Scuba Diving Samal Island in Davao- A sea to summit Adventure

 

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                                       ><(((0>   staying salty   ><(((0>

June 13-18,2016

Scuba diving gets more and more into my nerves.

Those clown fishes’s eyes and crispy ass of the  anemone shrimp, those are just some of the reasons why I keep my head  submerged after months of working my as* off at work in the office.

After a successful Sambawan-Camiguin-Dauin dive trip end of the year 2015 and beginning of January 2016 partnered with my dive and travel buddy, what more could be exciting than planning another dive trip after 5months. We started collecting informations for another dive trip as early as February 2016.

So after weeks of assignments, research and a long wish list of places to dive around PH , for a limited time off  from work (2weeks) we narrowed down our choices to Samal island of Davao and Sogod Bay of Southern Leyte. Me and my buddy had been to Sogod bay in different times in the past and we both agree we love this place and definitely wouldn’t hesitate to come back. What we are most excited about is the Samal Island dive Safari plus this time we might be able to climb Mt Apo as well- the highest mountain of the Philippines.

We found this offer for a 3 days-2 nights-8dives around Samal island inclusive of full board meals, accommodation in a hammock. So we started calculating cost and specially we started to read and google articles of what to see and the best time to dive Samal island. Then came across with the Samal Watersports Centre website with their latest macro discoveries, and what we see is mind-blowing (macrophotographers  understand why)and immediately we decided to contact them for more informations about dive safari schedules and procedure for booking. For the climb we contacted   http://www.mtapoadventures.com which has good reviews and reputation.

So heres the list of what we wanna see in Samal island :

Green Hairy shrimps – haven’t seen yet (1st ultimate wish)

Tigershrimp- haven’t seen yet (2nd ultimate wish)

Blue ringed-octopus- seen once in Malapascua island

Wonderpus- seen once in Camiguin dive

Bumblebee shrimp– never seen yet

Harlequin Shrimp- seen once in Dauin

My dive buddy was able to receive a favourable response from the owner of Samal Water Sports Centre via email.

Luck is with us this time since the boat is available for the dates that we prefer. However we need 1 more person to join us diving so we can avail the fair price for 3 day dives and will have the boat on our own. But since we didn’t have enough time to invite friends and dive enthusiast we have to pay Php3000 more for each. I manage to convince one of my officemate to join us but since she is not a scuba diver yet it doesn’t qualify for the deal.As a joiner she was permitted to be onboard doing snorkelling, swimming and kayaking. She paid Php6000 all inclusive meals for 3 days and onboard the boat for 2nights.

So what does we know about Samal island? Samal island is known to have nice white sand beaches, it is also where a posh beach resort is located ,”The Pearl Farm Resort”. When it comes to scuba diving Samal is not so popular yet except for Macrophotographers which is a niche group in the country.

From Sea to Summit-Day 1 to 3

THE SEA

9am we were sitting on the tree roots in front of Pearl Farm Resort wharf in Davao city, too excited on our first day of diving, but luck is not on my side.I started to have an allergy while waiting for the boat to pick us up. An hour after there is still no boat coming. Since it’s late I call the dive shop in charge but unfortunately there is miscommunication between her and the boat crew as for the schedule of pick up time. So I’m starting to be disappointed and mad. At 11am finally the boat came in. We are scheduled for 3 dives for the first day and it’s almost lunchtime and I still have allergy so you know already how I’m feeling at that time.

So the crew apologizes for being late 2hrs and for having miscommunication with the dive shop staff. One captain, 1 dive guide 2assistant crew, 4 of them will be with us during this 3-day safari. We had a brief introduction from the dive guide ‘’Lhoc’’ as to what we will expect during the entire safari.

