All posts by geckome

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

Follow  and or have an Adventure with us !!!!

https://web.facebook.com/GECKOMEdotCOM/

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https://twitter.com/AdventuresGecko

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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How my world turns upside down ?

Have you ever had that feeling when the skies and the clouds are coming down to you? Have you been sober , tipsy or drunk at times? I bet you do , once or twice or more in your life.

Two days ago researching for my writing task ”25 cool things to do in Cebu” I found a place where you can do one cool thing , thanks to Facebook again , a friend’s posted picture leads me there. A world where you find yourself upside down, literally !

Upside down world is a modernistic and creative museum located at the 2nd floor of  City Time Square Mandaue ; it features 11 themed rooms that eventually satisfy your creative imagination. Staffs are very friendly waiting to assist you from the counter where you have to pay the 350Php  for adults and 250Php for kids.

You will enter a living room which has the usual sofa, TV and a Christmas tree, second room is study room which has a study table with bookshelves in the backdraft, next stop is the bed room with queen size bed and closet, followed by kids’ room, market area, kitchen, dining area, toilet, laundry area, fortune teller’s room and last is the Casino.

You can ask assistance from the museum staff  to take photos of you, they’re skilled enough to teach you how to project and where to pose for that best capture. This idea started in Indonesia, the company has branches in Bali, Bandung, Jakarta and recently Cebu Philippines.

Be amazed and appreciate the power of optical illusion, interesting stufss and exciting photo shots. This is Cebu’s newest attraction suited for all ages ! Best for family, barkada and or besties.

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Contact them for booking following the details below :

Upside Down World Cebu 

2F Unit A-204-206, City Time Square Phase 2, Mantawi International Drive, Mandaue City
Mandaue City

Call  (032) 234 7842  Mobile : 09177728670   ,

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Follow Gecko Adventures link in FB for updated trips

Gecko Adventures  🙂 🙂 🙂

10th Reason why #SOXisNEXT? a Scuba Diving journey through Mindanao’s Sarangani Bay

SOX- a short term for Region 12’s SOCCKSARGEN comprising South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City.

”We been promoting Culture -Nature-Adventure” within the Region said Regional Director Nelly Dillera of DOT Region 12.

  1. Culture- South Cotabato’s Tboli tribe -Lake Sebu
  2. Fishport tour -witnessed why GenSan is hailed as Tuna Capital of the Country.
  3. Nature-7 Waterfalls in Lake Sebu South Cotabato
  4. Adventure -Paragliding in Maasim Sarangani
  5. Pacquiao Mansion
  6. Sarangani Highlands- up in the hill have a romantic and sumptuos meal.
  7. Sunbathe at Gumasa Beach (Glan, Sarangani)
  8. Tuka Beach – mini Boracay of Sarangani
  9. River Tubing-in Maitum Sarangani
  10. Scuba diving- newest offering that we ventured for a 3-day Dive Safari
Sarangani Dive Safari
Sarangani Dive Safari

April 29- May 1

When some plans doesn’t happen for some reason, don’t fret, it only means a new opportunity will open up. Take for example, our Startup weekend Bohol schedule (Apri28-30) got cancelled 2weeks before the event. I was frustrated a bit hence I been longing to join such kind of event to meet likeminded people and to learn more new things about technology in tourism.

But thanks to technology, a post in FB pops up from Sarangani Adventures page, it says a 3 day dive safari with unlimited diving in areas within Sarangani bay. I only have heard about Sarangani as a destination for paragliding ,and who doesn’t know about the National Champ Manny Pacman Pacquiao place. So I start looking for articles online about scuba diving in the area, found some blogs and video clips, there is not much to read but that only leaves me more curious. I told my Dive buddy about this package as an option hence it fits the date when our initial plans is cancelled. He was able to message Sarangani Adventures in their FB page and they were so responsive, means plus points for us.

All is set, flights are booked and everyday gets more and more exciting to discover this new place. Looking at the map, Sarangani bay resembles so much to one of our favorite dive destination (Sogod Bay in Southern Leyte) where you have bountiful fish life, beautiful reef and walls, macro dives, muck dives sites and a Whale Shark sighting.

To reach Sarangani, easiest way is to fly from Cebu or Manila to General Santos city with Cebu Pacific then a van transfer about 45mins to Lemlunay Resort– the only dive operator in the area.

MISSION: To take photos of all what we can see underwater while diving in Sarangani Bay and help promote Sarangani as a new dive haven in Mindanao.

Day 1- Woke up early with news that Sarangani was rock by a 6.8 magnitude earthquake. I was holding my breath for some seconds then I start to breathe easy and google for news updates online. It was true there was an earthquake, but it seems that there is no major damage and the tsunami warning from US Geological Society’s website was already lifted. I message Michelle Solon –our point of contact for this Dive Safari to have some updates and she respond positively that Dive Safari will go on and they’re actually set to dive in the morning, all is good. I proceed to the airport, meet my dive Buddy and other co-explorer Garri Immanuel Tadlip from ‘’Iggy Dives’’ –the youngest underwater photographer in Asia, with his Dad Sir ‘’Oleg Tadlip’’. Arriving at General Santos airport we were joined by another co explore Arabelle Jimenez a writer/mermaid from Manila.

Arriving at Lemlunay Resort we were greeted by friendly staff and offered a chill coolers with mint for a hot summer day. Drop our bags in our respective rooms and proceed to the dining area where we meet another co explorer Stella from Sunstar Davao. Then we finally meet Miss Michelle Solon one of the head organizer for the event and Paul Partridge owner of Lemlunay Resort. This event is supported by Region 12 Department of Tourism represented by Regional Director Nelly Dillero and the Provincial Government of Sarangani.

We were welcome by a presentation video about Sarangani and the tourism initiative dubbed as #soxisnext, ”people already discovered and traveled to Bohol, Boracay, Palawan so where to next? said Michele Solon of Sarangani Adventures.

Sarangani shall be the upcoming tourism destination of PH and not only for paragliding, not only for tunas, not only because its Pacquaio’s homeplace,but also because they have something underwater to be proud of, so the diving has to start soon. After a sumptuous dinner we rested for some minutes then start gearing up for the first dive- a night dive.

The photos below shows we are happily welcomed by our friends underwater.

Day 1

Spanish dancer, soft coral shrimps, bobtail squid feeding, cuttle fish etc.

Day 2

First dive – Lomuyon dive site – dive aborted – ABS CBN local media arrives and men in uniform escorted us to Tuka island, kickass dives with kickass escorts.If any of you think that its dangerous to dive in all places in Mindanao, well , think again, because this is the proof that it is NOT. Not all places in Mindanao is unsafe, it even became more and more interesting for us since day 1.

2nd dive –Tuka reef 1 –2 sec blue spotted eagle ray shows up, fishy reef, lots of dorid nudis, bat fishes and angel fishes .

diving with the Youngest UW Photographer in Asia
diving with the Youngest UW Photographer in Asia

3rd dive- Tuka reef 2 –farting pawikan, chromodoris nudibranch plenty of them , fishy reef, giant lobster with 1 meter antennae, batfishes, and angel fishes plenty of them

Visibility is not so good but a group of Bumphead Parrot Fish are clearly huge enough to be recognize almost a meter in size.Theyr’e a kind of fish that feeds on benthic algae and corals 🙂  but they also shit a powdery substance that makes up the white sands in Boracay. Awesome discovery !

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turtle preapring to fly
turtle preapring to fly
turtle chillin waiting for its food
turtle chillin waiting for its food

We had lechon kind of lunch with fruits and some special dishes preapred by the locals, the hospitality of the people in Sarangani is worth  praise.Thumbs up.

