Shark Encounter at Malapascua Island

As a young animal lover, I have always dreamed of seeing sharks and swimming next to them. I remember staying up late to watch dive expeditions being shown on National Geographic and Discovery Channel. Diving with the thresher sharks was part of my dive bucketlist.

According to some stories, some Spaniards have been sailing through the Visayas in the year of 1520 and ended up stranded on Malapascua on Christmas Day because of the unfortunate incident they called the island Mala Pascua, which literally means “Bad Christmas”. I am not certain how they could’ve thought it was bad luck to be in a beautiful island. Although the older local people still insist that their island’s name is “Logon” (same name as the main village here on Malapascua) and not Malapscua. This island a popular dive destination in the Philippines. The picturesque island is home to a world famous treasure. A special kind of shark, the thresher shark. As a young animal lover, I have always dreamed of seeing sharks and swimming next to them. I remember staying up late to watch dive expeditions being shown on National Geographic and Discovery Channel. Diving with the thresher sharks was part of my dive bucketlist.

To get to Malapascua is not that quick, from Cebu City, you will have to take the bus all the way to Maya which takes about 5 hours. For my trip, I took the bus to Bogo  and stayed there for the night. The following morning we took the bus from Bogo City to Maya Port. I enjoyed the bus ride as it passed through rice fields and mangrove forests. When we reached Maya Port, the locals immediately asked if we were heading to Malapascua. I was told that the usual price is 80 PHP but we arrived a bit late (most boats don’t go to Malapascua in the afternoon unless you charter them because of the current) so we had to just say yes to them.

IMGP0137
Malapascua from a distance.

The weather was on our side that day despite warnings of thunderstorms that weekend. I sat and enjoyed the calming sea breeze for 30 minutes as the boat sailed smoothly over the placid sea. The other passengers looked like babies on a cradle slowly falling asleep.

Malapascua Island
Malapascua somehow reminds me of Boracay in a less touristy way.

Unknown to many, 2 years ago, Malapascua Island was also one of the islands ravaged by Typhoon Haiyan. Expats and locals both pitched in to recover from the destruction and while I was walking around there were little traces.

Bangkas in Malapascua
Clear blue skies and white sand.

We did not make any prior bookings relying on the fact that it was off season in the island. It was not difficult to find accomodations. I saw more than 10 resorts all lining the coast of Malapascua. More than a decade ago, I visited the island as part of my mother’s regular company outing. I could barely remember the details of the island and would’ve gotten lost if not for Lucas. He already went to Malapascua several times for diving.  I am always embarrassed when people ask me where I did my dives ( I probably did more dives in Mabul and Sipadan than in my own country). It was my first dive in Cebu by the way! Anyways, we headed to French Kiss Divers first to try squeezing in a dive for that day (we needed vitamin Sea so much that they anyways their local staff thought I was Thai, not sure if I should be happy or not). They were nice enough to schedule a 3:30 PM dive.

Boat
Serene view.

After taking care of our dive for the day, we headed to Malapascua Exotic Island Dive & Beach Resort. Exotic is one of the established resorts on the island and they offer budget accomodations (for those who want to spend more on dives than their beds). We left our bags and had a quick lunch (they had a wide variety of dishes and the servings were good). Once we filled our stomachs, we walked back to French Kiss to prepare the dive gears and do all the necessary equipment check.

BCDs are ready!
The view just makes you want to jump right in without your gears.

Shark diving is the main activity in the island but you can also do macro-diving. Malapascua offers sandy bottoms, seagrass meadows, mangroves and coral reefs. The island has other top class dive sites apart from Malapascua such as Gato Island, Lapus Lapus and Dakit Dakit. If you are spending more days in the island, you can even hire a boat to take you to Kalanggaman Island in Palompon.

Here is a map I created to show you a few of the different sites:

DEEP SLOPE

Our first dive was at Deep Slope which was a unique underwater sand dune that slowly turns into a small wall which is covered with soft corals.  Pygmy seahorses, yellow and pink ones can be seen inside the different sea fans along that reef.  An interesting dive site for more experienced beginners and advanced divers. For beginners, you need to be aware of the slope and make sure to always check your dive computer to avoid diving beyond your limit. While doing the dive, I got a bit nervous when we suddenly saw a banded sea snake (more than a meter long) swimming along the reef wall (FYI: I hate snakes and centipedes).

Continue reading “Shark Encounter at Malapascua Island”

Diving in Camiguin

The second smallest island in the Philippines is more than an island born of fire. Read about my dive trip in Camiguin.

“Island Born of Fire”, Camiguin is the second smallest island of the Philippines in area and in population and yet it offers a lot to travellers. In this island, you can create your own adventure, whether it is visiting the old ruins, swimming in refreshing springs or in my case diving.

