Category Archives: Underwater/Scuba Diving/Snorkeling

The Quest for Rhinopias in Samal Island

Canibad Beach, Samal Island
Canibad Beach, Samal Island , photcredits to : Bambam & Annie

Over a year ago we were surprised by what we have seen underwater of the Island Garden City of Samal.Last year we promised to come back for more.

So here we go. It’s my birthday month and after a series of misadventures and storms with my personal life past months, I think I deserve a break and moreover, I deserve to be underwater. So Samal dive safari again is booked with ”Lhoc” the master spotter friend of ours from Samal Island, Davao.

Dive Iterinary – Sept 10-12

Day 1

  • 1st Dive -Kimbale
  • 2nd dive – Kanaan
  • 3 night dive-Canibad

Day 2

  • 1st dive-K5
  • 2nd dive- Tagpopongan pier
  • 3rd night dive -K5 again

Day 3

  • 1st dive-Balet
  • 2nd dive-Big Liguid Island

This Dive Safari shall be extra special, we want to say hello to our dear friends underwater Nudibranches ,Hairy , Tiger,Harlequin Shrimps and hopefully bumblebee shrimps too, yes you hear it right. These tiny shrimps are as cute as ever you can imagine, see them on my previous blog last year except the elusive bumblebee.

The trip’s mission is to find the bumblee bee and to see species of Rhinopias residing in the island, while it might be rare in most places you dive, I heard  & see posts from dive friends that they have plenty of Rhinopias here. Cmo’n let’s find out.

Hopping in the boat with our gears Lhoc and boat crew greeted us with the same kind and warmth smiles, it’s been a year. He rented out another big boat as the dive boat we use last year is still finishing renovations and engine change, anyhow the boat we are in is as huge filled with tanks and can accommodate up to 6-8 divers. We pick up two other guest – underwater photographer couple Annie Shin and Bambam, they stayed in Kaputian Resort.

The first dives on day 1 is a little warm-up dive in Kimbale, Kanaan and a night dive in Canibad beach. We did muck dives, visibility is 10-15m, sandy slope area, with pebbles and lots of sea urchins and starfish. Coral garden is nice and looks healthy.

We found lots of nudibranches and a fat Spanish Dancer crawling at the bottom, while a curious mooray eel is creeping from a green branching cup coral. On our second dive, we found 2 pygmy seahorses- the pink one, another one is pregnant.We ended the day with a night dive after a heavy rain. A fat Spanish dancer 😉 and a very cute octopus, plenty of squat shrimp and anemone shrimp as well, some decorator crabs show up too.

In the evening, we feast the yummiest and special meal because it’s my birthday  :), it happens that our divemaster is not only good in spotting small critters but also a good cook. My dive buddy surprised me with a cake that makes it even more special. Thank you, guys !

Day 2

The most exciting day, Lhoc will bring us to the place recently discovered and where they found different species of Rhinopias. Rhinopias belong to the family of Scorponidae or scorpionfishes, they are one of the many favorites of underwater photographers because they are rare, or just simply strangely beautiful and are colorful, they have a very unique body shape and patterns, perfect for a great shot.Behold to its beauty because they have venomous spines at their back and fins and they camouflaged well on their surroundings.They are usually found walking and hopping thru sandy floor with pebbles or sitting on top of some soft corals waiting for its prey.

In the Philippines it is common in Anilao Batangas where hundreds of macro photographers surround them. But hey ! they are in Samal island too and the site all for ourselves today.

So the hunt begins, we descent in a sloping muck area named K5 which we later found out the story of the name from East , Lhoc’s mentor in spotting critters. After 30minutes of scouring the sandy bottom with rubbles and small coral patches, Lhoc looks desperate already gliding up and down from 15-25meters to find the Rhinopias but nothing, me and my buddy are busy looking for other cute stuffs like Nudis, did I mention already I am a nudibranch addict. Visibility isn’t so good Bambam and Annie is also busy trying to scour the bottom to find the Rhinopias, until we heard a continues banging of the tank and voila Lhoc finally found one Rhinopia for us.

Paddle Flap Scorpionfish / Rhinopias eschmeyeri
Paddle Flap Scorpionfish / Rhinopias eschmeyeri

Then Lhoc found another one not far from the first one.