After lunch we grace an interview by ABS-CBN Soccksargen featuring the Sarangani Dive Safari.

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We did another night dive and found mooray eel, 2 new nudis , 1 new hard coral crab, porcelain crab in anemone, flatworms and many more crabs and cuttle fish.

Day 3

Maasim Reef- a very nice offshore reef blooming within the ocean.

We jump for a negative descent following a dive line due to strong surface current. However deep down at around 18-20meter deep  is relatively calm to mild current .We were in awe seeing a very beautiful fishy coral garden , which minutes after, we went down to the bottom floor saying hello to the 3 resident juvenile blacktip shark under a huge table coral.The reef looks healthy, the garden is decorated with huge barrel sponges, gorgeous gorgonian seafan and  lots of reef fishes in many colors, good visibility up to 20m.

Rocky Island – sphagetti nudi branch, many fishes, chrinoid shrimp

sphagetti nudi_rock island
sphagetti nudi_rock island

Lemlunay House Reef – Large sea fans of different colors, bit of drift dive, napoleon wrasse,and many nudis.

The Dive Safari event ended with a Press conference held at Green Leaf Hotel General Santos City attended by representatives from Government Sector , media personnel and our team (Divers). Discussions on improvements and facilities needed for the protection of the Seascape  in the province of Sarangani is being tackled. We also share to everyone what we see and what we have found underwater through pictures and videos.

In our opinion, it has a huge potential for dive tourism industry, some improvements shall be done.The people, local government units and Tourism department shall start implementing environmental laws protecting the seascape, tap with people or organizations outside the province that can help share their expertise in management of Marine Protected Areas.Another thing is also to develop training programs for dive guides in the area as spotters. Established dive sites should have markers and buoy or dive lines.It is also a big advantage of Sarangani having General Santos airport which has daily flights from Cebu and Manila which are both having domestic & international connecting flights.

There are dive sites where currents can be mild to strong but that can be manage with experienced and caution.This currents also attracts pelagics and schools of big fish.There is also a potential for more macro critter finds, our night dives were awful, and the Housereef is amazingly embedded with all sort of beautiful corals and fishes.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED !!

Salamat Sarangani !

#SOXISNEXT

We end our day in Ssarangani with a hearty lunch at the hill in Sarangani Highlands Garden

Special thanks to:

Michelle Solon of Sarangani Adventures click the link to contact them.

Paul Partridge of Lemlunay Resort for accomodating us.

They have one the best sunrise view in Ph .

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

Website :http://lemlunayresort.com

RD Nelly and the DOT Team

Thanks to the entire team of Lemlunay South Divers Point, the people in Maasim, Kiamba and the local government of Sarangani Province.

Photo credits to :

Uwe Micahelis of http://underwaterexposure.zenfolio.com

Garry Emmanuel Tadlip of ”Iggy Dives”

Stella Stremera

”Mermaid ”Arabelle Jimenez- my first mermaid coach

Climbing the summit of Mt Hibok Hibok -a second try

So after being defeated by leech last year while attempting to Summit Mt.Hibok Hibok:D Now were’ back, ready to accomplish the mission. 

(you need to bribe me a coffee session to tell you the story behind what happened last year )

Mt. Hibok Hibok is standing 1332+ MASL high – an active stratovolcano so therefore we like it !Somehow volcanoes is appealing to us, its an interesting kind of mountain.

Jan 14, 2017

Climb Plan-  A Dayhike

Schadow1 Expeditions
Schadow1 Expeditions
Mt habok hibok trail map
We followed this trail Entrance : Ascent at Yumbing Trail Exit: Descent to Ardent Trail

430am: wake up call

530am: guide picks us up to jump off point

600am: registration and start ascent

3-4hrs estimated ascend duration via Yumbing trail

2-3hrs estimated descend via Ardent spring trail

Upon hym of my buddy’s phone alarm, we started to open our mind then our eyes. Unfortunately we have to get up earlyagain L This is one of the moments I don’t like when we travel to places, we oftentimes have to get up early for the days’ adventures. But, do I regret? Hmmm of course not, I somehow accepted what I call ‘’the geckos destiny’’– that I am made for ‘’Adventures’’ and in no chance I will ever regret such thing. So far it’s one thing that keeps me going

foot ready to summit Mt Hibok Hibok
foot ready to summit Mt Hibok Hibok

Let’s continue, we start to ascent at about 630am entering in an easier path sloping up across some bushes and coconut plantation. The first hour felt ok, but the next minutes after an hour my guts seems to be testing me. I started to have an acid influx and about every 500meters trek I threw up, and I’m losing energy, seriously I was thinking of going back and give up at that time, I really felt that I couldn’t make it, buddy was also telling me that its ok to go back we don’t need to force to summit Mt.Hibok2x with my current conditions. Buddy is assisting me with water and crackers to replace the sandwiches I just lost. We slow up our pace, and slowly I regain energy, I was trying to be so much conscious about my stomach and in my mind every step I was able to confirm that I will make it to the top.

We started to see tall trees with mosses, after almost 2hrs trek we reach a viewpoint of the famous White Island of Camiguin. It was a very nice feeling, and we even joke a lot- 2 of our friends should be there at that time looking us up on top of the mountains. While we were sweating and exhausted, they’re having a nice time at the white beach getting sun tanned, but at that time I completely surrender to mother nature and felt positively on top of the mountains seeing a vast island, trees look so small down and so green enveloped with oceans so blue.

viewpoint-White Island in front
viewpoint-White Island in front

After taking pictures of the white island view, we arrive at the Crater Lake after 30 minutes. It was foggy and cold, and we don’t have a clear view. It was also cloudy at that moment. We stop there to have our lunch, we notice there is a campsite, our guide told us that a month ago he was with 30 other climbers that helps clear the area to have the camp site establish, he even saw a huge snake at the time. You know already what happens next, they have a very sumptuous dinner for sure.

After lunch we proceed to trek up one hour more and will be at the summit, I start to pray for a clear view on top, so we can see the entire Camiguin Island. Before the summit we pass by bushes with many pitcher plants, it makes me happy as I am fond of them, their shape, their color and they’re being unique as a Carnivorous plant. I took lot of photos.

The last few kilometers to the summit was a bit difficult trail, there is even a portion where we have to climb a super vertical inclination where u have to grab hold a root of a tree and a rock to get your way up, and down there is a cliff. Another thing is, we have to cross in between thick bushes and have to bow down, as it is very short bushes engulfing the trail. Then we reach another resting viewpoint. This is the last stop before the summit.We had a rest I was sitting on top of the rocks and felt the roar of the wind, it was still cloudy and view isn’t so is foggy.

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Mathieu the Belgian guy saw a very cute mice along the trail it was surprising for me, its my first time to see mice in the mountains, I thought I can only see them inside a house.

Finally after 3hrs we arrive at the summit, somehow the sun starts to come out a little bit, but still it’s cloudy and no clear view at all. We tried our luck and waited for some minutes and decided to have a quick snacks, as we chit chats while waiting for a clear view, we heard a screeching sounds, it was very familiar, sitting near some bushes I felt them near me, while eating my rice someone came out at my back, guess what?The mice is there, it was funny they followed us; they must have sensed the food inside our bag. I tried to put some of my rice on the ground, one mice starts to get it and bring it somewhere, my buddy put some bread then another mice came out, there are 2 of them. The next time we put bread we covered it with the eggshell from my lunch pack. So the mice came out again and they didn’t find the rice, but they break into the eggshell ‘’smart ass’’.

