Perking Up at Puerto Galera

Rich marine life

I yawned staring blankly at the airline crew doing the safety demo before taking off, I was on a 9pm flight for Manila.  It’s  a long Friday or a long week for that matter, and all I wanted was to curl up on my bed with my fluffy pillows.  But I need to go, like a fish out of water my gills were severely dried up – it’s been nine weeks since my last dive!

Sabang Once More

After a bus and ferry boat ride, we arrived a little past 9am at Sabang hoping to catch up for Isla Verde trip, but all boats have left already.  We ended up with the two remaining dives on schedule for the day within  Sabang area.  But just watching the blue waters and sunny skies, gave a spirit lift even with lack of sleep.  Nine months ago, we feasted with the rich marine biodiversity within the nearby sites.

Invertebrates abound the area

A number of divers were book for the day, so DM Guy assigned us  to the new speedboat of the resort with DM Andrew – Angel and I was glad they still remember us, later we learned that it’s rare they have Filipino clients, almost everyday  they had foreigner divers from other parts of the globe! All other divers were indeed  of different nationalities, we were joined with  a Canadian.

Our first descent was in Sabang Point planning for a maximum depth of thirty meters, rolling back for our entry I remembered what we did in Tubbataha complete with the count from our DM.  We descend on sandy slope decorated with variety of hard corals coupled with juvenile reef fishes, floating and watching the sights in silence.  It felt so good to be back in the waters!  There were damsels, sand perch, a lurking moray, blue nudi and a slithering banded sea snake – instantly we back-out a little observing its direction.  A little dragonfish was perched on sand, it was my first time to see this critter with such wing-like pectoral fins, I believed it was disturbed by our presence.  Invertebrates abound in the area – colorful crinoids and hydroids.  More nudi species, variety of anemone fishes, wrasses, anthias, damsels and more. I watched in awe a herd of yellow-tailed fusiliers hanging in mid-water, swimming in unison with same vibration in one direction.  Then over lush corals, appeared another herd of striped eel catfish wiggling its way and further, a long crocodile houndfish inched its way near the hard corals.  We hovered around a coral area for our safety stop until we ascend having a total bottom time of 51 minutes.

Striped eel wiggled before us
Striped eel wiggled before us

DM Andrew briefed us that the next descent will be at Sabang Wrecks, I guess DM Guy was taking note that we love wrecks and so the suggestion. This time we are joined with three other foreigner divers.  A short five minutes on the speed boat to the spot, back rolling again for our entry we went down on a sandy area. Our first encounter was a snake eel, with only its head protruding, its entire body buried on the sand – amazing! Very rare, since they are commonly seen on night dives.  We passed a coral area as we proceed to the first wreck, a small boat almost rotten but a good artificial reef as there many fish species now claimed it as their abode.  Juvenile fishes swarmed the area.  On our way for the second wreck, a giant moray lurking under a coral appeared before us.  A patch of coral with crinoids on the sand housed a pair of  ghost pipefish, mimicking the green feather star!  Rare sighting, but the waters was disturbed when another came near, it went cloudy.  There was a flounder – another rare sight, so elusive with its color like the sand  but with  eyes protruding, its outline appeared like an abstract.  Angel wanting to take more photos, we finned back for the ghost pipefish at the deserted sandy area just in time when the visibility cleared up.  Indeed, one need keen eyes to see more of the wondrous marine critters.

The elusive ghost pipefish

Approaching the second wreck, shiny banded bluish spade fishes appeared in view.  Listing on its starboard side, we advance for the small wreck just observing as we passed by.  The last wreck encrusted with hard corals and rust is another artificial reef, juvenile fishes swarming.  Watching variety of fishes in one area so near me was a real treat. The black frogfish and a huge swarm of sardines in blue backdrop above us coming from nowhere was a grand display of

Rare black frogfish

beauty and wonder of the depths.  We swam back shallower and passed over the first wreck which is more of a debris, unto the sandy area for our safety stop. Yet even with the last few minutes, we still had wonderful encounter with another moray, a troop of big yellow cardinals, peacock mantis shrimp and a group of pipefish. We ascend after 48 minutes bottom time with the afternoon sun still shining brightly.