Weedy Rhinopias/rhinopias frondosa
Weedy Rhinopias/rhinopias frondosa

After few minutes, in a distant maroon sea grass another one found a shelter.You have to spot the eyes so you will find a fish is in there

Juvenile Weedy Rhinopias/rhinopias frondosa
Juvenile Weedy Rhinopias/rhinopias frondosa

Frondosa are my favorites because of their color and beautiful patterns, Frondosa has imperfect round patterns in their body.Their snouts looks funny, I’l never get bored watching them and waiting when they open their mouth.

That was a blast seeing 3 Rhinopias in one site, I already felt the luckiest, I’m still wishing to see the purple frondosa.I end the dive with 10bar left on my tank and still can’t get over with the Rhinopias in my mind.

The next dive after an hour interval is at Tagpopongan pier.Visibility is about 5 meters which are normal in most pier we been to, lots of cute nudis on this dive ,we found melibe feeding, variety of flabellinas, mooray eels and hinge beak shrimps.

Late afternoon East Pardillo -Davao’s famous macro photogpraher/spotter/guide/dive instructor joined us.Just imagine how our luck this time. Having two of the most reliable critter spotter in Samal Island will be actually difficult for us, in a positive way, we just have to choose who to follow when they start spotting the critters.

Ready set we go for third dive-another night dive at K5, another chance if are lucky we will see the purple Frondosa this time (crossing fingers now).

Say hello to our dear Rhinopia friends during the night.

Still no luck for the purple frondosa 😦 but hey do you remember the first mission? Before our night dive ends along the way back to the shallow, Lhoc was busy checking with something in a huge barrel sponge decorated with different crinoids. And whats next that suprises us ,is a lone bumblee bee hiding between the ridges of the barrel sponge under the crinoids, and it’s not very easy to see him because it is moving so fast,my dive buddy had difficulty getting a decent shot, but see below the best shot for the night 🙂

bumblee bee shrimp
bumblee bee shrimp

After the dive, East told us that bumblee is so common in samal , there is one dive site that there are tons of them that they even call it Bumble bee city plus a place where the butterly nudi (Cyerce) lives  . Will for sure take note of that for the next Samal dive trip.

Day 3

on our last day we head  close to southern tip of Samal ”Balet divesite”. Another muck dive site, current is a bit strong on our initial descent Annie and Bembem descended first following East, while me and buddy with Lhoc followed  them, however visibility is less than a meter after 5minutes we decided to abort the dive. We didn’t see East group after about 45mins.

They have good stories to tell, Annie hated the dive obviously because of the visibility but they see nice stuffs like sheep nudi & pompom crabs.

pompom crab
pompom crab
sheep nudi
sheep nudi

After an hour surface interval we proceed to Big Liguid island, this dive is a quest for the rare shrimp living in a rare tiger anemone wrapping around a wire coral garden 30-35m max depth.East made us become more and more interested in every words he says.This guy is like a walking encylopedia for marine biology. Talking to him is like stepping in a classroom or a library.

We started to descend against mild to a little bit strong current.We go down down to 30m coral garden full of wire corals wrapped with tiger anemone we immediately check one by one but found no shrimp. Instead we found lots of nudis on this dive, we found one white beautiful nudibranch.

white nudi
white nudi

After deco time we ascend closer to two pinnacles beautifully covered with corals in different colors.

We end up on top of the pinnacle gliding over a garden full of soft corals about 5-7 meters from the surface.

We try to head back to where the boat was again againts the current, kinda feels weird because in a matter of 2 meter distance the current changes, there is down and up current, but we were able to manage it.

Along the way Lhoc found a very tiny black nudi on a dead leaf. It was my first time seeing such king of nudi definitely all black in color, however my dive buddy signals that he is running out of air and have to surface 😦 ( luck doesn’t work always, we need to accept some kind of a balance, no photos this time. On the surface we realize we are on the other corner  of the island and the boat is nowhere to be found.

To wrapped up, it was ofcourse a MISSION ACCOMPLISHED !!!
5 Rhinopias, tons of nudibranches and other critters plus THE BUMBLEE SHRIMP, I couldn’t complain and the green hairy shrimp is still there saying hello on our last dive.
green hairy shrimp on a green squirts
green hairy shrimp on a green squirts

Plus we found another new variety of Halgerda nudi.

Halgerda
new type of Halgerda nudi

 ><(((o> Time for acknowledgement before some beers 😉

Thanks to Lhoc, his kindness and eagle eye is still one of a kind.

Contact him on FB or his mobile, he can arrange for a dive safari with a boat, he can guide , he can spot and most of all he can cook after every dives.

Thanks to the Capt of the boat and to the very shy but kind crew.