Then my buddy put the rice in his hands, when the mice came out, they went slowly to eat it and grab it from my buddy ‘s palm, they’re so cute and funny, our attention was with them almost the whole 15mins.

that cute little mice
that cute little mice

After the rice is finished, we decided to wait more minutes for clearing, but unfortunately luck is not on our side we have to start descending, it was somehow sad but that’s life, that is part of climbing mountains, and a fact that everyone should accept. Clearing is only a bonus when climbing mountains, for us being on top -reaching the summit is already something we have to grateful of. It humbles us in so many different ways; it opens our eyes more and more to realities and how beautiful mother nature is.

at the summit of Mt.Hibok Hibok
at the summit of Mt.Hibok Hibok

So time for descent, we estimated it would take us another 2-3hrs going down and it’s gonna be a test how strong our legs and our knees will be.

I use to like descending rather than climbing up, I always thought its faster and easier going down, it’s a feeling I use to have when I was a kid whether Im drivin my brother’s bmx or sliding down with my coconut branch ledge (palwa in bisaya).

But it proves me wrong when doing mountain climbing. Going down proves to be tougher because you have to stay focus on every step you take; you have to keep the balance as well with strong knees as control or else your you will drop. We have about a kilometer of stiff drop, and then an easier walk in the fields, the last part is farms, and we saw carabao, cows and goats in the field.

The last 2km I have so many rest because I felt dwindling and my muscles is so sore and my knees is starting to show signals of being weak, getting oldie I guess, plus the fact of not having enough climb preparation.

We are lucky bastards again we made it, after 2hrs we reach Ardent hot spring where motorbikes are waiting for us, again we are lucky bastards the fact that I almost gave up second time around I was still insisting of climbing up because I know in my heart that I wanted to do it and that it is what I want and that my guts is only testing me at the time. So wise decision indeed.

Everyone is happy we made it!

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!

Notes:

Guide fee + permit we spent PhP600 each we are 4 people in 1 group.

Standard fee is 800/each min.1-2person

Thanks to our Guide ‘’Kuya Bebot’’

Thanks Mt Hibok Hibok !

Next Adventure :

Exploratory dives somewhere in Antique, I’m super excited for this.

stay tuned ><(((0>

How Camiguin wins our heart the 2nd time around ?

white-beach-camiguin
White Beach Camiguin January 2016

After weeks of adventure/misadventure typhoon filled Scuba week in Southern Leyte we are finally journeying to more relaxing mode , switching on to our next MISSION, so you read it right there , above on the the title”CAMIGUIN” Come Again. The photo is lastyear at around same dates when we visited Camiguin, that’s the popular White Beach with Mt Hibok Hibok at the background.

Mission: Discover what’s beneath Mantigue island and fill our  stomache with Phad Thai @ Guererras’  endlessly 😉

Cebu Pacific Air Cebu-Camiguin, have flights daily – 2 flights for Mon-Wed-Friday-Sundays and 1 flight in the morning for Tues-Thurs-Saturdays.We took the first flight on January 12 at 545am , flight takes about 45mins only.

So we arrive at this very scenic airport, the moment you step out of the plane you immediately see the Volcanic cone of Mt.Hibok Hibok.This place is one of our favorite, we been here once together last year so aside from being such  a very nice place, coming back doesnt cost us any doubt, we promise to come again, so here we are and even more exciting because we are tagging along our best of friends so they can experience what it feels like being in CAMIGUIN and literally they would immediately realize the ”Come Again” feeling.

On our first day we keep it simple, we check in at Caves Dive Resort where we stayed last year, there is actully many accomodations that will suit different levels of your budget from 1000/room good for 2 person, to P4000+/room which has amenities like swimming pool , bath tub etc. located around Mambajao, the center of Camiguin.

At noon we decide to just relax in our room and come out to watch the sunset after few hours, while our dear friends ‘Sugar & Alex’ hurriedly hop to the White Beach Island.Part of the plan was to do 2dives the following day, we proceed to talk with dive center staff for the booking, including finding an instructor for my dear friend ‘Sugar’ because I have a surprise gift for her, she will have her first time to breathe underwater using a Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus, yes you read it right, she will have her first Discovery Dive with us in Mantigue Island.

So after discreet discussion among 3 of us, we decided to reveal it to her the night before so she can be emotionally prepared and I hope she will be happy and excited.

The following day we woke up early, had breakfast and prepare our dive gears, we will travel by land 45mins from the resort to the boat station Barangay San Roque, Mahinog goin to Mantigue , the dive center boat will pick us there. We sail for about 15minutes to Mantigue island, can’t contained the excitement anymore especially the weather showed signs of sunlight.Actually I was more excited for Sugar, finally destiny will let her feel what I have been talking about every after dive trip that I have, and to be honest I want to infect her with ”Aquaholism” virus. 🙂

So Sugar and ”Kat ”another traveler we met in the diveshop will go together for the DSD while me and my buddy have our dive briefing. After hopping into the water , I can already ‘sea’ schools of fish near the Sanctuary, just imagine again the smiles all over my face.

The first dive site is a slope after the sanctuary about 15-20mtrs deep. Visibility is not so good above but slowing down it becomes clearer with a slight current. We see schools of fish hovering on top of the hard corals and huge groupers.After 15mins of the dive , felt a sudden thermocline , yes literally a sudden chill ,so I signal my buddy that Im feelin cold but as we continue to glide the temperature changes to warmth water , pretty amazing 🙂 )) During surface interval , I happily ask Sugar about their DSD, and thankfully what Ive got is 2 thumbs up and a huge smiles with just all good words and amazement.

The second dive is on another corner of the sanctuary, almost same topography and we met again with schools of fish, whats unforgettable is a giant creature we come across with as we ended our second dive. Last year we dive in some other spots of Camiguin and one special dive site where we met the rare Mimic Octupos + and  Wonderpus which we tagged as ”Wonderful Octopus”

See photo below :

gliding cuttlefish
gliding cuttlefish
giant-cuttlefish
giant-cuttlefish
So diving is good, lets go to the next addiction.
THE FOOD
One of the many reason why we love Camiguin is the food. Last year we found an awesome place to dine. A friend of mine from Cebu recommended it to me months prior to our departure. In Cebu we have this favorite Asian Restaurant inside Mango Square at the heart of the City its called ‘‘Big Bangkok Lilttel Saigon” they have atleast 3 restaurant around the city where we would dine with friends, our favorite is their ”Phad Thai”.Late 2015  we heard theyr’e closing down and my friend told me that theyre’ moving to Camiguin with a different name.
Guererro restaurant is located in Yumbing, a town on the foot of Mt.Hibok Hibok  along the beach. It is in the middle of a rice paddy. It’s one of a kind romantic place for me, you have to walk through bamboo path in between rice plantation before reaching the restaurant. The staff are very friendly and accomodating, as well as the owners.
They have Asian cuisine with influence from Thai, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysian food which most of the ingredients and spices are source out freshly from their backyard.Last year we almost have Phad Thai every dinner at their place, were kinda addicted to it, what’s in my mind at that time is that I have to grab the chance to eat the best Phad Thai as much as I can since I couldn’t have the same Phad Thai in Cebu. I have to say it’s the best Phad Thai I have ever tasted outside Thailand. Their staff will gladly introduce to you their menu of the day, which in most case this are special recipes prepared by the owner itself.
Sugar had fallin in loved with their Spicy Chicken Rendang, while Alex had almost tasted most of their menu and had nothing to say but all positive response. We coudlnt agree more specially when we tried their Thai Basil cocktail.
Phad Thai
Guerrera’s Phadthai
Please forgive me for the shitty photo,  but I can assure you the taste is like to die for 😀 😀 😀  ”mmmm yummm” mode switch on – ”FOODGASM” as they call I guess.
Their food is just more than amazing and more than delicious that non of us bother anymore to touch our mobile phones and capture photos.
Take a look at their webpage to appreciate more of their place.
Highly recommended place and definitely you shouldn’t miss when in Camiguin.
They recently open rooms too for travelers and you can book directly online through their website.
A choice of Beach View or the Mountain View (Mt Hibok Hibok view) with outdoor bath tub good for two, so no need to worry for  ”Honeymoon” place .
camiguin
Guererro_camiguin
So, next adventure.
To finally summit Mt.Hibok Hibok, after a failed attempt last year. Stay Tune for the next blog.
Quick Note : Camiguin bans and encourage to reduce use of plastics ,when you go to their market to buy fruits , food , bread or anything they will wrapped it in recycled paper or bags. 🙂 )) this is another reason why we love Camiguin.Aside from that the island offers hot springs, cold springs, breathaking views , waterfalls , hectares of rice paddies, hills , friendly people a very relaxing ambience. What more can you ask for. 🙂
Special thanks to :
Caves Dive Resort and dive crew
Photo credits to :
Sugar Edam and Alex
Most special thanks to my dive  and all time buddy Uwe :))) for capturing under water photos. See his photos here:
><(((0>

