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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.

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 !


How Camiguin wins our heart the 2nd time around ?

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
So diving is good, lets go to the next addiction.
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 .
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: