CORALREPUBLIC

 

Philippines, 2006

 

 

 

 

Trip dates:

5 18 April 2006

Boat / resort:

Pura Vida Resort in Dumaguete, Negros Oriental. Cocobana Resort in Malapascua. Albert Court Hotel in Singapore for our return stopover.

Dive centre:

Sea Explorers, again and always

Photo-friendly?:

Yes, as usual.

Number of dives:

22 dives, 10 in Dumaguete over 4 days, one day transfer, then 12 dives in Malapascua over 4 days.

Diving conditions:

Very good. Clearly, April is a good month to dive the Philippines. Clear skyes, around 30C air temperature, 27C water temperature. Relatively low visibility in Dumaguete and macro sites in Malapascua (5 to 10 m), but we had pretty clear water in Monad Shoal, to see the sharks that eluded us two years before.

Comments:

Back in the Philippines for the third time, and as excited as the first time.

I had my first DSLR kit, with a brand new Canon EOS 350D in my heavy Hugyfot housing and one Strobe only, my Inon D2000. I wondered how Id do with such a complicated set, but it turned out relatively easy to handle.

We loved our room in Pura Vida, a traditional hut but very comfortable and pretty. We also loved the massages there. The food was very good and the dive centre as efficient and serviceable to photographers as ever. We loved diving Apo Island and picnicking on the beach. The best dive once again was the DUCOMI Pier, but now its certain: the site is gone.

Compared to Pura Vida, the Cocobana cottages in Malapascua are very, very basic. We had a couple of nails on the wall to hang our clothes, apart from a couple of narrow shelves made it would seem from flotsam. Of course, no warm shower (but then, no hotel on Malapascua had it then) and a lousy ceiling fan which did not cool much. It seems they have updated the place since then and now have air conditioned rooms as well. The worst if funny thing was this gecko that every night bugged us with its call. These Malapascua gekkos are foul-mouthed, Id say. They cant say anything but f**k you! At least, thats what the call sounded to us. We found later that one of our divemasters, Tata, had recorded it and used for a ringtone in his mobile.

Malapascua was very lively over Easter, with disco parties on the beach every night. Bear this in mind when planning your trip, but the truth is, it didnt bother us at all.

We dove again with Martin in Malapascua and this time we had a great time with the threshers, as they were there every time we dove Monad Shoal, as well as the Mantas in the afternoon. I was Nitrox certified then and Carmen was not, and the poor girl had to make her way back to the line before me. However, on one of those, she was repeatedly visited by a thresher that made several passes while she did her safety stop! I saw them as well on that dive, but not as close as she did. Even so, it is really much better to dive nitrox on Monad shoal, as it nearly doubles your bottom time and gives you a much bigger chance to see the sharks. Gato Island and the other usual places were just as good as I remembered them, with loads of macro life to shoot.

After one night dive at Lighthouse in Malapascua, I fell on the beach and twisted my ankle badely. Carmen had to tend to it for most of the night because I would not let go of the dive on Kimud Shoal the day after. We needed to get up at 4 am for that one. In the end, no hammerhead sharks, but my ankle did not hurt much. I think diving did it a lot of good, but it did hurt a lot on the flight back home and I had to take physio for a while.

Then, on the second-last day, horror: I get a leak in the housing. Very fortunately, I was trying some over-unders in the beach when it happened and saved the camera. It was a very close call.

 

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