FB : Lhoc Espojon    Mobile : +63912 391 3811

East,thank you so much for sharing your endless knowledge to us we for sure learned a lot from you you have gone so far when it comes to macrophotography and critters at a very unripe age you have.

East is starting his dive operations soon, don’t miss to contact him when you want to dive in Davao & Samal island.

website : http://esda.ph/dive-trips.html

It was very nice to meet the couple Bambam and Annie who are both equally likeminded individuals who are also very passionate to underwater photography and scuba diving.Samal island keeps us falling in love over and over again, and we can’t wait to come back, we super wished we have more time that time, but nevertheless theres always good reason to come back.

Photo credits to : UWE, Annie and Bambam

Expenses : Php18,000/pax for the 3day dive safari all inclusive.

More pics !

The team !

The celebrations continues at vikings !

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Another favorite zen paradise- Pamilacan Island Bohol

panoramic view of the beach
panoramic view of the beach

Similar to Boracay and or Panglao Island, minus the people and the commercial establishments, that’s Pamilacan Island. A literal paradise we’ve’ fallen in love with. Inhabited by less than 2000 people mainly fisher folks and operator of homestays. I was here last year 2016 when I join Balyena.org ”Bohol Sea Cetacean Survey”. We stayed in the island for 2 nights and 3days mainly spending the whole day in the boat looking and spotting for dolphins and whales of Bohol Sea. It was that time that I told myself to come back for a vacation and hopefully I can tag along my kids.

Recently about 3rd week of September I finally got that plan realize with my buddy and kids.

Day 1

We depart Cebu to Tagbilaran via Lite shipping ferry leaving daily from Cebu at 10pm, took us 5hrs to reach Tagbilaran City in Bohol. We stayed 2 more hrs in the boat while its docked, then we proceed to go out of the boat around 530am and took a tricycle from the port to the main town of Baclayon for about 15-20minutes ride where the boat from the cottage that we book waited to pick us up in the port.

Kuya Junior of Junior and Nemesia’s Cottages greeted us with warmth smiles, immediately assisting us with our luggage.The trip to the island took about 30-45minutes with a sighting of Rissos’ Dolphin when we almost arrived at the island, another good welcome sign.

We are booked for 2 nights and 3days in a small cottage with 2 queen size bed, they charge 1000Php/night per pax including 3 meals already.For children 12years old and below they charge half 500Php.Room is simple made of light material and bamboo floors.Toilet is clean, altho water is limited since this is a tiny  island surrounded by sea water,even in summer they have to fetch fresh water from the mainland of Baclayon, must be understandable.So remember to conserve water once you visit here.

JR & Nemesia's cottage Pamilacan
JR & Nemesia’s cottage Pamilacan
JR & Nemesia's cottage
JR & Nemesia’s cottage Pamilacan

My two kids immediately change to swimming attire, grab their snorkel, fins and run to the beach when we arrive, while me and my buddy settled in our room and arrange our things.

kids snorkeling
kids snorkeling

It was a very quite place with only audible chirping of the birds and sometimes a cry of a hungry goat you can hear. In front of our cottage is the powdery white sand stretching up to 3km long.

While walking along the beach we noticed women in their early or late 40’s sweeping the sand with broomstick. Sensing a positive vibes and smiling aura of the woman I ask her if they do that everyday and if the cottage owner is paying them to clean the beach.She smiles and said  ”No” the local government of Baclayon is paying us Php200 daily to pick up trash and leaves or seaweeds left in the sand when hightide goes back to lowtide”. Thats a big thumbs up to Baclayon LGU.

After a brief chat with the women , I called my kids to pause from swimming since we need to grab our breakfast at the moment prepared by Ate Nemesia, shes a very charming woman wife of Kuya Junior who runs the JR & Nemesia’s Cottages, she has atleast 9 cottages for rent.

Our breakfast is a yummy pancake , sunny side up egg, Chocolate drink for my kids and coffee for us.After eating we notice a fearsome jaw hanging outside Ate nemesia’s kitchen. Without Shark biology knowledge you will immediately conclude that Sharks are really dangerous.This is caught a very long time ago in Bohol sea by Kuya Junior’s forefathers a very long time ago he was still a kid as a by catch. In fact, before you freak out, Tiger Shark is  listed as near treatened specie of shark because of massive finning and fishing by humans. ”Sharks are smart animals, they are naturally shy to humans but if you stay calm they became curious and might look at you in the eye and smile” ( according to my buddy who dive with Sharks a lot of times)

tiger shark teeth
tiger shark teeth

We had a quick chat with the nearby resort for infos about diving in the area. We passby a huge concrete structure that is the 200 year old Spanish fort,they try to rebuilt  now after the earthquake that hits Bohol in 2013.