Mission Whale Shark

This is gonna be a tough thing to write out of excitement.There’s another adventures ahead.If your’e ready so am I !

Lemme start with this pic !

scuba diving PH
diving Napantao Marine Sanctuary

I couldn’t be more extremely excited to write all of what had happen from our 2 week Adventure.

I am passionate in so many things or activities but this adventure brings the hell out of me from excitement since day 1 when we start to dig informations online and contacting people.So anyone closest to me knows what adventure I’m talking about-”Scuba Diving ”, again? yes? no? super JAWsome yes pls  !

Scorching information over the web is not that easy as 1 2 3 ,mainly because either it’s too much or too little info , and most are too old and or nothing new. Our target for this adventure is a Liveaboard dive safari trip (6 days).Someone guess where we’re heading? Tubattaha? mmmm yes please but were not ready yet (kinda expensive) , Apo reef? yes please but then again we don’t have enough time to plan everything and not enough response as well.

To start with, my Dive Buddy found this Liveaboard operator from Bohol who offers Dive tours for Visayas Area and more interestingly he offers Liveaboard Dive Safari from Anda Bohol to Southern Leyte in the place where a possible chance to encounter Whale Shark is at stake.

After canvassing and doing more research we come to a choose Berndz Tauchsafaris based in Panglao Bohol,considering the rates and its inclusions; 6 full dive days with up to 3-4dives a day ,all inclusive of food, drinks and accomodation on board, we think it’s an interesting package.It requires a minimum of 6 divers that cost 895Euro each to have our own group Safari.

So we started reaching out to our circle of Dive addicted friends who are more or less like us as well, kinda suffering from ”Aquaholism”. After two weeks we finally reach 6pax as headcount with positive response means it would be more flexible for us, we can decide our preferred dives sites, schedules and no pressure from other groups.My Dive buddy is organizing and leading the contact with the dive operator and everything went fine at that stage.We finally had a  dive schedule for Jan.3-8 from 5:00am on 3rd of January to 8pm of the 6th day.

Scuba Divers : Uwe (Germany), Alieth(Ph) , Alexandros (Greece), Jens (Germany), John (US) and Mathieu (Belgium)

Dive safari
From US-to Europe-Asia

Jan 1, 2017- yes, First day of the year we just wanna be in the beach , relax and chillout.Starting point is Cebu, me ,Uwe,Alexandros and Jens will head to Anda first and spend two nights there. Mathieu arrives earlier than us in Anda and guess we are jealous already. So I manage to get us a ticket(Oceanjet , Cebu-Tagbiliaran bohol) ahead of time hence travel date is a holiday, it can be tough sometimes.

1st misadventure : It’s 420pm but were not at the port yet, we arrive at exactly 5mins before the scheduled departure, the boat is still there ready to depart but unfortunately they wont let us in anymore since Customs Officer already cleared the vessel for passengers. Trying our luck and begging for them to let us in but no chance they offer us seats instead for the next special trip at 530pm, well we have no choice but to relax for an hr and wait for the next trip.

So inside the boat here we are :

dive safari
see our exciteed faces

We arrive at Tagbilaran port at around  8pm and travel time to Anda Beach is around 2.5hrs., we are greeted by a cute driver from the Resort where we stayed  (La Petra Beach Resort Anda). Road seems so calm it was still a holiday , I think people are still so tired from the New Years eve party, well, they deserved rest too.We arrive at La Petra Beach Resort around 1030pm had our dinner and immediately took a rest.

The following morning we had an early breakfast before planning to hit the beach for the day. Then my buddy told me a bad news he receives an email just moments ago.

Apparently the dive safari operator emailed him saying that his Liveaboard boat is broken (some problem with the engine or so), and he can’t assure us that it would be fixed within the day so we can proceed the following day.

So what are our options?

  1. He will refund our package payment fully including our bookings and incidental expense with our trip.So we will find alternative on our own.
  2. Wait for the boat to be fix which means possibly until Jan.4 but unsure.

We relayed the bad news to the rest of the group and tell them the possible options and or consequences. It’s not an easy decision we have to make specially almost everything is already planned out including bookings paid after the safari trip and individual circumstances.

Shortly after our meeting , the operator called up again, and said he found a new boat as an alternative, it’s his friend’s boat – a bigger one that can travel long distance Anda-Southern Leyte, however this boat don’t have cabins and if we opt for this boat we shall stay in land in at least 2 Dive resort within leyte, the dive operator offered to pay all resort expenses hence there is no accommodation place with the alternative boat. It sounds to be a fair deal for us so we agreed but with the alternative boat we have to wait one day, so schedule is move Jan4-9 means we have one day to kill in Anda. We decided to look for dive operator within Anda beach and do 2 dives for a day. Found a French guy who operates a dive center in Flower Beach Resort 10 minutes away from where we stayed. It was a sunny day and just perfect to be back underwater again plus special people with awesome friends.

Day 1 -Jan.4- We woke up very early  for a scheduled transfer to another resort where the boat will pick us for Leyte.Sea is calm when we depart, skies is a bit cloudy and some mist but Rainbow showed up seemingly greeting us good luck. Travel time is about 4-5hrs Bohol to Southern Leyte, we arrived at Macrohon Leyte where we checked in at around mid day.

diving sogod southern leyte
duck face for the Whale Shark

We cant wait to start diving so we gear up ready for the first dive heading to the divesite called Medicare North, this is so-called after their neighboring position with Padre Burgos Medicare facility. This is a steep site down to 3ometers average rocky and sandy slopes which are decorated with hard and soft corals with schools of fusiliers, sweet lips and angel fishes, current is average. Noticeably large table corals and sponges are visible in this site.We eat our lunch within an hour surface interval then we proceed to Medicare South for a more relaxing dive, a rocky-sandy slope to 20meters where you can see snappers, black corals and a very cute Pygmy seahorse living in a seafan.It was a good starter dive although the weather seems to be sad, no sun .

Day 2 -Jan.5 This day we went diving around Limasawa island with thick clouds and some bits of rain, Mr Sunshine is still elusive.

Limasawa is a small island with around 6000+ people.In the past year local divers spotted Whale Shark passing by the area and now we were trying our luck to meet them here. Limasawa Island is famous place historically because it is where the  ”First Catholic Mass in the Philippines was held during Spanish times in the year 1521.

