big crater full of tropical fishes, I positioned in the by-side, paused and watch in awe the busy stream of resident fishes swimming, darting, wiggling before me. We passed alibuags sending shivers as it was too cold to ignore. Duka is famous for these fresh water springs underwater, how uncanny nature is! There was a parade of giant snappers and a big turtle appeared. We entered a small cavern full of golden cardinals, swimming madly as we got near! The area is now more full with soft & hard corals, decorated with crinoids, whips and other invertebrates. Still a paradise, as it was!

Our last dive was at the Aquarium with an inner reef for the wide coral field and outer reef to the deeper part of the site. We descend on a sandy slope unto a large colony of garden eels, so many of them! And again, I linger for a moment to just watch them come up from their burrows inch by inch. Their shyness is endearing! There were lot of tropical fishes in variety, few nudis and a cluster of giant clams. We found too stonefish and a juvenile yellow frogfish. We roamed around the coral fields, biding our time and watchful for critters. There were alibuags again scattered, and true to its name as it was before, it is indeed an aquarium!

Just marvelous, the bay can never be outdone in its diverse marine life, and coming back after some time with a deluge of sightings was refreshing enough and brought back memories how replete this once my playground in the early days!

NB. All photos courtesy of my favorite dive buddy –! 🙂

Valentine’s Weekend Dive…

Black & White Clown fish taking refuge on a sea anemone…

Finally, I have finished my reports and made it to the deadline, though other tasks are still in queue,  but as I have promised myself I need to go to the depths and flip my fins to be once again in the midst of the Lord’s most grandeur creation. Last night, while still at work finishing my tasks for the day, got a message from my mentor for a Saturday dive !  What an inspiring invitation – it felt like my back pain is gone!  🙂 

So, I have something to look forward this weekend although my mind is still lingering for other tasks that need my attention, I just couldn’t resist going for a dive… I’ll be back again at Duka Bay but I don’t mind, because I knew there will be something new in every encounter deep down. But I don’t want to miss the cold alibuag, and maybe  caught sight of the sea turtle!  I just miss to be with Angel for a dive…  Well, our next month’s trip would be an off the beaten path site – it’s gonna be an exciting discovery! 🙂

NB.  Above photo was taken at Paradise, Duka Bay

Diving in December!

I never knew that getting into the depths in the last days of the year can be more challenging!  🙂

Amazing Duka Bay!

There is always something new in every dive I had and indeed there are surprises and lessons in store in my every underwater encounters – what a joy!  J  Despite pretty hectic schedules in December, Angel and I tried to fit in one dive trip (my last for the year) last weekend.  Mindanao has a perfect sunny weather on year ends except two weeks ago when Typhoon Urduja strike Northern Mindanao leaving floods and landslides in some parts in Misamis Oriental.  I was suggesting for a hop to Camiguin but Angel wanted to have a side trip to Butuan for his cravings at Margie’s Kitchen.  Duka Bay would be a strategic site for our dive given itinerary plans.  I have been eagerly waiting for this last 2009 dive with Angel.

Full & Complete Saturday

Waking up early for the preliminaries – setting up uw cam and my contacts plus final packing,  promptly got a message from Angel of his arrival a little bit past 6am. I rushed thinking to get the 7am Bachelor Tours for Butuan.  It was fortunate to chance up a King Long bus, Angel was just in the nick of time when he arrived, the bus promptly left like 2 minutes after he got into the transpo!  It was a sunny morning indeed though when we arrived Medina, the skies went downcast.  Bubbles and Edward came to our aide, there were no other divers, just us and I like it.  We geared up for our first site, but we’re not on a dive boat but on a baruto – such a crude and spartan way to reach the dive spot though much better than swimming! We headed for  mooring bouy – it was that simple –  paddling to the spot riding the big waves! J It was something new and bit challenging, I only had my water entry during my night dive lessons but I had all the assistants surrounding me.  The water was choppy so we need to hold on to the mooring line for our descent.   It was amazing because it was plain clear and current-free down, we had a great deal going around – the crevices, small cave, drop-off.  We tried to search for critters, carefully probing corners.  We swam along the fresh water spring (alibuag) deep down, I went round again and again savoring the cold waters! It’s a wonder…  Near the spring were drop offs, we got down unto a sandy area and took photos.  We went round savoring the scenery and had our safety stop when our air got down to 80 bars, we went 110ft as our deepest! Well, taking off the gears in the choppy water is challenging indeed! And I got difficulty getting into the paddle boat but I made it though…. 🙂