Huge swarm of sardines!

Reason to be Back

Coming to Puerto Galera was another buffet of marine encounters just like our last visit nine months ago, the two dives renewed my spirit without doubt and it was another marvelous weekend with my favorite dive buddy.  We aimed for Verde Island but Sabang didn’t disappoint us, it gave us  good reason to be back again to savor more of its diverse marine life.  Long trip and lack of sleep didn’t stop us for the dive, it might be insane for some but ironically I need it to maintain my equilibrium.  And I’m sure there will be more surprises in the depths in  future trips to this booming town!

NB.  Photos courtesy of Angel using Olympus Tough 8000 with PT 045 as casing.

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Puerto Galera Galore (

Puerto Galera Galore

Colorful crinoid

One busy Thursday, I took the last flight for Manila to pursue a postponed trip. The random decision to be in Puerto Galera for weekend dives turned out to be a surprising discovery of its depths!  Though this place wasn’t in my priority list, it was the most practical option to fill-in our schedule.  I have always known PG for its beaches, crowds and parties.  Personally I shunned crowded beach, it isn’t my cup of tea.  And Puerto Galera is exactly like that as I’ve seen in the media.

Threatened by continous rains in the metro, I was hoping and crossing my fingers that the waters would favor us.  It was almost seven weeks from my last dive, I direly needed the waters for my dried-up gills!

Sabang Feast

Arriving Sabang, which is 5.5 kilometers away from downtown PG late afternoon, we were thankful we arrived safe after a detour to Calapan City.  Indeed, the district is bustling – stores, restos, bars, and people filled the area.  Dive resorts and shops lined up along the shore.  It was a relief when we finally got into our lodgings, at the same time too our dive operator.

The next morning promised a sunny day, we gathered up our gears and reported at the dive shop, to meet our DM for some briefing and choosing the sites.  I was requesting if we could make the Hole in the Wall, I just thought the spot is unique and it was intriguing!  DM Guy was helpful affirming for the Hole in the afternoon dive.

A mall wreck at monkey beach!

Our first descent was at Monkey Beach not far from the area, the visibility wasn’t really good but manageable enough as we don’t need beyond 10 meters for exploration. It was a sandy slope patched with colorful crinoids and with active fish life.  We spotted garden eels, puffer, trumpetfish, scorpions, large rabbitfish and morays. Angel took fancy of the juvenile lionfish for its photos, there were nudis too scattered in the area.  It was an easy dive but what delighted us most was the small wreck there lying on its port side.  It was a steel boat now encrusted with hard corals and crinoids.  It perked me up as we go round, and that familiar rush to swim inside – just love the mystery!  🙂  But the DM just watched me and gave no clue to penetrate.  Peeking inside from window bars, I watched the active fish life inside.  After 49 minutes we ascend with my 90 bars air left.

Lavender nudi!

Our DM getting the impression that we were both interested with wrecks, suggested that our next descent will be at Sabang Wrecks, Angel and I was delighted!  🙂  As foreign divers were off for some deep dive somewhere, the boat dropped us at the area for our dive.  Angel and I was both thrilled exploring the wreck – not just one but three!  The first wreck was a small steel boat still intact now encrusted with hard corals and crinoids, we went around watching the active fish life, there was much dwellers.  The oversized bat fish were so friendly, they almost touch your hands. There were trumpetfish, and those vertical swimming shrimpfish. I was amused with the two big clown fish who went near my hands and who did bit my fingers (!) perhaps looking for food. As we got full circle around the wreck, we found at sea turtle with a remora on its back, taking refuge and sleeping.  It was so friendly, it didn’t went away when we approached him  Angel took photos

Friendly sea turtle 🙂

but the lights didn’t disturb him, he opened his eyes and closed it again after seeing us.  And I did touch him and he allowed us to do that!  The second wreck was small lying on its port side on the sand and also encrusted with corals. As we went along, a school of small sardines appeared above us.  The last wreck was some wooden boat almost devoured but the engine still in tact, some remnants of its hull still there, a reminder it was once there.  We had finally our safety stop on a sandy area with coral garden.  We surfaced at the front of the dive shop, so we decided to swim back to the shore as the boat was nowhere in sight.  I have no choice but to walk back to the diveshop with the gears on my back, which I really don’t like until now.