the old Spanish port
the old Spanish port Rebuilt

After lunch thick clouds covered the skies and strong winds is blowing, so perfect time to make a kite.We lost one kite and made another one. The kids obviously enjoyed it a lot.

kite flying
kite flying

The kids had another swim for the day.In the afternoon we decide to have a stroll in the village crossing to the other side of the island, we end up in a fishing village full of boats and fisherman having drinks, we passby 1 school and a pathway so beautifully curtained by a flowering tree on each side.

nice pathway
nice pathway

 

Day 2

Today we decide to wake up early for the most awaited part, dolphin watching. Bohol sea is home for atleast 16 species of whales & dolphins , as well as sharks, rays and mantas.Locals in  Pamilacan are known to be manta hunters for over a decade, thus ”Pamilacan” means a resting place for manta.

The sun rise for a bit but was quickly covered by thick clouds. The water is is filled with white caps.The first hour we didnt see any dolphins, we reach further until we felt hungry so we decide to come back to the island and eat breakfast. The condition of the water probably is one reason we didn’t spot dolphins , but I am sure they are there, we just didn’t spot them.

sunrise
sunrise

After eating breakfast we had an hour break then we decide to go snorkeling.There is a marine sanctuary on the west side of the beach where you can pay 200Php for the local guide and a paddle boat that will bring you there.

We opt just to stay in front of the beach and see what’s beneath.My kids had lots of fun seeing nemos,ishes and corals. Some parts are grassy which is perfect habitat for turtles, we didn’t see them while snorkeling but my buddy spotted them from afar surfacing when we were seated outside our cottage shortly after we arrive in the island.

We end the day playing ”touching ball” with a beautiful sunset.

Day 3

Another chance to spot dolphins, of course we are all excited again ,very happy and we can feel it through our nerves that hundreds of them will gonna show up. Now I don’t wanna hold you waiting, see below the dolphins of Pamilacan.

During the day we spotted 3 species of Dolphins, Fraser , Rissos & Spinners(almost a hundred of them).Another occurence during the interaction is that 2 white hawk is seen flying by to have some bits of the tuna leftovers from the feeding Spinners.

The interaction lasted for about 2.5 hours, the spinners entertained us non stop as it jumps, breach, and bowride closest to our boat.

We head back to the beach for our brunch and a well deserve rest, followed by last day of snorkeling in the island.

Some freediving

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I did less than an hour yoga poses to stretch my muscles and core having my mind and body in one. It is my deep way to say thank you to the universe for letting us experience this bliss.

This place will remain a favorite in our heart , it composes all elements of a paradise that we love. Simple living , nice beach, very kind people, the sea, the corals, the fish, the dolphins, the flowers, the garden, the yummy food. Everything sums up for a very nice place to unwind, destress, relax and reconnect with mother nature.

More photos below :

Time to say thank you to the lovely locals, specially Ate Nemesia & Kuya Junior and family for being so hospitable.

We promise to come back in the future. ><(((0> 🙂 ❤ ❤

I plan to organize an event here in the fure with Geko Adventures.

So stay tune  and cheers to the Spinners in Pamilacan Island.

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”

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

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.

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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.

 

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

 

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

June 13-18,2016

Scuba diving gets more and more into my nerves.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blue ringed-octopus- seen once in Malapascua island

Wonderpus- seen once in Camiguin dive

Bumblebee shrimp– never seen yet

Harlequin Shrimp- seen once in Dauin

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

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

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

From Sea to Summit-Day 1 to 3

THE SEA

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

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

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

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

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

Green hairy Shrimp

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

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

Lovers: tigershrimps
Lovers: tigershrimps

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

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

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

Red Hairy Shrimp
Red Hairy Shrimp

 

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The Verdict :

Green Hairy shrimps – check Tigershrimp- check

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

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

THE REST DAY – Day 4

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our accommodation for the rest day

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

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

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

THE SUMMIT – Day 5 to 6

View from the Summit of Mt Talomo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

View of the peak from Sicao Village

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

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

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

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

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

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

panoramic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VERDICT : Mission Accomplished…yay !!

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

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

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

After a chicken dinner, we sleep happily ever after.

 

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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.

 

Hidden gems : An Underwater exploratory dive in Sambawan Island

Mission : to see the Coral Cat Shark in Sambawan Island.