Camiguin
Small but a lot to offer.

I have already visited Camiguin 9 years ago with my mother but then I was doing the usual day tour around the island. This time around was different. First my mom is not around travelling with me (she worries when I dive even when I swim in the deep) and second because I am a diver.

On the bangka
On our way back from White Island.

We stayed at Camiguin Action Geckos Dive and Adventure Resort. It was a popular place to stay for divers and even non-divers (they are top 1 in TripAdvisor for hotels in Mambajao). Unfortunately, we arrived a day late because of the change in ferry schedules from Jagna Port to Balbagon Port, before it used to leave Bohol around 1:00 PM and from Camiguin 8:00 PM but this time the ferry left Bohol 8:00 AM and I arrived 12:30 at Jagna. It was sad to not have enough time in Camiguin.

Dive Map of Camiguin
Dive sites around Camiguin

I was only limited to a dive (disadvantages of having a normal 9-5 job) and since we had to leave before noon, we decided to dive in White Island. The sandbar is roughly 10 minutes away from the resort.

White Island is an upper reef slope. The site is a Japanese garden with dense coral growth and diversity. It offers a forest of black corals on white sand. Common marine life seen are Sting rays, Moray Eel, Lion Fish, Frog Fish, Ribbon Eels, Orange (Cerianthus) Tube Anemones  and Sea Snakes.

Depth: 6-20m.
Visibility: 10m.
Current: Strong
Temperature: 25° C

Underwater
Sandy bottom
Lionfish
A lionfish hiding.
Moral Eel
A Moray Eel peeks out of its hiding place.
Green Sea Turtle
A green sea turtle swims away.
Green Sea Turtle
The second green sea turtle swims across the corals.

We got lucky during the dive, saw 4 green sea turtles and a hawksbill turtle. I never expected to see that much in one dive. The dive instructor said that it is still a good place to dive because Camiguin is not commercialised like in Bohol. It took only this dive to convince me to go back to Camiguin. Next time I will not miss Mantigue Island.

More than fire, Camiguin is an underwater paradise!

If you are not into diving, I will be sharing more about Camiguin in the next post.

Diving in Anilao, Batangas

When one thinks of diving in the Philippines, Anilao is the first place that comes in my mind. Considered as the birthplace of scuba diving in the country, Anilao is the top dive destination for its accessibility, cost effectivity and extensive biodiversity (being close to the Verde Passage which is the center of the center of the Coral Triangle).

I first visited Anilao on November of 2013, I was still working my way to get my Advanced Adventure Diver license. It is easy to go to Batangas from Manila, you just head over to LRT Buendia station where most of the buses headed for Batangas are. I took the BLTB, fare costs around P150 and the trip takes roughly 3 hours (it might be more these days with the ongoing road construction). I reached Batangas City bus terminal and took the jeepney bound for Mabini which cost around P40. I got off at the round about and hired a tricycle to Scuba Bro Dive Resort for P60.

Scuba Bro view.
Loved the view.

Scuba Bro is a native inspired resort which is located in a picturesque cove. The architecture offer rooms and terraces overlooking the sea.

View from the deck.
What a view!

The perks of staying there is that their room accommodation already includes the buffet breakfast, free use of kayak and snorkeling gear, unlimited coffee and tea at the resto and free Wifi at the Resto. Another thing is that you do not need to go far, their next to the resort you can do a shore entry and see a good number of sea creatures such as nudibranchs, the emperor shrimps and frog fishes.

Sunset at Anilao
If you stay for the night, you will get to see a great sunset too.

 I did a dive with a group of advanced divers from Shark Bait Huhaha (I felt a bit pressured because I was still having issues with my trim and buoyancy). Luckily they had underwater cameras to show how beautiful it is under, here is a video by Meg:

Amazing Anilao from Megarroo on Vimeo.

It was the longest dive I ever did to date (60mins. thanks to the school of jack fish that made me calmer underwater). Twin Rocks Marine Sanctuary did not disappoint, it offers a bit of everything from macro to pelagics. This site got its name because of the two big rocks underwater that is less than a meter apart. It is teeming with marine life and it is even dubbed as the number 1 dive site in Anilao. This is good for divers experienced dealing with currents, they said that the site is usually for advanced and skilled divers, that they do not really recommend it to beginners.  You can dive with just a 3mm suit, some even dive with just their board shorts (like my instructor) but there are thermoclines so if you have cold intolerance better to suit up.