Shy puffer!

Our leisure pasta lunch in a deserted Italian resto served as our surface interval and rest.   We were equally eager for the third dive for the Hole in the Wall, and while DM Guy briefed us I was asking many questions, especially it was known to be with strong currents.  At past 2pm, we descend at Escarceo Point on a sandy slope then to a wall filled with hard and soft corals and colorful crinoids, the visibility was not really good but very manageable. There was strong current (!) and we drifted fast, I was on alert not to be far from our DM and so with Angel, although managing currents underwater is challenging I still felt jitters on it.  We passed by corals, critters, sponges and colorful reef fishes and some pelagics obscurely drifting.  Trying to stay close to the bed until we got to wall full of colorful corals and crinoids, our DM signaled and pointed to something. I tried to steady myself and followed the direction, and there the hole!  I was looking for Angel but he was above us a little farther. DM Guy went ahead and passing the hole was like in a flash! It was very quick, I was pushed by the current to the other side and Angel was there lingering on the coral garden.  The current was still strong, we head back shallower on the gardens and got away from the current, I was stung with fire corals. 😦   We explore more during our safety stop on a sandy area, finding some nudis, moray, juvenile lionfish and more critters.  We ascend after 51 minutes with my air still at 100 bars.

Mysterious wreck!

We wanted to make most of our stay in Sabang, so Angel and I agreed to have one more dive the next morning, we were such thrilled as we will explore another wreck – MV Alma Jane,  considered as the longest in Puerto Galera waters.  So after a rushed visit to PG town for Sunday mass followed by a hurried breakfast back in Sabang, we got to the dive shop and geared up once more.  The weather has favored us with bright skies promising a sunny day.

Three more foreign divers joined us, a short ten minutes brought us to the area for the descent. We grabbed the bouy line as soon as we got to the waters, slowly descending.  It was hazy at first until we caught sight obscurely of the wreck like a monster – though much smaller than in Coron.  There lying upright on sandy bottom at about 30 metres, MV Alma Jane encrusted with patches of hard corals.  We started our round on its starboard side going front, with those giant batfish decorating.  Then on the port side going rear, with oversized rabbit fish swimming coyly.   There were crinoids and sighted few small nudis.  Ascending few meters, DM Guy signaled for the hull, so we came in tow – DM, me and Angel. And there, that same overwhelming feeling of discovering what’s inside, the mystery is too overpowering! Floating lightly, careful not to touch anything, the tour inside was short but it felt good!  🙂  We went shallower for the shaft, still in tact and few fish linger there. We sighted lot of stonefish camouflaging seated on flat steel surface on the mast.  Ascending slowly holding again the bouyline until we had our safety stop, finally we surfaced.  The whole wreck itself was a lovely sight!

Giant rabbitfish adorned the wreck…

Indeed, the four dives was like a feast to me.  It was a surprising discovery, the sites were marvelous and the wrecks added color to this random trip in Puerto Galera.

Promise for Return

Angel and I was impressed with the sites, we promised for a return perhaps not sooner but eyeing for Verde Island next time.  The Lord was generous again with such luxury.  Just last February, we were flying over Mindoro from Apo Reef, I recalled he was saying he is interested too with PG but I said vaguely we will do it sometime.  I never planned for Puerto Galera but it was a wish coming true for Angel.  Unplanned yet we were not disappointed, it was a remarkable experience.

Travel Notes:

Sabang is 5.5 kilometres from town proper of Puerto Galera and can be reach by jeepney.
Puerto Galera is 48 kilometers from the City of Calapan, about 1 hour & 20 minutes by van.
Sabang can be reached by boat direct from Batangas City port about 1 hour and 30 minutes.
My route for this trip was: Manila – Batangas – Calapan – Puerto Galera – Sabang.