We did 3 dives in Limasawa’s beautiful walls adorned with all sorts of soft and hard corals  in different colors and sizes, sponges ,black corals.Massive gorgonian fans can be seen as well as nudi branches(my favorite) and sometimes a yawning frogfish is available to greet you.On top of the wall is a lively coral garden full of anemones, tunicates, soft corals inhabited with all kinds of reef fishes.

Looking into the blue hoping to spot for Mr Sharky, unfortunately we didnt see him yet, but we still have 4 more days to go.

2nd misadventure : after the 3rd dive, were heading back to the resort, travel time is around 45mins-1hr, however shortly after we depart from Limasawa the boat captain stops the engine because there is a problem.Oh My God ! not this time please, everyone is tired for the dives and we just wanna rest in the resort.The crew tried to fix the problem(they say the cooling system on the engine is not working anymore), an hour has pass but still they couldn’t fix it then another half an hour and its gettin dark already. So we decided to ask for assistance from Sogod bay for a rescue boat.Luckily there is an immediate response form the other side and they’re willing to save us 😉 but after 15mins the engine suddenly starts , voila the crew was able to fix it, so rescue is cancelled and everyone is grateful.

Day 3 -Jan.6  Want a drift dive ? Max Climax 1 & 2, strong currents on these sites but we see beautiful stuffs like Nudis, sea moth, crinoid shrims and hairy squat lobsters.Vast array of staghorn can also be seen in this dive site as well as soft corals and barrel sponges. Then the most awaited night dive follows after 1.5hrs surface interval, we went to the well-known Padre Burgos pier.

What did we see during the night dive ? on my list are :

Flamboyant cuttlefish,Seahorses, nudis, flatwords, decorated crabs, the resident Stargazer of course, bobtail squid and many more.

Some beautiful soft corals in bright colors outgrown the pier’s pedestal  looking like a wedding venue decor.We tried to look for the tiger shrimp but failed to see him.

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Day 4 -Jan.7  Exciting day because we went to Napantao Marine Sanctuary , I super miss this place so much, one of my favorite dive site.Imagine your in marine biology class, this place has almost all freaking living things underwater that you will study about.Many behavior of living organisms that resides here can be observed. From different types of hard and soft corals in all sorts of colors and shapes, u name and see i here. Plus the massive population of all kinds of reef fishes in schools alive, awake and enthusiastically surrounding you. Big fishes like trevallies, barracuda, snapper, jack fish visiting the reef to feed.From mooray eels with their head protruding in between crevices to nurse sharks and black tips chilling under the huge rocks.

Beyond the happenings in the reef we focus our attention into the blue to see if Mr Whale Shark will finally show up, but nothing comes out until our tanks reach 30bar 😦 time to go up.

But still this site is so awesome that for the second dive we went to the same site and continue to Ghost town for a muck dive.

I will leave it to your judgement on the pictures below.

Day 5 -Jan.8 Since a typhoon is forecasted and Southern Leyte is declared under signal #1 together with Cebu, Bohol Siquijor and nearby visayas area.So this day we decide to do all dives inside the bay because it is safer.This day diveplan is to do 1 reef dive (Bunga Bend site) and a  muck diving (also my favorite kind of diving) at Malitbog also know as Little Lembeh.My dive buddy hooked me up into muck diving about 3yrs now,if your new to this kind of diving you will initially question what the heck are you doing in this kind of divesites, but as time goes by and once you will get familiarize of what is it about and what can you see in this murky,trashy, sandy and sometimes blurry kind of divesites ,you will for sure slowly get addicted to it, specially when you see all the critters and extremely cute stuffs that is living behind the sand and or hiding behind bottles of beer and or some torned closed at the bottom.We had an awesome dive at Little Lembeh.

Day 6 -Jan.9 Today is our last day.

3rd MisadventureAside from a bad weather of the day which will hamper our trip back to Bohol, there is more worst news-The dive operator told us that our boat or the boat that brings us to Southern Leyte left early dawn without us knowing. We supposed to go back to Bohol on this day however because of the typhoon all boats are stranded at the port and is not allowed to sail, therefore we are stuck in Sogod Bay, we can’t think of anything else to do.

We decided dive with Peter’s Dive Resort and went to Jun’s Pinnacle where we see turtles and as expected this site is as lively as the neighboring  Napantao dive site where we dive again for the third time.We spent most of our time in the ”Aquarium” and observe the fishes as they glide.Turtles,Damsel fish, parrot fish, thousands of Anthias, hundreds of angel fishes,all kinds of anemone fish,lizard fish, gobies,cardinal fish,groupers,pipe fish, lion fish, frogfish and giant trevallies hovering on top of playing reef fishes.

So we finish the day with a muck dive at Ghost Town which to our surprise marks one of the highlights of the trip is that we found 2 green hairy shrimps ,a very tiny one and a tiny one 😉 about 2mm and 5mm size.

To end our dive Safari we head to the pier again for a night dive.

During the night dive we see the Flamboyant cuttlefish again, and of course spent more of our time watching him, shortly before the end of the dive, the dive master signal for our attention and guess what  he found something special- a Green Hairy Shrimps, which is very hard to spot since the water is a bit choppy underwater, the algae where it sticking is constantly moving. After my dive buddy had enough with the green hairy shrimp we proceed to try to search for the tiger shrimp again, unluckily we failed to find him, instead he find a very cute nudi.Back at the resort during dinnertime we tried to scan among pictures to see and SURPRISE guess what we see on the last shots he took, apparently near the nudi is a Purple/Red hairy shrimp.

                                                                                                             SURPRISE SURPRISE !!! 🙂 😉 😉

sea-slug magical-purple-hairy-shrimp

That ends our dive safari.

Super JAWsome, FINtastic and a SEAlebration of life UnderWater ❤

><(((0>

night dive in leyte
sand eel
night dive in leyte
sand eel

We might not meet Mr.Whale Shark, we still consider it as a SUCCESS, despite misadventures along the way, we are still amaze how beautiful the sites in Sogod Bay for sure we will never get tired visiting/diving Sogod bay in Southern Leyte if given the chance.

Finding Flamboyant chilling at Padre Burgos pier and spending time with not only 1 but 4 Hairy shrimps and not just green but also purple/red hairy shrimps is more than a jackpot for us 😉 😉 ;*

Photo Credits to : Uwe, Jens,Alexandros and Eegy.

Thanks guys for being so awesome !

More pics down 🙂

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Thanks guys for reading and now off to fantasize for our next exploratory dives somewhere in Panay next months , anybody who can guess will be one lucky bastard. 😉 😉 😉

The second week we proceed to Camiguin to summit Mt Hibok Hibok and dive Mantigue island, next on my blog .Stay tuned !!

Mermaid Tale- a weekend escapade in Moalboal White Beach

moalboal beach
enjoying sunset

It’s been awhile since the mermaids had gone to the abyss.

One saturday morning around 6am, cute voices woke me up very early.It was sweet and quite familiar.I open the door half awake, since I still feel so sleepy, darn it guess who is invading the city? It’s two of my favorite human being in the world.Who could that be. Well of course my happy pilss

#PrinceRobzki and #PrincessFeona.

So they will spend weekend with me in the city, and I have no plans in mind what to do. But since its been long time the mermaid is in dryland, I decided to pack our bags and prepare for a beach trip, this time heading in one of our favorite place in the South-Moalboal beach.This place holds a special place in my heart, we use to spend a lot of our weekends here when me and my best of friends think of hitting the beach.My little prince & princess loves the beach just like their mom. I’m thinkin of spending overnight so I google quickly where to rent a room cheaply that can accomodate us four including my niece Shela.I pretty much dont have any idea anymore what is the current rates of the rooms their since in the past we usually just bring tents and pitch it in the wite sand beach.

