Muck diving & other dive adventures in Dumaguete, the Philippines

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The Philippines is truly one of my favorite dive destinations, ever!  From the beautiful reefs at Puerto Galera to the pristine pelagic diving in Tubataha and now the fabulous muck diving in Dumaguete, the diving here is so varied that every diver will find something they like.

Seahorses are always a favorite with divers.  The Thorny Seahorse above is one of about a dozen to be found on the house reef at Atlantis, Dumaguete.  That’s crazy!  The views from the resort aren’t too bad either.

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The “muck” diving is world class.  Muck diving is diving on a black sand bottom instead of a beautiful coral reef.  You find some of the most unique critters when muck diving.  I missed out by a few minutes of seeing one of my most sought after critters – the Blue Ring Octopus!  However, about half of my group did get to see it.  I was bummed but… oh well, that’s diving!!

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I got a nice shot of the Mandarin fish mating and a couple of white eyed moray eels were clowning for me.  Maybe they were mating too.  I mean, what do I know about eels mating???  There was a fabulous variety of critters in Dumaguete.  You can also take a day trip to snorkel with Whalesharks.  If you’ve never seen one, you should definitely do that.  For little critters, check out the tiny frogfish below with a friends thumb nail to show it’s true size!!  How do the dive guides find this stuff???  I’m loving my Olympus TG-3 camera.  It takes wonderful underwater photos!

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There are unique sights everywhere.  The motorcycle taxi above cracked me up.  Note the signs on the back.  Across the top it says “Keep me safe oh god” and down at the bottom it says “Bang me nicely”  Like I said, you see some unique things!  I would highly recommend the Philippines as a dive destination.  There is something for everyone and you can combine multiple destinations into one trip.  Thanks Atlantis Resorts for another great time diving.  So worth the trip!!

Dive the Philipines – Critter diving at the Atlantis Resort, Puerto Galera

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After a really wonderful week diving the Tubbataha Reef area, I traveled to Puerto Galera for a few days.  There is nothing easy about getting here but it is definitely worth the effort.  We took a short flight back to Manila and Atlantis loaded our luggage in one van and the rest of us in a couple of other vans and we were off.  It is about a 2 hour drive south of Manila to the dock where we caught a boat to Puerto Galera.  A 1 hour ride on a boat and we were there.  Puerto Galera is not what I expected but the diving is great.  There are wall to wall dive shops, resorts and restaurants lining the coast but we never felt crowded on the dive sites.  There is a lot to see here, especially little stuff.  My first dive here was my 500th dive so I really wanted it to be special.  We saw the yellow pygmy seahorse above on that dive.  I think any dive with a pygmy seahorse is very special.  The nudibranch on the right was a later dive but the colors and variety of them in Puerto Galera is amazing.

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The critter life here is really varied and interesting.  Above is a Warty Clown Frogfish and an Ornate Ghost Pipefish.  These are things you don’t see in a lot of places.  I was not there long enough to schedule a full day trip to Verde Island but I am sure I would have enjoyed that as well.  It is highly recommended as a day trip of diving.  Instead we concentrated the 2 days we did have to dive on the best of the local diving and it was very good.  The only down side was a night dive that had very strong current and should have probably been called off.  If you want some adrenalin in your system, go out in heavy current on a night dive!  You can’t see where you are going well enough and always feel like you are going to hit something.  It was crazy.

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Above is one of 3 Fimbriated Moray eels I saw during my stay at Puerto Galera.  There were some other not so usual morays there as well.  I saw a Snowflake and a White-eyed Moray there as well.  I have not seen many of these 3 varieties in the past so it was a thrill.  The yellow thorny seahorse above cracked me up when he rolled his eyes up for this picture.  It was like he was saying “enough with the pictures, already!”  You can do up to 5 dives a day and you choose which ones or all.

