Cindy & the frogfish

Scuba Diving Caluya Island: Beyond Expectations !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 8-12, 2017

caluya island
caluya island

Sorry took me long again to finish writing on our last adventure, it only means it is so special that I wanted to spend time to put into writing on how it went through.

So lets start.

Before remoteness had begun, 4days 3nights of chasing waves and exploring the largest lagoon system in the country and witnessing an expectacularly just perfect rainbow that left us speechless, which can only be found in Siargao and by the way it even deserves a separate blog which again I think will keep someone waiting. We started our journey to Antique province.

So how we found out about Caluya? Does anyone know this place in the first place? From my friends- no ,hmmm maybe 2 of them but they haven’t dive there yet, from my family absolutely no. We found Caluya island because of a dive article online about Pelagics you can see while diving Panagatan island. Both islands are remote considering the accessibility and infrastructure, however , lucky as we are , we found out that instead of getting there through Boracay dive shops which we do not prefer , we found out that an awesome couple together with friends just started a dive operation base in Caluya island- Caluya Divers. With no hesitation we started the standard operating procedure.

Caluya island dive map
Caluya island dive map

1. Research ( this consist gathering information about the place to every single details possible), how to get there and sorts of preparation.

2. Contact dive operator

3. Book flights

Every single difficulty to arrange for our journey to Caluya only excites us more. The dive operator had been very responsive from the start despite the difficulty of internet access in the island.Yes you read it right, the place where we will stay doesn’t have internet connection. Does it make us sad? As you know my life has been constantly online almost 90% of my day for the last 2years.Hmm sounds like a challenge for me considering small businesses I run online. But how can you say no when the ocean is calling , and what better affirmation you have for a place that pass all of our criteria ; remote place, friendly people, uncrowded dive sites and the best reason EXPLORATORY DIVES.

We landed in Caticlan airport at around 1pm from Cebu , took a van to Culasi for 3 hrs.Another option to reach Caluya is via Mindoro if you come from Luzon. As usual you have to take note that boat ferrying from these places are small -medium size cargo-passenger boats owned by small businessman schedules change without prior notice. A good tip is to communicate as frequent with your dive operator contact as they know the updates most of the time, relying on the internet for schedule updates isn’t a good idea.

I’m already planning  to sleep the whole road trip but guess what , how can I sleep when the first 40 km travel is along the coast and you can clearly see the crystal clear sea water with soft waves crashing to the shore, and in many instance on the other side of the road a very sturdy looking proud hills and mountains covered with green forests while on the base is endless hectares of rice fields.Seems nostalgic, but these scenery always covers up the many months of stressed face while working in a concrete jungle. Imagine me and my dive buddy taking turns of pointing left and right to watch out the good view, it’s just breathtaking.

So we arrive in Culasi town 4hrs earlier than the boat schedule of departure. So what more good way to kill time than to explore Culasi. I remember one friend is from Antique, she recommended us to go to the town proper , hangout in the boulevard near the shoreline and witness the sunset, we eat our lunch at a nearby restaurant and found out another cool thing to do in Culasi- climb Mt.Madjaas. (save it for the next time)

MISSION : Explore Caluya underwater

Boat ride from Lipata port Culasi to Caluya island is about 5hrs , just enough time for us to sleep, good news the sea is calm. Kalayaan Shipping  is a RORO ship serving from various ports to Caluya and other islands of Antique.Banton liner is another ferry which is rather smaller than Kalayaan Ship also crosses to and from islands within Antique.

We arrive in a small port in Caluya and a smiling couple is picking as up very early at dawn when it is still dark. The woman immediately recognize us hence Uwe is the only foreign looking guy inside the boat.

We loaded our bags in the tricycle , yes tricycle- the main public transportation in the island besides Habal Habal (a single motorbike). We took quite  a pave road about a kilometer then a rough road almost the entire trip ,it was a fun ride , it reminds me about 10yrs ago in my hometown where I grew up is as rough as Caluya road, did I frown? Ofcourse not, because I love dirt roads and YES I drive dirt bikes (Kawasaki KLX 150cc) almost a joke, no its not a joke. I love dirt bikes, see my practice day here .

Day 1 : Arrival and first dives  ><(((*>   ><(((*>

After about an hour we arrive at Island Diver’s Caluya  base.It is still very quite a little dark and I still here the crickets, barking dogs welcomes us to this peaceful place surrounded by trees. Couple Cindy and Roland greeted us a good morning and they looks so happy to see us.From that moment on I knew our dives will be lots of fun.

We had a quick hour power nap and rest at our bamboo bungalow, very clean and spacious enough for my dive buddys’ camera set up and accessories 😀 😀 😀 were never been too excited like this to be honest, alrady lookin forward for underwater surprises.

dive shop front 2
Frontbeach

So house rules are discussed at a cozy native restaurant adjacent to the diveshop fronting the beach, with bananas and tall coconut palm trees on the side.Rules are simple just behave and be free. Meals will be served island style, we will be eating together whatever is produced for the day . Roland and Cindy told us the story how they started, most of the talks are in German as they speak the language same as my dive buddy grrrrrhhh.I promise to learn the language soonest 😉 😉 anyways I’m more excited with our first dive plan.