But hence were running out of time for reservation so I just crossed my fingers and hope there will be room available for us when we arrive.I cook quickly pancake to bring so kids will have something to eat while in the bus-its a 3hrs ride and ofcourse I dont want them to eat so much Chicharon and Ampaw along the way 🙂

So were ready : goggles/swimsuits/sunblock/towels/clothes/repellant/water = check.

We tool the non-aircon ceres bus in Cebu City South terminal located near E-Mall.

Fare :

Adult = 90

Kids 6years old and above=45

Travel time was around 3hrs, we stop at Moalboal Poblacion town and took a tricycle which cost us P100 one way to Basdaku (White Beach), normally it is 25/head when u wait for it to be full with passengers, but since I’m travellin with my kids I prefer to have the tricycle on our own to avoid crowding.There’s an important thing to note tho, along halfway the travel someone will stop the tricycle and ask for like a toll fee of 5peso per passenger and they will gave you a documentary stamp in return, and when you arrive at the beach you have to pay 20peso entrance.

screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-7-39-19-am screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-7-39-30-am

So we arrive finally, along the main white beach are some huts and bamboo cottages and some native hut with rooms, owners delighted us and persuade us to come look inside their room, so we are lucky there are still available rooms at the time. However it is feeling to crowded already there are may young group of beach goers from each side of the rooms.So I decided to walk further and see if there is a place which is a little bit quite, then we found this room just walking distance from the busy area where people pitch tents,a woman in her middle 40’s told us they have 2 vacant rooms one is fanroom and another one is with AC. I chose the fan room since its cheaper P1000 initially but then I was able to haggle the price to 900, me and my kids don’t really like AC, we easily chill. The room has only one bed but the size can fit us four since I have skinny kids too.There is toilet inside very cute and surroundings is clean. We will be spending most of our time anyways in the beach and swimming and snorkeling , so the room is basically is just for our things and charging our phones for pictorials 😉

So Feona and Robzki can’t wait they immediately change to beach wears and run to the beach.Feona miss swimming a lot, one of the reasons why she loves summer days, she can spent most of her time either in the pool or wholedays in the beach.

What could be more serence, this place has one of the best sunset view.

stunning sunset

“We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something.”
-Mother Teresa

I told feona to come with me snorkeling about 50meters from the beach because I wanted to show her the beautiful coral reef near the dropoff, it was lowtide so it would be easier for her to see. In the beginning she is hesitant since she has only goggles and not snorkeling, I still have to buy her one which fits her size.Anyhow I manage to convince her that she will never regret coming with me to the edge of the coral reef plateau, besides I told her we have two mission: 1.to find Nemo 2. to find Dory, then we start swimming. Corals are still stunning in the area, healthy aquatic life , fishes ,soft corals everywhere and closer to the drop off are anthias and snappers.

It feels like home, it feels completely different to be submerged again.

moalboal beach
dive into the ocean

I share same sentiment !

“The ocean makes me feel really small and it makes me put my whole life into perspective… it humbles you and makes you feel almost like you’ve been baptized. I feel born again when I get out of the ocean”
-Beyoncé Knowles

 

We spend two days in the beach were sunburnt, but we wont ever complain.We can’t wait to be back again. As we pack our bags heading home we felt tired, we felt blessed and we felt grateful, because no matter how cruel city life is, we still got the chance to be in a place we wanted to be over the weekend, in paradise.

Thanks Moalboal beach, please stay alive and vibrant.

 

In Search for the”the Big Blue Whale” – A Balyena.org volunteer experience

So I been wanting to do this for a long time.To volunteer for a Non Governmental Organization. Since I’m a mermaid I followed quite a number of most Philippine based NGO for marine conservation such as Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines, Greenpeace-Ph, Save Philippine Seas,Oceana-Ph, Ocean Conservancy and Balyena.org, I been supporting their cause even by just sharing post online as  form of information dissemination.

Last year I really really wanted to join Balyena.org’s Humpback Whale Expedition in Southern tip of Philippines- the Babuyanes Island for summer season. I send my volunteer application but unfortunately all slots were full. But then I saw this post below :

13096281_979653335404658_3427140234875271740_n
Photograb with permission from Balyena.org Fb page

Seriously, the ” Big Blue Whale’‘, can you imagine that, the largest animal on earth has been sighted off Bohol Sea last year 2015 at the same season. I just hope it’s just hanging around the PH waters and maybe around Bohol Sea so we can we can meet during the survey, must be a dream come true. I will probably see the real mermaid t

Without hesitation I emailed Doc Jom Acebes – head of Balyena.org about my interest in joining the survey, and even before receiving her response I went straight to my boss and ask permission to take a leave on particular dates stated above, luckily the answer is a big YES ! Moving on, arriving Tagbilaran port as early as 3am on May 18 I hurriedly took a tricycle to take me to Baclayon where Doc Jom and the rest of the volunteers will meet me. Guess what , will be heading to Pamilacan Island for our first day of the survey, it is an island in the bohol sea known for dolphin and whale sighting, in fact the tourism office of Baclayon which has jurisdiction over the island is promoting Dolphin and Whale Watching for tourist and visitors.

Since I wasn’t able to join the orientation night prior to my arrival upon meeting the group, Doc Jom immediately oriented me what to do and what to expect for a week survey.

So the team is ready, a local boat from Pamilacan island pick us up and will travel for about less than an hour to reach there. Arriving the island we were welcomed by locals whom Doc Jom is in contact with, will be staying in a simple cottage fronting a white beach, so lucky bastard again. Who says volunteering is not awesome ? 🙂

img_7916
The beach front : Pamilacan Island Bohol
img_7699
Simple cottages where we will be staying for 2 nights in the island

According to Doc Jom, ”of  the 26 species of cetaceans around the country , 18 are commonly found in Bohol Sea, and since the sighting of the Big Blue off Bohol sea , they launch the project ”In Search of the Big Blue ” running from the months of May-June.

The Survey Team:

Doc Jom Acebes – survey lead

Volunteer Members :

Monika and Martin – from Poland

Serena Lagorio – from Italy

Luis Benjamin – from Manila

and yours truly(Alieth)- from Cebu

This is how we start the survey :

  1. Wake up around 6am and have an awesome breakfast prepared by our host in the island.
  2. After 30mins we are ready to load equipments and stuffs for the survey such us : survey sheet for recording, gps, binoculars,cameras, water, food for lunch, fruits and snacks.
  3. Then we hop in the boat and start our assigned task. Three member shall be the spotter for front , left and right view. One GPS handler, two photographers and two recorders.
  4. Once there is sightings, we get closer around 500meters away from the cetaceans and start the interaction.
  5. Important facts and informations are recorded in each interaction with cetaceans such as , the location  in Latitude and Longitude points,the starting time and ending time of interaction, the species of whales, its characteristic, behaviour and movements.

The first three days of the survey was very fun, even if the sun is scorching hot , the spinner dolphins don’t fail to entertain me all the time. GPS points had been identified already by the organization for whale sightings and interaction for the past years so we usually followed these spots presuming these ceataceans are just there just within this radius. We had an average of 3-4 interactions a day, starting from 8am till 4pm.Each interactions can last 30mins up to an hour, we got to observe how they act, how many of them in a pod and even in which direction they headed.Interestingly we also see differences in them physically like the colour of their body , the shape of their beak and fins.

After we we call it a day we headed back to the shore tired but happy. After dinner we do log informations for each sightings. Each day is another exciting day to look forward to, thinking that the ”Big Blue” can be out there waiting for us. So after 3days of survey around the island of Pamilacan, it’s time for us to move on to another location along Bohol Sea. We will now head to Jagna Bohol, where the Organisation’s head quarter is located.

We stayed at Paseo del Mar Resort,a dive resort operated by Doc Jom’s family and where Balyena.org office is also located.The resort is facing Camiguin Island and of course fronting a coral reef where you can dip for a snorkelling session. The place has different types of accommodations and dorm rooms to accommodate guests,volunteers, researchers and divers.A restaurant is also available anytime for a hungry stomach, and for caffeine necessity, brewed coffee is there to keep you awake.

A mini kitchen is also available for those who want’s to prepare their own meals, specially market is just minutes away.In our case we did bought vegetables and fruits from the market for 3days consumption and store it in the refrigerator and cook enough for a day.

Before the 4th day of our survey, Doc Jom receive a surprising news from her friends in another conservation agencies , they spotted ”the Big Blue ” off the coast of Negros, yes just the moment when we arrive in Jagna this awesome news welcomed us.

http://www.mb.com.ph/largest-animal-on-the-planet-the-blue-whale-spotted-off-negros-oriental/

So at that night I almost couldn’t sleep, I wanted to see the ”Big Blue” for sure, this must be a one of akind experience in a lifetime , imagine seeing the largest animal on earth which can be a size 6 elephant. But we are far from the subject , to reach dumaguete we either have to take a fast craft from tagbilaran to dumaguete which has limited schedule in a day and or hire a fast boat to reach dumaguete, but the problem is for sure its gonna be costly and the probability to see the Big Blue can be lowered as time goes by since they travel in long distances and they travel fast ;( sigh.

According to Doc Jom’s analysis it could be the same Blue Whale sighted off Alona Beach in Panglao island first week of May which moved along Bohol Sea to Tanon Strait in Negros. It is most likely be drifting with the currents towards the Sulu Sea.

Anyways, to make the story short, we decided to stay in Jagna to continue our survey for the next days, and wished ”the Big Blue” will come back. At this point two interns from Davao both were Marine Biology students joined us for the survey, Fiona and Matt.

According to Doc Jom , in the past years they recorded atleat 5common species of Cetaceans around Bohol Sea nearby Jagna such as; Melon-headed whale, Spinner Dolphins , Fraser Dolphins,Rissos Dolphins and short-finned pilot whale.Among the list, we encountered all of them except for the short-finned pilot whale.

These cetaceans have distinct characteristics which I only learned after this experience. In the beginning I thought there is only dolphins and whales  which looks the same and are the same. Yes they actually belong to the same group called ”Cetaceans” in which Dolphins , whales and porpoises belong to, they are marine mammals.Meaning  they depend their life in the oceans,produce milk from mammary glands to feed their babies and has blowhole in the centre of the head above the eyes,which they breathe air from their lungs and is one of the reasons why they go up to the surface of the water.

During the surveys, we also observe different behaviour from different species. To start with, there is this common and fantastic spins and stunts of the spinner dolphins, which still remains my all time favorite. One common behaviour of cetaceans is they do ”Bowriding” is when they ride the bow pressure waves of boats.Another common behaviour of spinners,melon headed-whales and Rissos dolphins is they do ‘‘Tail Slapping”, this is when they smack hard their fluke or tail on the surface of the waters, then there is this ”Spyhopping” as the term suggest, you can see half of their head coming out from the water silently as if observing what is happening around, another boring behaviour is ”Logging” or best being describe as resting, in which case you can see them moving slowly in the surface of the water being their dorsal fins above water surface. The last but most exciting behaviour of whales and dolphins I observed is then they lifts their entire body 50-100% off the waters, literally imagine them flying , this is called ”Breaching”, this one fascinates and entertains me so much thereby making me so happy. There are few hypothesis you can read online why marine animals breach, such us to dislodge parasites, mating, social interactions or just for fun. One thing is for sure I would never be tired of watching them doing this sort of stuffs.

Before our volunteer work ends, Serena from Italy also presented and shared to the team her studies about Sperm Whales in Europe.

In summary, my 10 days volunteer experience is a blast. It was a great opportunity I will never forget.This experience opens my eyes more and more about more conservation efforts in protecting marine and aquatic life specially those which are now declared endangered species, we don’t have so much time and destruction of the environment by humans is faster than we thought.We need to be part of the collective effort hence our life is so much dependent on our oceans.

It is also very important to be aware and to follow the correct guidelines in interacting with marine mammals specially dolphin and whale watching is a growing business that tourism sector is targeting now in many parts of the country.

I would like to give thanks to Balyena.org for giving this opportunity to me and other volunteers. To Doc. Jom Acebes which allotted most of her time and years of studies in understanding not just about the environmental value of Cetaceans, but also the economic and historical aspect of the Cetacean populations in Bohol Sea and some parts of the Philippines thereby producing materials and publications which results to crafting of necessary policies to be implemented across the country. Her effort is also a huge factor in helping many students experience real fieldwork in marine biology studies and also to encourage more locals in the communities to be involved in the conservation goals.

 

To VOLUNTEER contact Doc Jom of Balyena.org

Follow and like their FB page : https://www.facebook.com/Balyenaorg-174606515909348/

To know more about cetaceans  see link below 😉

http://us.whales.org/whales-and-dolphins/welcome-to-world-of-whales-and-dolphins

Thanks to the locals of Pamilacan island and the boat crew there.

Thanks to the boat crew from Jagna. They are funny and friendly people.

Thanks to Paseo del mar which have been our host for a week.

Thanks to my awesome new friends and volunteers; Serena, Luis, Martin, Monika, Fiona and Matt.

Here are some photos I took with my camera phone:  ><(((0>

Cheers!

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After the volunteer experience, my family joined me to celebrate my daughter’s birthday in Doljo Panglao Bohol, we lived there for 2years in the past when I was working in a dive resort.We have couple of friends there and Feona miss her playmates too, I was too excited to show Feona and tell her more about dolphins as she love the oceans very much. The following morning we went out very early to the sea heading Balicasag island, the water was so calm and flat, 15 mins after we depart from the shore, we notice 1 boat packed with people from a distance and somehow they’re looking out something in the waters. So we went closer to them and ”aja” its a pod of whales- Short-finned Pilot Whales”, they’re rather huge.

See video link below :

Sorry for my loud voice, and initially I thought it’s a melon-headed whales but Doc Jom later confirmed to me that it is ”Short finned Pilot Whales”

 

 

 

 

Scuba Diving Sogod Bay : the Second time around

Mission : Dive with the Whale Shark in Leyte during off Season :p (close to impossible) right? but who knows….(lol)

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June 20-23,2016

To continue our underwater adventures let me bring you to one of our favourite dive destination-Sogod Bay , it is a large bay in the southern part of Leyte Island in the Philippines.[1] An extension of the Bohol Sea, the bay is surrounded by the province of Southern Leyte, and the namesake municipality of Sogod is located at the head of the bay. Panaon Island forms part of the eastern side of Sogod Bay, while Sarangani or Limasawa Island is at the mouth of the bay(Wikipedia).

Southern Leyte is one of the place in the Philippines besides Donsol where you can relatively swim with the Whale Shark in their natural habitat and in most natural way. Season for this plankton feeders is between November to April.

So the plan is after Samal we will head straight to Southern Leyte.From Cebu we took the boat via Cokaliong Shipping Lines which departs  1pm and we arrive at  Maasin City port At around 6pm, we took a small public multi cab for 75pesos each to Padre Burgos where Sogod Bay Scuba Resort is located.