We were heading west side of Samal island for our first dive in a little islet called Liguid island, we reach there for about 45mins boat ride. It is a sandy slope and a muck dive site. So my bloated eyes started to heal, thanks to ‘’Tiger Balm’’ a very awesome ointment idea from my dive buddy. I was thinking of skipping the first dive because of my allergy, but then I was already dying inside not to submerged and after a very long time not being underwater. So final decision, I will do my first dive as scheduled together with my awesome dive buddy. So our first dive as expected is beyond awesomeness, seeing the sexy shrimps, graceful clown fishes, crabs, nudi branches, sea slugs and seahorses. Surprisingly we saw the critter we been longing for, remember were on a mission-that is to see the Green Hairy shrimps, hands up for our macro spotter ‘’Lhoc’’ he is truly one of a kind, he found it. Less than 5mm creature, hairy, green and very tiny, almost like a dot. I almost can’t breathe as I open my eyes as wide as I can and as focus as it can do; yes it’s the green hairy shrimp, the one we are looking for. I can’t believe we just have seen it that very moment and on our first dive, it camouflage very well with the green small squirts. My dive buddy spent almost 15mins taking pictures of this tiny one in every angle. But sadly we had to proceed diving and soon go up to the surface. During our surface interval the green hairy shrimp keeps crossing my mind, I borrowed the critter book from our dive guide because suddenly I’m craving to know more about them, it extremely fascinates me, they are just amazing, there is not so many sightings of this rare critter in PH, it is first found in Anilao Batangas.

We ended the first dive very hungry and guess what, we are welcomed back by the crew with sumptuous meal prepared in the table in the boat. One of the crew is a cook, he prepared our meals from day 1 to day 3, it consist of side dish, rice, main dish and unlimited fruits such as bananas, mangoes and pineapples. We had unlimited coffee and juices too. We finish the day with 2 more muck diving. From then on we knew that our dive 3-day dive safari would be a blast.

When the night came, after dinner is our well deserved sleeping and resting time. We can choose to sleep in a hammock or on the foamed benches on each side of the boat. Me, my colleague and dive buddy decide to sleep in the bench while the crew hang themselves up in a hammock. The boat is moored near the coast with a small fishing village.

Green hairy Shrimp

I have a secret to tell, all these time I keep fantasizing critters that we will see while diving.

On our second day, it still a muck dive, sandy patches and all about critters. Before reaching 70bar air left on my tank ‘’Lhoc’’ signal us again to come closer to him for sure he found another surprise for us, so without wasting any time, we swim excitedly to see what it is and voila he found another shrimp and not just a shrimp it is the rarest ‘’tiger shrimp’’ and not just one but two tiger shrimp together, one was smaller than the other, did I just mention before that I stop breathing when I saw the green hairy shrimp and as I remember it right one of the golden rule in scuba diving is never to hold breathe, you have to breathe slowly and deeply but never ever hold your breathe NEVER. But at this moment my brain cells literally stops working when I saw the two tiger shrimps. It is extremely mind blowing again. We felt were’ luckiest. Who ever made this masterpiece is a genius and deserves recognition; it has so many details in it from all over its body. From the tip of the claws to its stunning red eyes. You can just see love at first sight impression from my dive buddy’s eyes and I guess he also stops breathing for a while.

Lovers: tigershrimps
Lovers: tigershrimps

We also saw sea urchin crab, different sea star shrimps, imperor shrimp on the nudi, crinoid shrimp, marble shrimp, baby Donald duck shrimp. Another highlights of this day is the nemo who attacks me, I had bruises when suddenly she bump into my forehead. Must be laying eggs and was afraid I would invade her territory. After all days diving we head ashore where we can moor the boat overnight, it is a small coast with few houses and 2 small resort with cottages, there are kids swimming with their parents but there is this group of small children that caught our attention they’re riding on top of a banana trunks, it immediately brings nostalgic feelings to me since we do exactly the same in the river lake when I was still a kid, we ride banana trunk as boat and manage to keep the balance as much as possible until we overturned. Banana trunks float and doesn’t sink because there is a hallow parts in between two banana sheets so its perfect for kids.

After dinner Lhoc told us that the smaller tiger shrimp is male and the bigger one is female, weird right, but in underwater water world female tends to be queens 😛 and tiger shrimps are usually in partners and not solitary.