Our preference when scuba diving : Simple, uncrowded places, semi remote-remote area (because in most case these places are unspoiled),friendly locals, simple accommodation no luxury and awesome deal for dive packages.Plus cute critters (were macrophotography lovers) but we love Sharks and pelagics too 😉 ))

What’s more exciting than planning a dive trip for your Christmas holidays. Once upon a time sometime in June 2015 I saw a very beautiful landscape picture online, it was called Sambawan Island- a literal Paradise 🙂 a crescent shaped and skinny island just next to Volcanic Maripipi.

Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 10.52.10 AM

When we found out that diving is possible in the island and there is one dive Centre available, with no hesitation, Sambawan become our top choice.We negotiate and book a dive package with Sir Nestor Macorol owner and developer of Sambawan Dive and Camp Resort  and as usual by the power of my dive buddy’s lucky charm we got a good deal, Yay !!!

Getting to Sambawan Island :

First we took the night boat to Naval via Roble Shipping Lines departing Cebu @830pm and arriving Naval 130-2am.From Naval town we will have to take a 2hr van to the place where we take the boat to Sambawan island. There are two options getting there. First is via maripipi island, atleast 3public boats are available going there or head to Kawayan port where private boat for rent is available-this is best for groupsof 6-10people since boat rental is pricey.We choose option 2 and hop in the small cab going to Kawayan port (1hr).

We are lucky since our dear friend Sir Patrick brings his lucky charm with him and he found another group of young travelers who can share with us with boat rental.

sambawan

Approaching the island feeling the excitement already with the Maripipi view which look like a volcano with clouds kissing its summit.

maripipi

We arrive at Sambawan island around 2pm and greeted by their staff with warmth smiles and bright disposition.They look so happy to have us, the Dive team immediately introduce themselves and ask us what we want for lunch, sounds a good question. ”We want rice, we proclaimed” rice and veggies.While the Kitchen staff prepared our lunch, our dive guide bring us to our hut where we will be staying for 3nights, we put our bags, test the bed , savour the freshest air and wander around.

simple hut

The island has no supply for fresh water so resort staff fetch it everyday in a nearby Maripipi island (15mins via small boat). Electricity source is from a solar panel located on the top roof of one of the huts and runs from 6pm-5am the following morning. The dive team are friendly locals from Maripipi headed by Kuya Rodel. When he knows I am from Cebu he immediately knows we will have lengthy discussion and exchange of stories, later I found out from him that the people that help them set up the Dive Centre is a Filipino instructor from Cebu, they were the ones who trained them to be dive master and good dive guides.

Diving in sambawan is not crowded hence the remoteness of the place. There are occasional divers from Malapascua which do excursion dives  after Kalanggaman island in Leyte and another groups could be from mainland Maripipi which has atlas 2-3diveshops.

We spent the rest of the afternoon snorkeling and planning for a night dive at 530pm. The night dive is in quest for the Coral Cat Shark, however we didn’t find her.But we find some cute nocturnal critters, cute gobies and smiling crabs.

The next dive days are filled with different topographic seascape, from boulders to boulders as in huge  of them inhabited with endless nudibranches from smallest to the tiniest of them. Sunken City is the prime dive site in the area it is a beautiful reef garden filled with colours, schools of fusiliers, sweetlips being nibbled by cleaner wrasse a couple of hefty golden trevally zooming around in the midst of it all and thousand of Anthias are enveloping the whole scene.

Another dive site is called Black forest, I know what you are thinking, must be creepy down there , and dark, but opposite to how it is called , the black forest in Sambawan island is a dive site sloping to huge boulders from the shallow 5meters to a sandy slope to 30meters. Down there is a forest of soft corals in white that you felt like wading in between snow or cotton covered bushes.

Sorry no photos for those mentioned, my dive buddy has macro lense at the moment and no chance for wide angle shots.

On last day in the island is a rest day. we went walking around the island and the small islets interconnected to each other. The north view is Biliran while south is Maripipi. Maripipi looks inviting , we ask the Kuya Rodel if it is possible to climb up to the summit of Maripipi he said he never have done it yet only to almost halfway since the water source and a reservoir that supplies the island is there.

All in all this trip is like a dream come true, all preferences is achieved except seeing the Coral Cat Shark :p :p :p yet another reason to be back 🙂

For more info just click the Link : http://tourism.biliranisland.com/sambawanisland.php

Photo credits to his highness 😉 Mr Uwe ”awesome” Michaelis (UnderWaterExplorer)

Other photos are from the gecko babe too 😉