Local dive crew and boat staff are shy but are friendly and very kind people.Cindy and Roland found a family in Caluya, the people welcome them and their guest as a family, something we wont’ forget in our travels.

CALUYA ISLAND 

The dive sites within Caluya island are close to the dive shop can be reach by 30mins boat ride. We start our first dives within the island , in west side. Explored dive sites starts from the shallow sloping down to 20-25meters deep. Visibility is really good down to 20meters. Dive sites within Caluya were found by Island Divers, usually with their guest giving each a name. On the west side we are greeted with a very healthy coral garden teeming with many reef fishes and also a resident giant frogfish, theyr’e always funny to look at. They are very good in camouflaging and they don’t usually swim , they walk among rocks and move slowly.Their body has different patterns and colors but what makes them really really special is when they start to yawn and you can just imagine how flexible their mouth is to a large opening.

FROGFISH MOMENTS

We also saw a variety of nudibranches in all sites their colors and patterns are to die for. A giant cuttle fish also showed up.A lot of crinoid shrimps that easily camouflage in different colors and pattern. In one dive site we saw 2 ghost pipe fish.

NUDI PARTY

There is a notable population of Crown of Thorns on one site.Roland and Cindy said they’re trying to eliminate most of them but they keep on repopulating.This animals eat corals but removing them from the site should be carefully planned, my dive buddy said once you touched and remove them they immediately release a sack of eggs around thereby causing more Crown of Thorns to come.

THE GHOSTS

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NIGHT DIVE @ the HOUSEREEF

We finally had a chance to do a night dive a day before we leave the island. Cindy said the house reef is home to napoleon wrasse and bumphead parrot fishes at 18-20meters deep. However we weren’t able to reach there. The first 5meters of the housereef already entertained us. All this magical tiny critters comes out and hunt at night.We saw a very huge nudibranch crawling on the bottom, a very tiny white nudi and a the cutest bobtail squid.

SIBAY ISLAND

We explored this nearby island western bound from Caluya.The dive site is at the western tip of the island. Caluya island divers discovered dive sites here. It is wall dives starting at a shallow entry of a coral garden about 10meters then drop to 30meters down deep.Visibility is superb, curent is average. The wall is stunningly decorated with large sea fans and gorgonians very healthy corals in vivid colors. We found bunch of nudis and a huge lobster on a crevice. Mooray eels and giant lobsters are also there to say hello to us.

We spent 3 dives in one day, spending one surface interval inside a mangrove forest where we passby a seaweed farm with smiling farmers. We tried to snorkel in the mangrove areas hoping to see some juvenile fishes nesting on the roots.

Sibay island

On our way back home we brave huge waves which makes our travel time 2x than coming to the island. But , a surprise friends suddenly came up halfway our route, Spinner dolphins say hello to us, it was a very happy dive day. Next dives is within Caluya island hence weather didn’t permit us to go to Panagatan island (there is always a next time).

dolphins
dolphins

Anyhow luck is still on our side, we are lucky for our exploratory dive we found our dive site, we named it ”Gardenia” it looks like a garden covered with hard corals full of reef fishes,anthias, damsel fishes, and fusiliers,  it’s literally like watching over an aquarium.

Again we are lucky divers exploring a remote paradise.Mother nature has been very sweet and kind to provide us with all these underwater haven which also provides the mankind and other living organisms it’s source of food. It is not new to us that many parts of our coral reefs around the country and around the world,most of them are damaged due to our abuse,due to our bad habits, due to lack of knowledge, due to lack of empathy. There are so many reasons  and cause of this distruction, however even if it’s a little bit late , let us start changing our habit and the way we look at our environment, lets take good care of it for the next generation.

Thank you so much to the entire team Island Divers Caluya for 4days awesome dives.They are the only operating diveshop in the island. Best season to dive with them is during dry season starting December-June of the following year.

Find their contact below:

FB : https://www.facebook.com/islanddiverscaluya/

Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/cindy_island_diver/

Thank as well to the cool and kind neighbors of Cindy and Roland who hosted us for our 2nd night dinner and preparin our meals, the island divers boat crew and the super friendly dogs and goats around the resort.We hope to come back next season.

Things to note:

Transportation : Tricylcle or Habal Habal

Food: There is no Carenderia near the resort and town is a bit far.Scuba divers are offered to eat with the resort owner like a family.

Signal: no phone signal around the resort area except in the next town.

ATM/Banks: There is no atm or bank in the area so you better bring cash, the resort don’t have credit card terminal as well hence no signal, which I think is an advantage when you are in paradise.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED !!!

 

SUPERB DIVING, AMAZING REEFS, SPECTACULAR VISIBILITY, AWESOME PEOPLE, YUMMY FOOD, LOTS OF NUDIS, LOTS OF CRITTERS, PARADISE PARADISE AND PARADISE, we will be back !

More photos !

Next Adventure : Samal Island -Sarangani-Siargao

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Photo credits to:

Uwe Michaelis  – using Sony RX100 IV camera with , Nauticam housing

Alieth  – Gopro Hero 4

Cindy Meier Hanstein

”One Adventure at a Time”

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