So, MJB, Tanguero and I went off to Puerto Galera in the Philippines for a week. It’s a short hop from CKS to Manila, taking advantage of Cebu Pacific’s outrageous discounted holiday prices. We got in last Friday evening, had the dive shop (Frontier) send us a van, and we headed out into the mindnumbingly crowded roads of Manila. Took us forever to get out of the city, but once out, the cars stopped being in front of us and we got to the pier in Batangas. From there it was a private boat over to PG. We got situated quickly in our rooms, hit the Big Apple Bar for some fish and chips and then called it a night at about 1AM.
Next morning we had a quick cup of coffee and hit the water at 9AM. We did a wreck dive to get acclimated to the place. There was a lot of coral damage from past dynamite fishing and more recently from a typhoon. Viz was Kentingish.
So we go back, rinse off, and have breakfast. Hit the boat again at 11AM and go to Hole in the wall. Good current here and some bigger fish. But once we swam through the hole, it all ended.
That was it for the first day. Then back to the huts on the top of the hill to look over the bay and chill way out. The relax factor of PG is something else.
Caught a great dinner down on the beach, pork loin, spicy beef stew with fried potatoes. I was going to have LOTS of energy the next day.
And I did. I was up at 7AM, walked the beach, had a coffee or two and toast, and we got psyched for the shark caves dive. There’s a little overhang of a cliff and white tipped reefies hang out there in the AM and sleep. So we putter out there and there are like 7 friggin boats on the surface. :s
Fortunately there are many sites close together, so everyone was not at shark caves. There were 7-8 dives ahead of us though, and I gave MJB the wank signal, as in this is going to blow goats if we have to line up and file through the cave. But, they all left, the guide signaled two sharks, and I got up close to the cave. Tanguero gave me his light and I immediately spotted a large catfish, er shark, looking directly at me. Just a baby. Then to the left there was a big one. I got in a position to see his entire profile. He was about 1.75M and just a magnificent fish. I’ve never been so close to a shark that I didn’t eat, and this was a big treat. My Zen moment, just laying there on my belly looking at this guy, laying there on his belly.
We swam over to part of the fast current canyons to check out the menu. Lots of fish, big ones too. Time to go up and I realized, too late, that I was at 25meters of so with about 40 bar left. Ooops I ended up sharing air with the guide at the second long safety stop.
MJB and T did one more dive that day and called it a day, then Tanguero and I went on the Sabang wreck night dive. It kicked ass. There are three wrecks out in the bay. I dropped over the side and bit through my mouth guard and was holding it in pace for the whole dive, but it didn’t matter. We saw a very slow, VERY large scrawled (or broom) filefish:
Having that thing swim around in slow motion in the dark was just great. Lots of big lionfish, a pair of ghost pipe fish. Then on to the second wreck and third wrecks. There was stuff there, but I was getting preoccupied with my regulator which was now really irritating. So, I decided to switch to my octopus. It free flowed. I have a snap-off hose on it so I snapped it off, and tried again. Taking my reg out of my mouth, putting in the octopus. Free flow, which is like sticking your head out of the supertrain window with you mouth open. I stuck with the broken reg, but now I had lost a lot of air dicking around. So at 50bar, we headed back.
And the fun began.
Two flying fish, hanging out on the bottom:
And then we saw this guy:
A stargazer. It hides in the sand, except for its eyeballs. Waits for a fish to come by and GULP, swallows them like a frogfish. The guide stuck a finger under his body, he came out, bumped into rocks as we had blinded it with out lights, swam five feet away and dug himself back into the sand.
A truly fantastic encounter!
The next day, we dive a great drift dive at Sinandigan Wall with some Japanese divers. Lots of nudibranches and little aquarium fish. Nice dive. When we came to the surface I did ask Tanguero and MJB what the Japanese word for “bouancy control” was. Apparently there isn’t one.
Then we did canyons. Twice in the same day. Why? Fishes. BIG fishes and lots of them. Giant trevally ,blue trevally, schools of unicorn fish, emperors, enormous sweetlips, red toothed trigger fish like you wouldn’t believe, groupers, and some tuna as well. And this was on a day that the current was moderate.
I came up and stood on the boat with a huge smile and told Tanguero, “I cannot believe that THIS is my hobby.”
The last dive day for MJB and I, the three of us went to Verde drop off. It’s a day trip, two dives and bbq on the beach. The coral was great, no signs of bombing. The nudibraches were numerous and varied. An excellent long dive, and the last one with Tanguero for a while as he is leaving Taiwan for the next chapter in his life. Lunch on the beach.
There were lots of little things that we saw, but it’s hard to write up an entire dive. Finer moments were seeing the stargazer bury itself in the sand, watching the reef sharks up close, a swim by of a hundred unicorn fish, a big ass snake, a frogfish in a pod like sea sponge with his lure out, giant nudibraches with it’s “feet” out walking along the reef, giant trevally darting in and out of the current, sweetlips eating other fish…
There are more I’m sure, but it’s kind of a blur now.
A great trip and a great start to the new year.
A special nod to Tanguero, a great diver, and a truly class act.