Average depth: 15-20 meters/45-60 feet
Visibility: 10m.-20m./33ft.-66ft.
Current: Slight – Moderate

Anilao is a great diving escape for people tired of the metropolitan life in Manila who are itching to have saltwater in their skin. There is a good number of dive centers and resorts for you to choose from and it is one of the cheapest places in the Philippines to get certified.

Here are added commuting directions from http://www.ph-commute.com
From Caloocan:
Route 1: LRT-1-Bus
Take the LRT-1 to Gil Puyat station.
Ride a Tritran bus to Batangas City/Batangas Pier (leaves every 30 minutes, PHP149 fare) or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
Route 2: LRT-1-Bus
Take the LRT-1 to EDSA station.
Ride a BLTB bus to Nasugbu, Batangas or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
From Las Pinas:
From Alabang-Zapote Road, ride a jeep/bus to Alabang, and get off at Manuela Metropolis Alabang (Metropolis Mall).
Ride a bus to Batangas.
From Makati:
Route 1: MRT/Jeep-MRT/Jeep-Bus
Go to LRT-1-Gil Puyat station along Taft Ave. corner Gil Puyat Ave. (Buendia). In order to get there, you can either:
Take the MRT to Taft terminal station. Walk through the connecting foot bridge towards LRT-1-EDSA station. Take the LRT-1 to Gil Puyat station.
From Sen. Gil Puyat Ave. (Buendia), ride a jeep to Guadalupe, and get off at Buendia station. Take the MRT to Taft terminal station. Walk through the connecting foot bridge towards LRT-1-EDSA station. Take the LRT-1 to Gil Puyat station.
From Sen. Gil Puyat Ave. (Buendia), ride a jeep to LRT/Taft, and get off at Taft Ave.
Ride a Tritran bus to Batangas City/Batangas Pier (leaves every 30 minutes, PHP149 fare) or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
Route 2: MRT-Bus
Take the MRT to Taft terminal station.
Ride a BLTB bus to Nasugbu, Batangas or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
From Mandaluyong/Pasig:
Route 1: MRT-LRT-1-Bus
Take the MRT to Taft terminal station.
Walk through the connecting foot bridge towards LRT-1-EDSA station.
Take the LRT-1 to Gil Puyat station.
Ride a Tritran bus to Batangas City/Batangas Pier (leaves every 30 minutes, PHP149 fare) or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
Route 2: MRT-Bus
Take the MRT to Taft terminal station.
Ride a BLTB bus to Nasugbu, Batangas or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
Route 3: MRT-Bus
Take the MRT to Cubao station.
Walk 2 blocks along EDSA following the MRT track, past Farmers Plaza, Aurora Blvd., and Monte de Piedad. The bus terminal is just beyond Monte de Piedad.
Ride a bus to Batangas.
Route 4: MRT-Bus
Take the MRT to Kamuning station.
Walk 2 blocks the way you came along EDSA following the MRT track, past 11th Jamboree, GMA Channel 7, Metro Manila Commission, Timog Avenue/South Avenue, Carlos P. Garcia Avenue (East Avenue), Trinity Lutheran Church, and the Department of Interior and Local Government. (It’s not as far as it sounds.) The Tritran bus terminal is just beyond Trinity Lutheran Church.
Ride a Tritran bus to Batangas Pier (every 30 minutes, PHP 154 fare).
Route 5: MRT-Bus
Take the MRT to Cubao station.
Walk 1 block along EDSA the way you came, following the MRT track, until you get to Gen. McArthur Avenue.
Turn left at Gen. McArthur Avenue, and walk 5 short blocks past Session Road, Farmers Market, Gen. Araneta, Araneta Coliseum, Gen. Aguinaldo Avenue, Shopwise, Time Square Avenue, and Ali Mall, until you get to Gen. Romulo Avenue.
Cross Gen. Romulo Avenue. The bus terminal is just beside Auto Centro, across Ali Mall.
Ride a bus to Batangas.
From Manila:
Route 1: LRT-1/Jeep-Bus
Arrive at LRT-1-Gil Puyat. In order to get there:
Take the LRT-1 to Gil Puyat station.
Ride a jeep to Buendia/Taft, and get off at Gil Puyat station (Taft Ave. corner Sen. Gil Puyat Ave. [Buendia]).
Ride a Tritran bus to Batangas City/Batangas Pier (leaves every 30 minutes, PHP149 fare) or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
Route 2: LRT-1/Jeep-Bus
Arrive at LRT-1-Gil Puyat. In order to get there:
Take the LRT-1 to EDSA station.
Ride a jeep to EDSA/Taft/Baclaran, and get off at EDSA station (Taft Ave. corner EDSA).
Ride a BLTB bus to Nasugbu, Batangas or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
Route 3: Bus
From Plaza Lawton, ride a JAM Transit bus to Batangas Pier.
From Muntinlupa:
From Manuela Metropolis Alabang (Metropolis Mall), ride a bus to Batangas.
