Philippines Dive trip 2018
Philippines were on the radar at all for a dive trip. Until Terrence Gosliner, Co-author of the Indo Pacific Nudibranchs came and did a talk on the Verde Island Passage. So the spark started and then chatting to a guest, Natasha I had from Canada the previous year the spark ignited in a full raging flame. Natasha has been in Anile a couple of times but never dived at Verde Island before.
So in short notice we arranged a trip to go to Philippines, and stayed in Anilao, Batangas. Unfortunately we could not have a full schedule match up with Natasha but ended having 2 full days of diving together.
Natasha arrived earlier and booked in at an oldish rustic resort called Club Ocellaris. We spend our second part of the trip also at Club O. Our first resort was Anilao Buceo, Bit more costly but very new and set up for photographers with pool restaurant, bar etc. More on the resorts we stayed at later.
From South Africa via e-mailing all the resorts was a challenge some days with a 6 hour time difference and sometimes just a slow answer time. Natasha being their earlier helped out a lot and got the difficult trip due to logistics to Verde islands organised.
Only down of it was we arrived the evening at 8 pm and booked in after a day and a bit of travel and the next morning we were on a boat at 5.15 AM heading to Verde.
Red eyed but mostly rested we were ready to explore the new waters. The boat trip from Anilao to Verde took almost 1.5hours. The sea was slight rougher in the open seas between the islands but with warm water it was not an issue at all. The weird long boats had balancing poles on both side and a Toyota 1S car motor running it is also very interesting. Luckily most of the bigger boats and most dive boats had silencers or something on them which made them not to noisy. Most of the locals smaller boats were very very noisy at sea, especially over Easter weekend when everyone was on the their way somewhere.
Back to the Verde Island we did our first dives on Nitrox again organised by Natasha, ensuring we had adaptors and enough weights for our dive without needing to go past the dive centre. Our first dive was a stunning 67 minutes with George our guide showing us a lot of small critters. Dive 2 was at a stunning pinnacle at the corner of Verde. The conditions were a bit rough topside but we convinced the skipper to drop us off and we will pop our DSM’b once we surface and will swim away from the pinnacle for pick up. Below it was paradise with loads of fish and just as much macro life. My first sea snake I spotted here but could not get a good photo of it. George called the dive at 59 minutes which was almost a disappointment but safety for them is a factor and they were worried of the weather getting worse top side.
Before the last dive we had a stunning lunch packed by Club Ocellaris in the boat and then got permission from the caretaker at an old resort to get off on the island and stroll on the beach a bit. Was a shame to see the old resort in such a state as it in it heydays could have been an awesome resort. Heard it is for sale, Hmmm, Natasha??
Our last dive we then just rolled from the boat at the end of the jetty and explored the old resorts house reef. In the shallows we saw stunning flat plate corals and all over small things hiding away. After 86 minutes my air was very low and we had to pull Natasha out of the water who just did not want to get out.
Day 2 saw Natasha taking a boat transfer from Club O to Buceo Anilao to join us on the dives. We went to do some muck diving and were able to see seahorses, frogfish, nudibranchs and Shrimps. On most of the dives the boats would anchor and you would start shallow and go deeper to find the deeper critters, spend some time at depth and slowly go back up to the shallows and have nice long dives. After dinner we greeted Natasha and hope to see her underwater somewhere in the world again soon.
Day 3 we did 2 dives at Buceo Anilao and then at lunch Club Ocellaris boat came and picked us up and we transferred over.
Club O was closer to Anilao town but still far away from people around us which made it really relaxing with our room being so to speak on the water. It was not as luxurious as Buceo but all we needed was there. At Buceo we had about 200 steps to get to our room but once there the view over the ocean was absolutely stunning. Buceo had Breakfast included with lunch and dinner you had to pay extra. Club O was all inclusive and all the meals were served family style so it was easier to chat and mingle with fellow divers. The food at both resorts was great with lots of local food on the menu as well. Lucky not the weird ones you could buy up on the road at the local shops. I was not brave enough to try the Balut but was told to try Halo Halo which is an absolute surprise of flavours textures and tastes. Definitely will get halo halo again on our trip next year to Anilao.
Nudibranchs can be viewed here on my Facebook Page: DiveInn Cape Town Philipines Nudibranchs
So for the rest of our dives at Club Ocellaris we were able to explore all the other dive sites up and down the coast and a couple of times crossed the channel to dive in the islands across. Sombrero Island I saw some of the biggest nudibranchs, a weird shrimp I have never seen before and loads of fish life. Other Islands across from the resorts was Maricaban and Caban Islands. Behind Caban was the “wreck” of an old floating casino with interesting critters that side. Also spotted / got shown my fist electric clam on this site.
We did a lot night dives with my 1st a big disappointment as I did not put a new a battery in the camera. But were able to spot more but not able to take any photos for example the bobtail squid with a small shrimp in its tentacles just to name some. Grrrr.
One of the night dives we started a tad too early and saw almost nothing for the 1st 25 minutes but as we got closer the peer a small reef popped up and we could enjoy the dive. 3 days later we went back and the sand which was totally a desert before now as teeming with critters. Once again lots of new things we have never seen before were spotted, also a bit of crustaceans. This dive was our longest dive and we logged 101 minutes underwater which was really great.
For Crustacean pics you can have a look here: DiveInn Cape Town Philipines Crustaceans
On Caban the one day we had strong current going left and right at different depths but here we had the biggest frog fish even swimming next to a diver and then a not so shy Sea snake which I were able to Photograph between the bubbles of divers which were diving lower on the wall.
Day 10 ended with 2 dives one at Sombrero again and on in front of Maricaban Island which is not dived a lot as per our guide Johny. My German buddies says the dived it years ago and wanted to dive it again. I did find 3 new nudibranchs which I have not seen on the trip yet.
The guides are good but a bit of a rant from me is they are under pressure to find and scratch out critters and then they arrange them for photographers as well. Then the photographers then totally forget about buoyance and not looking after the reef. Such a shame to get the perfect shot that the critter was harassed a lot for it. Our guide was told to stop and he did but on other groups we passed we saw it all happening. I have photos of the divers and they have marked their names on their cameras as well. Like the hairy frogfish which got loads of wow etc comments on Instragram. I have the back end photos to show how the poor critter was harassed an how the divers lay flat on the bottom which is not published or mentioned how they got there so called awesome photos.
Unfortunately we did not explore to much of the country side but next year will be planning a day trip to the Taal volcano. Also need to visit some of my touring guests in Manilla next time for sure. We did do a quick motorcycle with side card ride and still need to check the Jeepneys out before they are totally banned with new legislation being implemented by the government.
In summary all type of photographers can have fun in Anilao. Some of the muck sites can be boring for wide angle photographers but at most sites there will always be something to see and photograph. Our weather next to the ocean was very pleasant and Buceo Anilao and Club Ocellaris were good operators to dive with. Buceo is the more upmarket and newer resort and Club O the older resort but still great to dive with. At club O we spent most of our time. All the dives we had 1 guide for max of 4 people and sometimes we only had 2 divers to one guide. The boat skippers and helpers were always close to make the dives easy and we did not had to do a lot to get ready for the dives.
I shot most of my shots on a Subsea +10 dioptre and some just on my 60 mm as the dioptre did not work for the bigger nudibranchs and swimming fish. I just could not get to swop my lens over to the 18-55 and standard sea & sea Port. Most of the photos were taken on a Canon 650d in a Sea and Sea housing with 60mm Macro lens in macro port. Lighting was 2x Sea & Sea DS01 Strobes with a Big Blue focus light.
You can check out our Instagram account on: DiveInn_Capetown