Sore legs and muscles doesn’t stop us from fantasizing again with our friends in underwater world, we are set for another 3days of diving with them.

We stayed  at Sogod Bay Scuba Resort (SBSR) I have been here once sometime in March 2013 while my dive buddy have been in Sogod bay staying at another resort same year as well. This would be both of us second time around, and indeed our first experience here must be so awesome that it keeps us coming back.

SouthernLeyteDiveMap

So our first three dives will be north bound from the resort 20-30mins boat ride.We start to descend to Bunga bend , sloping 10-35mtrs with diverse fishes an coral life, our second dive is next to Bunga bend i forgot the name , with a little bit of current. Weather is testing us as well, bright sunrise in the morning then gloomy afternoon. I found a unique kind of shrimp during this dive, it is camouflaging in a yellow black feather star I call it feather star shrimp.We also see soft coral crab, porcelain crab and decorated crab.

Second dive is at Max Climax dive site current sweep like drip dive but fun chilling over colourful coral garden. Before ending the dive , the guide showed us a special kind of Nudibranch its called solar nudi, it is our first time to see such kind of nudibranch.

sloar nudi

What’s exciting for this day is the night dive, say it where? of course on our favourite Padre Burgos pier.Yes I know what you are thinking about, most pier stinks , smells bad and trashes down there and even on the surface.

Well don’t fret because what lies beneath is beyond what you can imagine. My first dive here way back 2013 is funny, so full of stories from a crab sitting near the zipper of an abandoned luggage to a shy nudi chilling over a sea star.

Padre burgos pier dive schedule is Mondays -wednesdays-fridays. When we arrive there is another group of divers getting ready to submerged.

We are greeted by two seahorse in chilling out in driftwood near a huge boulder of concrete wall decorated with sponges and corals, this two seahorse seems to be inhabiting exactly the same place as when i saw them 3yrs ago (amazing isn’t it) then we saw nudis along pier pedestal and lion fish all around, as expected crabs are busy for their meals, and nocturnal critters are coming out. A cute bobtail squid showed up and a cuttlefish. Then suddenly in one coral block our dive guide Dave found something special, OMG can you believe it, its a TIGERSHRIMP, yes a tiger shrimp , luck is still haunting us until Southern Leyte :p so someone is already dancing underwater at that very moment. Expect him to spent the remaining air in his tank photographing the lovely tiger shrimp , then the guide found another special kind of shrimp, on the same coral block a cute Donald Duck shrimp showed up, he must have known that a photoshoot is going on the other side and he wants his selfie too for a profile pic you know !!! 😀 😀 😀

tiger shhhh
tiger shrimp
funny dd
donald duck shrimp

In the middle of the dive we notice someone is watching us under , under the sand is two bright us of a stargazer fish.

stargazer

Our second day we head southward from the resort to Tangkaan Point dive site, we did two dives and as usual it was fantastic , very healthy coral garden and abundance of fish life. During this dive we went 25meters deep in a coral slope where a special sea fan is located, a pink one with a pink pygmy seahorse, she’s very cute and perfectly camouflage.

pink sea

We  also see a lot of nudis (my favourite) in Little Lembeh dive site, it is another muck dive sandy patches where we see Ghostpipe fishes and different kind of shrimps.

On our supposed last day of the dives included in the package is Panaon island where Napantao marine sanctuary is located, this is one of my favourite dive site in Southern Leyte besides the Padre Burgos pier, my first dive here is dreamlike, it is still so amazing the second time around. The abundance of fish life in this area is incomparable, there are just so many fish life , so many of them and almost all sorts of color you can imagine you will be surrounded with them. In a few minutes after descending to the wall our dive guide Dave immediately showed us something special hiding in a hard coral, then I saw a colourful green/orange blue combination tail swaying hooray its a little mandarin fish , a very shy one. The walls along Napantao is still spectacular, with all sorts of fish in all sizes. Then our guide is pointing something on top of  sponge he signaled its a frogfish, its a giant one , I swim closer and realize yes  it is huge and calmly observing ,it is my first time to see such a size of a frogfish specially I been oriented a lot already with macrophotography that focuses in tiniest critter and most frogfish I saw is not bigger than 10cm.

 

Why do frogfish yawn, are they sleepy or bored? I tried to google but no real definition as to the reason why they yawn , but closer hypothesis is 1. Territorial aggression 2. stretching their jaws to relax it after eating something 3. signal for photographer that they have had enough 😀 so better back off. The second dive is still a wall dive to 15meters it is the other side of the sanctuary, after 15mins in the wall we slowly went of on top of the wall where the vast coral garden can be  perceive with the eyes.Soft and hard corals are just everywhere with abundance of fishes around , then at one moment from a distance the other guide Berto signaled us that there is a shark, OMG seriously is this another mission accomplish ? So me and my dive buddy hurriedly swim faster and closer to him, we were looking around because we were excited to see the Whale Shark of course, but wait he is pointing at the bottom under the table coral, weird how can a whale shark fit in there, its unbelievable, so we tried to check and dive to the bottom until the sandy part and see 2 Juvenile Blacktip Reef Shark. Sorry dive buddy is having a hard time taking pictures its too huge for his macro lense 😦 It is still amazing isn’t it? We wait for them to come out but they didn’t, they must have sensed us waiting there.

After an hour surface interval we proceed to Ghost town for another muck dive, it is a sandy slope in between the two walls of Napantao, we immediately saw 2 ornate ghost pipe fish and many nudis and flatworms.

We end the dive very happy, Sogod Bay Southern Leyte as always not disappointing us, and as always we were diving in uncrowded place, the feeling is so relax ,almost no pressure no stress.

Our last day is supposed to be relaxation day.Boat is scheduled 12mn, we decided to add two more dives for the day. The dive guide bring us to Sta.Sofia dive site  to see another sea horse, this time it would be yellow, its gonna be exciting another variants to see.

yellow

The yellow sea horse ends our real dive fantasy. Have you noticed that luck is still on our side, we constantly see critters and underwater friends old and new. But as life goes on we have to go back to where we burn our a** off to save money again for the next dive trip 🙂

Time to pack up and eat lumpia before heading to the Maasin city , we still have to buy our boat ticket and crossing fingers and praying boat is not full or else I have no idea yet where we would spend the night. So we arrived at the Maasin city past 6pm from the port we walk to the ticketing office only to find out that it is closed and a poster is written next ticket issuance is 11pm that is like wth another 5hrs to wait, grrrhhhhh. So we decided to google places to eat but after walking very tired we stop to eat at a local pizza place, then we found in google maps a restaurant by the bay near us so we decide to take a tricycle and there we ordered beer, the time seems so slow when we were waiting, were both so sleepy and we almost have nothing to talk about just to entertain ourselves and not falling asleep in the table.

Fastforward we got the ticket and hop into the boat and we sleep happily ever after. 😉 ><(((0>

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Mission not accomplish 😦 we didn’t meet Mr Whale Shark.But don’t fret we will be back for him next year.

Next dive trip : Liveaboard dive safari from Anda Bohol- Southern Leyte January 2017 ><(((0>

Photo Credits to MR Uwe Michaelis (the UnderWaterExporer)

Special thanks to : Sogod Bay Scuba Resort , the boat crew and Dave our dive guide you are all awesome.

Thanks to the Resort Staff Annalyn and the other one I forgot the name,for a bright smiles everyday making sure we have fun diving. Thanks to the kitchen staff for preparing always a special Lumpia and yummy Kinilaw , our dives would never be complete without these in our tummy  😉 😉 😉

 

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

 

Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 7.34.59 AM

                                       ><(((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.

 

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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.