Mamie and I spent one day diving in Panglao, which is an island connected by two bridges to the larger island of Bohol. It was a fabulous and serene adventure. We were joined and led through the dives by her good friend, Henning, who has lived in Philippines on and off for about five years now. We dove with the company Valm, a shop that two of Mamie’s other friends Ned and John operate.
Both dives were wall, drift dives, called Black Forest and Divers Heaven. For those of you who don’t know what that means, we descended down a wall of corals that are vertical from the surface. If you followed them all the way down you would be very deep underwater. A drift dive means that there is a current along this wall but instead of fighting it, you actually use the current to drift along like a leaf floating on a breeze as it takes you by extraordinary sites.
There were so many corals and fish to see that at times the lazy drift just wasn’t slow enough to really gaze at all the miraculous intricacies of each species. So many colors and textures danced by us, filled with all sorts of fish life inside.
The real gems were giant sea turtles just taking naps within the reef nearby, sometimes so camouflaged by the surrounding environment that you almost mistake them for rocks. Their giant shells and heads were so amazing to see up close and personal. I don’t think I will ever get used to seeing a turtle lazily swim by me, just as curious with me as I am with them.
After two glorious dives we were back aboard the boat and headed to shore. I was excitedly packing my equipment, knowing that this trip was just the beginning of my future Philippines dive adventures. That night and the next day were spent amongst friends whom I had just met but felt like I had known forever. We shared a night at Bamboo surrounded by longtime locals Trevor and Reefie listening to some classic rock songs and enjoying San Miguel beer. It was funny and beautiful and I was happy to be a part of it.
The next day we spent time sampling different liquors….because how in the world can you not have Glayva, from Scotland, in the Philippines. I about fell off my barstool when I saw the bottle of Glayva on the shelf at this bar/restaurant/resort called Ken’s place in the middle of Philippines, which was a liquor introduced to me by friends in Scotland. What a large, yet tiny world we live in. Anyways, I had to have some really foreign liquors and local beers on my last day in the Philippines. Mamie and I even enjoyed a last meal of Italian food at her favorite restaurant Giuseppe’s before we capped the evening with some games of pool.
The next day I set out early to gather all of my equipment, dry it, and do my daily workout before I boarded my last tricycle taxi of the trip to Taglabaran where I caught a flight to Manila. I went to every terminal before I found the United counter. Manila airport is not easy to navigate, especially since I’m used to Bangkok which is very well organized. Once I found my airline and checked in for my flight I headed to the lounge to enjoy some food and drink before my first flight to Guam.
All of my flights back to the United States were smooth and although I had an extra stop, four total, I was comfortable and managed to get some sleep. I had a whole half day in Jackson of which I used to vote in the primary election and get all of my errands ran before a good night of sleep and flight the next day, you heard that right 18 hour turnaround.
In all, my trip to the Philippines was amazing. The infrastructure for tourism has a ways to go but the dive community and dive shops were prepared and helpful with all the details. I would definitely plan for more time to get to each location, dive, and have time to relax. With such a long flight to and from the Philippines, you really need about three weeks. Unless you plan to stay and explore just one place. The map is deceiving when it comes to planning several locations. We took buses between all the different places to avoid flying and possible decompression sickness. But what looked close on the map, or what looked like it should take just a few hours, really took a long time by bus. So just keep in mind for your next Philippines vacation that depending on the time you have to explore, less is more. We really enjoyed each spot and could have spent at least a week at each one.