On our last day of diving we went south of Samal closest to Talikud Island ,we went out to this sea mount with beautiful reefs. The captain of the boat decides to dive us. We descend into this shallow part sandy patches and saw gardens of colorful surroundings with healthy corals and bounty of fishes, we initially saw coleman shrimps and sea urchin crabs until ‘’Lhoc’’ gets our attention again, he seems to found something special, hola it’s another shrimp, again very tiny and very hairy but this time the color is not green anymore but it is RED, and yes its another variety of hairy shrimp. Now I just feel like bragging, what the heck I must have something very good in my past to deserve this mind blowing moments of my life, believe it or not I wanted to rollover and celebrate and can’t explain the awe moment. Luck is still in our side. I wanted to say this is way too much of our expectations but hey for sure we’re more than grateful. Samal definitely is a stunning dive destination; very unspoiled, very quite and yes were the only divers in all the dive sites we went, high five for this. J J J Mission one – accomplish !

Red Hairy Shrimp
Red Hairy Shrimp

 

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The Verdict :

Green Hairy shrimps – check Tigershrimp- check

Blue ringed-octopus- x Wonderpus-Bumblebee shrimp– x Harlequin Shrimp- x

Thats not too bad isn’t it ? Finding the top 2 most wanted and top 2 ultimate wish granted = Lucky bastards 😛

THE REST DAY – Day 4

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our accommodation for the rest day

So after the awesome dive safari, we had a day to rest before climbing up the mountains. We stayed at the resort where Samal Watersports Center operates a dive center. So we rent this cute open cottage as our accommodation for two nights with just curtains around fronting the beach.

The following morning we supposed to rest, but we don’t want be stuck all day long staying in the cottage, we decide to rent a motorbike half of the day to tour around the island and planned to stop somewhere where there is a beach we can hang out and swim. We only have google maps as reference. But how lucky we are for 3days isn’t as lucky the 4th day, to make the story short -we got lost , we get tired and we never find the dream beach we wanted to swim. First stop is a crowded beach so we continue driving until we reach rough and interior road still looking for the beach, still depending on google maps we followed a trail until its already a tiny road that seems to be locals path under coconut trees and until two women told us there is no more road ahead – it’s a dead end. But in google maps it shows there is a road leading to a highway. At this point we were so exhausted already no sign of the beach plus it is very hot at 12noon I start to feel hungry.

So we decided to go back on our way until we notice a signage along the road that there is a resort left side, we both agreed to follow the road leading there. But unfortunately it gets even worst, we don’t have the best motorbike for this trail, and in years of driving off road motorbike this is so far the worst road I’ve ever encountered but its difficult to turn back because its downhill in first part and uphill on the second part. Dive buddy decided to walk already and don’t want to ride with me, wise decision because the next seconds I almost fall down with the motorbike. So again we decide to go back our way to the main road. It’s afternoon already and were both exhausted. So we gave up, along the way we found a beach full of people just kilometers away from the resort where we stayed. We manage to swim for a while when it’s already getting dark we head back to the Resort. Back in the resort we just wanted to have at last some rest and sleeps, but then we notice a prenuptial photo shoot right in front of our cottage, so the series of unfortunate events isn’t over yet, we have to deal with the noise coming from the people around our open cottage singing and chit chatting. Urrrghhh! It must be a curse, but we don’t want be rude we just gave them time and hope they feel sleepy too. Luckily the universe stop punishing us, strong winds starts to blow and lightning and thunder starts to roar means they have to packed up and be quiet. Thanks universe and we sleep happily ever after 🙂

THE SUMMIT – Day 5 to 6

View from the Summit of Mt Talomo

(due to an incident that happens to Mt Apo some time in March 2016 our climb is cancelled, an alternative mountain is being introduce to us by the organizer)

Mt. Talomo is located in Brgy. Sicao, Tamayong, Calilan, Davao City , 2674+ MASL

Organizer : Engr. Albert C. Gabriel of mtapoadventures.com

We woke up at 330am heading to the port of Samal to catch a boat for Davao City where we will meet our guide for Mt. Talomo climb.