From Paranaque/Pasay:
Route 1: LRT-1-Bus
Take the LRT-1 to Gil Puyat station.
Ride a Tritran bus to Batangas City/Batangas Pier (leaves every 30 minutes, PHP149 fare) or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
Route 2: LRT-1-Bus
Take the LRT-1 to EDSA station.
Ride a BLTB bus to Nasugbu, Batangas or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
From Quezon City:
Route 1: MRT-Bus
Take the MRT to Taft terminal station.
Ride a BLTB bus to Nasugbu, Batangas or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
Route 2: MRT-LRT-1-Bus
Take the MRT to Taft terminal station.
Walk through the connecting foot bridge towards LRT-1-EDSA station.
Take the LRT-1 to Gil Puyat station.
Ride a Tritran bus to Batangas City/Batangas Pier (leaves every 30 minutes, PHP149 fare) or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
Route 3: LRT-2-LRT-1-Bus
Take the LRT-2 to Recto terminal station.
Walk through the connecting foot bridge towards LRT-1-Doroteo Jose station.
Take the LRT-1 to Gil Puyat station.
Ride a Tritran bus to Batangas City/Batangas Pier (leaves every 30 minutes, PHP149 fare) or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
Route 4: MRT-Bus
Take the MRT to Cubao station.
Walk 2 blocks along EDSA following the MRT track, past Farmers Plaza, Aurora Blvd., and Monte de Piedad. The bus terminal is just beyond Monte de Piedad.
Ride a bus to Batangas.
Route 5: MRT-Bus
Take the MRT to Kamuning station.
Walk 2 blocks the way you came along EDSA following the MRT track, past 11th Jamboree, GMA Channel 7, Metro Manila Commission, Timog Avenue/South Avenue, Carlos P. Garcia Avenue (East Avenue), Trinity Lutheran Church, and the Department of Interior and Local Government. (It’s not as far as it sounds.) The Tritran bus terminal is just beyond Trinity Lutheran Church.
Ride a Tritran bus to Batangas Pier (every 30 minutes, PHP 154 fare).
Route 6: MRT-Bus
Take the MRT to Cubao station.
Walk 1 block along EDSA the way you came, following the MRT track, until you get to Gen. McArthur Avenue.
Turn left at Gen. McArthur Avenue, and walk 5 short blocks past Session Road, Farmers Market, Gen. Araneta, Araneta Coliseum, Gen. Aguinaldo Avenue, Shopwise, Time Square Avenue, and Ali Mall, until you get to Gen. Romulo Avenue.
Cross Gen. Romulo Avenue. The bus terminal is just beside Auto Centro, across Ali Mall.
Ride a bus to Batangas.
From Taguig:
Route 1: Bus-MRT-LRT-1-Bus
From Market! Market!, Net2, or the Fort Open Field, ride the Fort bus/shuttle to Ayala.
Take the MRT to Taft terminal station.
Walk through the connecting foot bridge towards LRT-1-EDSA station.
Take the LRT-1 to Gil Puyat station.
Ride a Tritran bus to Batangas City/Batangas Pier (leaves every 30 minutes, PHP149 fare) or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.
Route 2: Bus-MRT-Bus
From Market! Market!, Net2, or the Fort Open Field, ride the Fort bus/shuttle to Ayala.
Take the MRT to Taft terminal station.
Ride a BLTB bus to Nasugbu, Batangas or a JAM Transit bus to Batangas.

Never Fall in Love with a Diver

There are many reasons why it is easy to fall in love with a diver. It could be their unwavering love for the ocean or their unbelievable ability to keep calm under pressure.

Here are a few reasons why you should never fall in love with a diver.

“Something, most certainly, happens to a diver’s emotions underwater. It is not merely a side effect of the pleasing, vaguely erotic sensation of water pressure on the body. Nor is it alone the peculiar sense of weightlessness, which permits a diver to hang motionless in open water, observing sea life large as whales around him; not the ability of a diver, descending in that condition, to slowly tumble and rotate in all three spatial planes. It is not the exhilaration from disorientation that comes when one’s point of view starts to lose its “lefts” and “down” and gains instead something else, a unique perception that grows out of the ease of movement in three dimensions. It is not from the diminishment of gravity to a force little more emphatic than a suggestion. It is not solely exposure to an unfamiliar intensity of life. It is not a state of rapture with the bottomless blue world beneath one’s feet…it is some complicated mix of these emotions, together with the constant proximity of real terror.”
― Barry López, About This Life