When we got back to the dive shop, we took our early lunch and had some rest for our surface interval.  We geared up again for our next descent after more than an hour but this time the waves got higher!  This time we got a little pumpboat instead of the baruto, which was better especially that the water is getting more choppy. When we had our stop for the descent, we were tossed by the big waves. We started at the shallower part of the Aquarium going deeper. We went around, and the usual abundant fish life in the sanctuary is truly engaging – anthias, gorgonians, colorful crinoids, basket sponges, hard corals, soft corals.  We didn’t miss too the artificial reefs and swam on top of it, to get a glimpse of the giant clam perched on the AR crown.  We stumble upon a sea turtle – watching the creature wading its limbs was wonderful to behold!  J We followed him swimming. We sighted too a moray eel, puffers and lionfish trapped inside a basket sponge, and  school of angel fish and batfish.  Really, the sanctuary has truly an abundant fish life – just perfect for its name – Aquarium.  We prepared for our ascent when Angel’s air was almost zero.  It was getting more choppy and we were tossed when we surfaced, getting off from our gears.  Angel has to help me to get up into our boat, it was challenging but I was learning.  🙂

DM Edward suggested to call it a day, the waters became too choppy and the viz is getting hazy.  Angel and I planned for three dives but agreed with him, we felt exhausted too after the two challenging dives.  We packed our things and left Medina for Butuan a little past 3pm.  One thing keeps nagging my mind – I need a dive computer soon!  We arrived home after sundown, just right for our plans for the night.

Margie’s, Oh Margie’s

I was getting famished already and after settling our luggage we hastily left for my favorite café – which has become Angel’s favorite too.  He just loved the English beer battered fish n chips in tar tartar sauce plus the cookie monster and cheesecake.  He has these cravings months ago after he first tried it last April!  And indeed, we were blessed that fish n chips is still available (hallelujah!) – we had a sumptuous dinner , actually it was utter indulgence! The rich cookie monster and blueberry cheesecake  plus the langka homemade ice cream was so tempting – I’m feeling guilty of eating that much! 😛  I needed help from Angel for my crispy beef tadyang! Angel and I was biding our time – for me it was like savoring life’s pleasures – to brace me for the all too hectic days ahead during year ends. It was some kind of regaining my equilibrium, to keep me perfectly sane… 🙂

I guess Angel  is getting fanatic with Margie’s, because the next day before our leaving back to CdO we went there again with Kay for lunch, just imagine we were the first customers on that Sunday, we were just right at their doorstep when the coffee shop opened!  😛 We tried other menus but never eliminating the cookie monster and cheesecake, we had another sumptuous meal again!  It would still be long before Angel could get back to Butuan for Margie’s Kitchen.  This time we never missed the chance to scribble on the café’s wall, we tried to beg the staff to let us do it.  Voila, Lakwatsero invades Margie’s Kitchen!  And yes, we had our photo taken by the shop – hopefully to be posted in the shop’s bulletin board.

Another Great Weekend

Angel was saying his weekend is full, so much has happened – well, two cities , in two regions in Mindanao, two dives in two wonderful sites in Duka Bay and two sumptuous meals at Margie’s. It was full indeed, and no doubt pleasurable.  We arrived CdO past 4pm just right for Angel to catch up for his flight back home.  New lessons, new learnings and new challenges.  The Lord has always done marvelous things for my trips keeping things in perfect order. Indeed, all things work for good to those who trust Him…

Back to Paradise and Aquarium!

your clean up countsAfter a wonderful get away with Angel at Anilao for our long planned dive, I had the opportunity to dive again with my mentor’s group for a cleanup.  It was unplanned though to have another dive on a consecutive weekend. It was just hard to resist aside from being low-cost, I will be revisiting one of the amazing sites in Duka Bay for underwater cleanup – my first time to be involved in such endeavor! Grateful that my dive mentor invited me even on a last minute notice!

 So on a downcast Saturday morning, I woke up too early to pack up, get on my contacts and catch the early aircon bus, I need to be there by 9am. I noticed it’s bit windy as we go along the way, the tree tops and branches were swaying – I was hoping the waters won’t be too choppy for a dive.  I arrived little bit past 9am but just on time before the cleanup, Ann & Kris was there to welcome me. Other divers were dressed already, for sure they arrived too early.  It’s good there’s another lady diver around, at least I have some company other than the guys who are strangers to me. It’s good to see Mario, Lemuel and PJ – my constant companions in my dives at Duka & Agutayan – they’re so kind to me, always they made my visits as comfortable as possible, they are always ready to accommodate my requests.  J 

 We were the first group to do the cleanup – six of us – Eduard & Raul (40 ft), Brandy & Karen (50 ft), Lemuel and me (60 ft). We should be parallel with each other, and must stay close with the buddy. Armed with scissors and net bags, we descend near the Aquarium.  A site so abundant with fish life – colorful and varied species just like in an aquarium!  Crinoids, sponges, hard & soft corals, and of course the debris. uwSince it was near the shore, all we got are fishing lines entangled on rocks and corals, long nylon rope and plastics.  Bouyancy control is needed in underwater cleanups, I got stuck with crinoids since I have to go low near the bed.  I have wanted to enjoy the scenery but we are focused with the task – Lemuel nudge me now and then to hold the lines, I got distracted with the fishes getting near me! J  We ascend after 35 minutes (too short!) with a bagful of trash. I still have 1800psi air, I could have stayed longer…