We check in and left our dive gear in a hotel near People’s Park in Davao City. After which we have an initial briefing from the person who organize our climb and introduce us to our guide. After 1.5 hour travel from the city we arrive at the jump off point for the climb, there we met the porter, took our breakfast and bought packed lunch. We started to walk along banana plantations, then uphill to Sicao village where we register in a local community for the climb, there we met Kebol, he is very kind and he looks very happy to see us. Later did we realize that he will be coming with us up to the summit, he treks ahead of us as if he is in charge for the clearing.

The start of the trek is in between banana plantations owned and operated by DOLE Phils.

When we enter the jungle we are welcome by bushes, thorny vines and chirping birds, the trail is all the way up, an elevated trek. Noticeably trees are covered with mosses and many fallen trunks along the way which most serve as a bridge. At most we climb with the huge enter twining roots. At some point there is vertical climb and sometimes I think looking down is not helping at all. So I’m keeping my heads up. Another highlights of this climb besides Kebol is a scenario when my dive buddy make a right step up and a screeching sound is heard, he broke his short pants (evil laugh here) hahah (peace sign). Yes he doesn’t have extra short pants but he doesn’t have to continue climbing naked, the broken shortpants is still manageable. I can barely see his arse so that’s okay hahaha (another evil laugh) and (another peace sign)

View of the peak from Sicao Village

After 3hrs climbing we stop on the first water source and had our lunch, and started asking about Mt. Talomo with our guide and porter. Initially it scares me when he said Mt. Talomo is one of the most difficult mountain to climb, and even one foreign woman says it is even more difficult than G2 in Sibuyan Romblon. I was astonished from the wood were I sat hence my dive buddy had the most terrible experience in G2 2years ago, but base on his story it’s not actually G2’s fault I believe it is his fault (hahaha evil laugh again) he is not well prepared, he didn’t eat anything and not enough rest prior to climb so what are you expecting G2 to do for you he cant send you cable car. Grrrhhhh! So at the moment I was like OMG how am I going to make it, we just had a bad day yesterday, we have no practice climb and not enough exercise. But were here already inside the jungle, we have a mission to fulfill, we wanted to see Mt.Apo and we wanted to assault Mt. Talomo summit, the only thing left is our hope that those wants and cravings will be enough to survive.

We continue climbing and aim for 2nd base camp to spend overnight. However when we arrive at 2nd base camp it is still 2pm which means we have a faster pace of climb so we decided to continue to 3rd base camp so that the following morning we just spent about less than hour to reach the summit and hopefully have clearing up early morning.

We reach 3rd base camp quarter to 4pm, we immediately set up the tents while the guide started to cook food for dinner. I start to feel the cold temperature and feel strange I think at the moment I need a toilet but I believe it’s psychological; your body conforms to what you are used to so end up ignoring it. Just an hour after dinner when we were settled inside our tent a sudden storm came then heavy pouring rain, water starts to flow under our ground sheets, which feels very cold. Kebol was outside having a nice sleep ignoring the coldness and rain, but the next few hours I saw him next to my dive buddy’s arms (that’s sweet): p I cant imagine how Kebol manage to survive sleeping outside, he must be so brave.

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The rain slows down until early dawn, at 6-7am we get up and have a glimpse of the King sunrise, we are already above the clouds it was a nice morning, but what runs through my head is the view of the highest mountain of Philippines from the summit of Mt. Talomo. So the plan is, we will ascent until the summit about an hr spent 30minutes to an hour there and go back to camp for breakfast. Then descent.

So hurriedly we almost run up, were too excited to reach the summit, climbing in between huge tall trees, mossy forest, wet roots and slippery muds.

Finally after about 45mins we were there right at the moment when the skies is clear and we saw the magical cone of Mt. Apo and the traces of forest fires that broke few months ago is visible – the reason why our Mt.Apo climb schedule got cancelled, we also see a perfect triangular shape mountain left side of Mt.Apo, it is Mt.Matutum of South Cotabato according to our guide. We were again on top over the clouds, another mission accomplish. I felt very blessed again, it’s indescribable.

panoramic

In my opinion climbing mountain is spiritual; it’s always a deep-rooted connection between you and the Mother Nature, which prevails. We actually almost can’t believe to make it to the summit after an exhausted supposed to be rest day/misadventure prior to the start of our climb.

