Philippines, The End

Nudibranchs making love

Nudibranchs making love


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.

Mamie and Henning

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.  

Flamboyant Cuttlefish

Flamboyant Cuttlefish

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.  

Turtle Panglao

Turtle Panglao

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.

Liquors from around the world

Liquors from around the world

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.

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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.

Philippines, The Middle

Thresher Cove Resort

Thresher Cove Resort

The morning of the 20th Mamie and I awoke to commence our dive trip in Malapascua.  At reception we found out our trip to Gatos island was cancelled that day due to weather.  We decided to dive the house reef they were going to instead and enjoyed seeing lots of different types of shrimps, a big mantis shrimp, five different seahorses, pipefish, horned filefish, flounder, lion fish, and a sea moth!!! I saw so many new things on this first dive I was already in love with what the Philippines had to offer. 

Scuba Mamie

Scuba Mamie

That afternoon we arrived back at the resort around two in the afternoon where we chilled and ate at the resorts restaurant.  Later, we went to explore the town/island.  I found that with the small and winding roads it was very easy to get lost.  However, the island is small enough that after a few wrong turns the pathways started to look a little familiar.  This island was different for me.  The interior is carved out by very small narrow mostly dirt roads, there were only motorbikes, no cars or trucks.  Everything wove around each other with no real rhyme or reason.  One moment you would be walking along a tall wall that bordered a resort and the next minute you would be looking into someones private yard or home.  Once we were on what I considered the main beach there were more resorts, restaurants and dive schools lining the beach all offering something a little different.  This was where we saw the most foreigner influence.  The menus offered Italian, Thai food or Western fare and there were almost always a few Filipino items as well.  After a fabulous pasta dinner including interesting and great cocktails we wove our way back to the resort to rest for our early morning dive.

Beautiful cocktails on the beach

Beautiful cocktails on the beach

The next morning we awoke at 4AM to go to Thresher Shoal where you can almost be guaranteed to see thresher sharks.  The dive consists of a long wall where the sharks come to “cleaning” stations in the morning.   We followed our dive guide Victor eagerly and although we weren’t able to sit along these roped areas and watch as the sharks went by we were greeted delightedly by one curious thresher coming right next to our group, and then another later on that we thought was soaring into a cleaning station but alas he kept swimming.  Even though our sitings were short-lived we were ecstatic and I managed to get a pretty good GoPro video of the first one cruising by.  

Thresher Shark!!!

Thresher Shark!!!

After our thresher dive we arrived back at the island where Mamie and I had a nice post dive breakfast.  We parted ways that day because the Gatos Island trip was back on and Mamie having seen the island diving previously, decided to rest for the afternoon.  Gatos Island was a glorious dive site filled with so many arrays of healthy corals and fish that I was constantly distracted.  I saw squids for the first time, I know this seems unfathomable but it’s true!  I saw my favorites, cuttlefish and varieties of nudibranchs.  I was most excited to see the largest banded sea snake I have ever seen.  Malapascua diving was setting a high bar for the rest of the trip.  

Banded Sea Snake, not the biggest one I’ve seen, but still big!

Banded Sea Snake, not the biggest one I’ve seen, but still big!

The next morning we were off early early to get the first “ferry” and then a bus from the port to Cebu City north bus terminal then a taxi to the south bus terminal, a bus/car ferry to Dumaguete, then a bus to the middle of no where, and a tricycle taxi to finish the journey to Liquid in Dauin.