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The Atlantis Resort at Puerto Galera was interesting.  It is in the middle of town, basically.  You have the 50 Bar in front near the water, then the dive shop & briefing area, then an alley that the town people & the public walk through, then the rest of the resort.  The restaurant had great food, just like the Azores did.  They really do a fine job on that.  There is a gift shop, a dive storage area with rinse tanks and then the main desk.  The rooms are in back as well as a pool.  The rooms were very nice and had plenty of space for everything.  All in all, a great resort.  If you want to be in town, this is the place for you.  If you are looking for an out of the way place, away from everything, this is not it.  The diving is really good, however.  Above is a pygmy scorpionfish that was about 1/2 inch long.  Pretty cute and a first for me.  The Flambouyant cuttlefish on the right, was one of 3 we saw.  That is incredible.  I had only seen 2 ever, before this.

To recap, the Atlantis Resort in Puerto Galera is a nice resort in a really different location and a good choice for great diving and some extracurricular activities in town.  I wish I could have done Verde Island but there just wasn’t enough time.  This was a short stop so I could experience this area and it’s diving.  The diving in the Philippines has yet to disappoint me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dive the Philippines – Diving the Tubbataha Reef on the Atlantis Azores

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First thing to say about the Tubbataha Reef is that you would have to try really hard to find a more remote and stunning place to dive.  You take a grueling flight into Manila that takes about 24 hours of flying and airport time from the west coast and that’s only the start.  Here is where Atlantis Resorts and Liveaboards shines!  They meet you at the airport with a cold bottle of water, get your luggage and you into vans and take you to Terminal 2.  You’re thinking, same airport, right?  Wrong!  Different airport for domestic flights.  Atlantis stays with you through the check-in at Cebu Pacific and you’re off the Puerto Princessa.  Again, the Atlantis people pick you up and transfer you and your luggage to the Atlantis Azores,  their liveaboard dive boat, and you’re off again.  The pictures above show the stunning sunsets & sunrises and there are 3 turtles on one coral head in the other.  That is unbelievable!  That was a first.

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The Tubbataha Natural Marine Park is 90 miles from land in the middle of the Sulu Sea.  There is virtually no land anywhere there, it’s crazy!  You can see how calm the seas were from the first picture in my post.  There are a couple of sand spits always visible and more at low tide.  One of the sand spits has the ranger station and the other has a lighthouse.  The entire area is protected and is a no fishing, no take zone and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It really shows in the fish life and marine & reef health.  It is actually a group of Atolls but with the lack of land showing, you would never know it.  The huge schools of fish, numbers of Pelagics -Shark, Turtles, Whalesharks, etc. is amazing, considering this is Asia.  Most parts of Asia have depleted the fish populations and with shark finning rampant, their numbers are dangerously low in places.  I was very impressed.  The reefs, walls and coral are incredibly healthy & vibrant.  You can see from the sharks above, they’re not afraid of divers here.  I loved that!

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I has some firsts here.  Above is a marble ray.  It was stunning.  There were many varieties of moray eels too.  I can stress enough how healthy the marine life is here.  Literally thousands of fish of every size and shape EVERYWHERE!  There is also a lot of little critters to see like nudibranchs and tiny (1/4″ or so) creatures like the pygmy squid below left and pygmy seahorse right.  I had to have the dive guide put his finger behind it to find it in the camera lens.  I was expecting big things not tiny!  I always wonder, who ever found these things in the first place.  You can’t believe how small they are!

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The Atlantis is a really beautiful liveaboard with a fabulous staff that works very hard to please the guests.  The food is the best I have had on a liveaboard.  If you go on a night dive, they ask you what you want to drink after like tea, hot chocolate with baileys or for me, a glass of wine.  I was met with my wine after a hot shower on the back of the boat.  Nice!!  I have been on a variety of liveaboards and I have to say this one is really very good.  The staterooms are not large but adequate and functional, the bathrooms are pretty big and they are 110 power so you don’t have to use adapters or converters.  That is a HUGE plus!  They do several different itineraries during the year and I may have to try another one in the future.

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This is only the first of my posts about the Philippines.  I will be visiting Puerto Galera and Dumaguete in the next few months so stay tuned.  So far, the Philippines diving is very impressive indeed!