Anyways we are grateful we made it, since we can’t stay longer at the summit and tummy is calling for breakfast as well so we start descending to the camp. In my mind it should be easier to go down rather than climbing up, but it proves me wrong you have to be strong-legged person at the time of descent, you should trust your knees.

Happy climbers: I don’t know where’s Kebol

After breakfast we took a 30mins rest then start packing and start descent it was 10am and we target to reach Sicao village at 3pm. With one hour lunch break at Camp 2.

We reached Sicao village past 2pm, again ahead of the time allotted. Maybe because I just really wanted to go back to our hotel and rest, so almost no rest in between treks just walk-half run-walk combination. We took an hour rest at the village, and hey Kebol is back home everyone is looking for him, everyone is happy to see him. And soon will be missing Kebol, his one of the reason we made it to the summit he makes us laugh and keeps a positive vibes takes our exhaustion away, in between climb rest we saw him stop and lay immediately in the mossy ground as we watch him close his eyes as if nothing happens. So time to say goodbye to Kebol and the village people.

About 5km before we reach the jump off point in between banana plantations a heavy rain poured, we were in the rough road already with huge gravel and stone. We decided to continue walking under the rain instead of taking shelter from banana leaves. So we have free shower and isn’t it sweet walking in the rain. My legs start to have muscle cramps already since we start to descend. Toes are in pain I just want to run and arrive, but I can’t run cause very tired and exhausted already so I decided to just do fast walk and feeling the raindrops over my raincoat.

When we arrive at the jump off point finally I manage to remove my shoes to let my foot breathe and we rest while waiting for the rain to stop, which never did until 2hrs.

VERDICT : Mission Accomplished…yay !!

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So fast-forward, the rain slows down, we took ride a motorbike to the town proper to take a van to Davao city. Haven’t I mentioned this is an adventure/misadventure journey? It is still drizzling when we depart, since it’s downhill the driver literally didn’t start the motorbike’s engine and just running down in neutral, so that was a little bit crazy fast but who cares all we wanted is to finally arrive in town and then arrive to our hotel and finally have rest. Then the rain starts to pour heavy again so the driver stops and covered us with his plastic raincoat ,we were hiding inside and the motorbike runs fast flooded streets. Until suddenly we have to slow down in a crossing, road is flat now so the driver had to start the engine, so he tried to kickstart once , twice, thrice but unfortunately it didn’t 😦 so now you  know why it’s called misadventure. The driver told us to disembark so he can check what’s the problem, the driver said it could be that his gasoline had water mix since its raining, make sense right? it was raining  !

You can just imagine how frustrated we can be at that moment, but sorry folks ,yes we can be frustrated but we were not, seriously it was the funniest memory ever.

Finally in the hotel when we arrived everyone is looking at us like who are these crazy monkeys, we were soaked, shoes very dirty and looks like a dead plant already.I guess we also smells terrible  :p But then again who cares, we had fun we had so much fun !!!

After a chicken dinner, we sleep happily ever after.

 

><(((0>  ><(((0>  ><(((0>  ><(((0>  ><(((0>  ><(((0>  ><(((0>  ><(((0>

 

Watch out for the next dive blog !!!!

Dive Destination: Sogod Bay Southern Leyte 🙂 and yes we have another surprise !

Credits to Mr. Uwe Michaelis my awesome dive buddy for most of the photos  ;*

Special thanks to :

Samal Water Sports Team – for the Dive Safari , ‘Lhoc’, and the boat crew,you are all awesome guys

Engr. Albert of Mt. Apo Adventures, the Climb guide and the porter for our Mt. Talomo Climb

Thanks Kebol for keeping us motivated during the climb

Thanks to my colleague Deah Marie Bruh for joining us in Samal Island.

 

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