 We went for another dive after our lunch with another group, not a cleanup anymore but plain fun dive to Paradise – as it’s noted for its alibuag, crevices, caverns and abundant fish life. It’s a deep dive and I love to stay immerse in the cool alibuag – simply amazing – fresh water spring deep down in sea water!  But the current is getting imminent , we could feel it and we’re beginning to drift away. My buddy (I forgot his name), tags along with me and holding my BC which I don’t like – I prefer to be alone! And more than that, they signaled for an ascent! With just 35 minutes bottom time and my air still at 1500psi, I’m bit disappointed. I could have stayed longer and explored more even a the shallower area – I can surmise that they don’t have enough air more than the current, so we end up sooner.  Next time, I should request a buddy with efficient air consumption, I found it disgusting to just end up the dive because my companion have no air enough. Nevertheless, all the guys had lot of stories – one had zero air and use alternate from buddy, another had the mouthpiece of his regulator detached and gone kaput so he use his alternate air source – different lessons learned…

 We packed our gears and convinced Karen to just come back with me to the city, she decided earlier to stay for a night bash at the resort – the men are having a party! We settled our bills and waited for Mario who was diving with another group.  When they got back, we had pictures for Project Aware documentation, a form was filled up for the marine debris gathered.  We said our byes and we we’re transported to the bus stop.  It wasn’t long the aircon bus came and finally coming home. Unknowingly, the typhoon has ravaged the metro and in state of calamity!

clean up guys,,,

In a way, the day has been fruitful even if I still have lot of things to work out at home. Such a joy to do something good for our second home – the sea.  And the sights at Aquarium and Paradise never fails to captivate me again…

Diving at Duka Bay

It was a bright Saturday morning – it was still early but I gotta be going – I was expected to be at the meeting place at 7:30am, I need to leave home earlier.  My bags were packed the night before to be sure everything I need is all tucked. It was bit exciting since this dive is a requirement from my diving instructor before I could have my lessons for advanced open water diver course with him.  It has been almost two years that I dove with him, so it’s some sort of reuniting with my fave instructor. Though its bit tense because for sure, I would receive many reminders and corrections from him J – but no worries actually, he’s so ever kind with me… 

I was carefully browsing the mag stand (nothing to do) when Mario arrived, glad to see him and we climb into the truck J – my mind is wandering with excitement for today’s adventure. All was guys, not uncommon – still a gender issue! I was introduced to the guys, two of them from NY and London – Fred & Andy but both Cagayanons.  They were bit amused buying fresh fish along the road – not found in their new place! They were amazed that big yellow fin tunas as abundant in MisOr waters, at super low priced compared in NY & London.  It was bit of long drive to Duka, especially that we have cargoes in the truck – tanks and other dive equipments.  We drop-by at Baling ni Juan for  breakfast – the guys need it while I waited for them. 

Mario has just opened his diveshop about 3 weeks ago here in DU Dy Beach Resort, the place is exclusive – outside Duka Bay Resort.  A modest shop still undergoing improvements – tranquil and idyllic.  We finally got into our gears after we waited for the crew who went to the palengke for our needs.  We will go fish feeding today!

 Duka Reef is a marine protected area, very rich in marine life and has lot of dive sites waiting to be explored.  Our first descend was in Paradise – drop offs, caverns, crevices gaily decorated with colored corals. It boasts of “alibuag”, a freshwater spring in the sea – a nature wonder!  I tried to go near and feel the gushing water… There were a  variety of fish specie in the area, we went fish feeding (don’t like it much) so it was an alive encounter with the  critters. Our companions enjoyed taking photos and vids. I ascend later than the guys as I still have more air, Mario stayed with me while the rest of the group left.  I took my time swimming near the reference line, finally ascend when Mario summoned me and my air down to 1000 psi.  We had a late lunch, enjoying the tuna – tinola, grilled and fried! 

 Our next site was Japanese Garden, we went fish feeding again – such a rich fish life!  They feasted on the bread, we were surrounded by varied fishes (please view the vids – courtesy of Andy). I was fascinated with the sight of fishes so alive circling us as if asking fro food.  I was even more delighted when I stumble with a porcupine fish – I had fun playing with it, and Andy was quick to get a short vid of my encounter. J I sighted an artificial reef, a big structure with corals, grasses, sponges and other marine critters – wonderful sight! I ascend later again than the guys and I spend more time roaming around near the ref line, finally surfacing when my air is down to 1000psi.

 It was another wonderful encounter, new things learned, new sites explored – more reason to come again as I will be having my advanced open water diver course with Mario.  Well, got an approval from him to have my lessons – and it must be soon.  It’s been long overdue and I need additional skills for a more enjoyable dives.  I will be back in Duka Reef again soon for more diving adventures…