\
Click on a picture to enlarge The pictures you see after clicking on the small thumbnail pictures, are shrunk to 5% of their original dimensions

If you like to see a picture in full glory, send an email!

For pictures click here Back to Homepage

Diving Phillipines



More than a month ago, in January we returned from Vietnam. As we move next month, in March, permanently from Holland to Hungary , this is a good time to check out the Philippines for diving. A choice for the Exotic Dive resort on Malapascua was quickly made, the only place in the world where you can meet regularly the rare thresher sharks. Malapascua is a small island north of Cebu Island.

In order to have some reserve time for preparations, I scheduled the trip 2 days after I made the decision to go on dive holiday. That was required, as only the following day the tickets and documents arrived. Even just in time to snatch a legroom seat during internet check in.

Thursday was the 10.30 flight of Singapore Airlines, to Singapore. The Boeing 777-200 ER took off in time and everything went smooth, until 3 minutes after take off someone was dying, from a heart attack. A doctor and a nurse showed up, both young and good looking. They jumped on the victim and applied heart massage and electric shocks. In the mean time the captain decided to return to Amsterdam for an emergency landing. Of course the total weight was far above the factory approved maximum landing weight. But the landing was smooth. Five paramedics stormed in the cabin and took over the victim and after some time it looked like the man was re-animated and dragged out off the cabin, connected to a host of wires and tubes. Then the problem started, a violation of the maximum landing weight requires an hours long inspection and that lasts very long if you have a connecting flight. Most likely many people were thinking that a heart attack just for landing is a far better option than just after takeoff. By the way, that happened 2 days earlier on a similar flight to London. Three hours later we were airborne for the second time and enjoyed the perfect service of the Singapore Girls.

We were 3 hours late and the next flight with Silk Air to Cebu, Philippines, was scheduled 3 hours after the original scheduled time of arrival. This time we were lucky as we encountered a jet stream tailwind, that gave is a groundspeed of more than 1030km/hr, so we won an hour. I could easily make it and even my bagage with dive gear was correctly loaded on the connecting flight. The last leg to Cebu was 3 hours and twenty minutes, in beautiful weather. We landed at Cebu in bright sunshine, 30 C degrees.

The taxi for the 140 kms trip to the harbor was waiting and the driver tried to beat his own record. He speeded most of the way, even up to 120 km/hr in villages. This must have been the most dangerous part of the journey. At the harbor a little boat was waiting to ferry me in half an hour to the Malapascua Island.

The resort was on the beach, centered around the bar and the dive school. The room had a surprise- only a cold shower. Though it was humid hot tropical weather, a cold shower stays a cold shower. Next item was to check in at the dive school. I had booked a package of 10 boat dives.

They operated with 4 typical Philippine boats with outriggers. They offered plenty of room and were very stable.

The first dive is on the house reef, a few minutes away. They dumped there lots of garbage like a jeep, concrete and tyres to form an artificial reef. The corals and sponges and fish took quickly hold of everything. We met lots of interesting fish and plants, like colorful snails, the famous nudibranches, a ghost pipefish, and a fish like a bird , the sea moth or pegasus. After enjoying so much interesting plants and animals, we set course to the island again. In the afternoon dive we enjoyed even more creatures. A few nudibranches, here the melibe and a lionfish, a crab using en empty shell as his home. A well camouflaged frogfish and two ghost pipefish were the cream on the cake. Next day a very early morning trip was planned: to look for thresher sharks. We would meet at 04:30 at the dive centre. It is pitch dark as I go to the dive centre We get our gear and get our briefing. We leave in the dark and the captain has no navigation instruments, but he manage to find exactly the Monad shoal. The thresher sharks are big boys, coming deep from the ocean in the morning to get cleaned by cleaning fish early in the morning, like this youtube video They remove parasites from the sharks. They are there only a short time, so you should be at dawn on the Monad Shoal. It is a steep rock emerging from the ocean floor with a plateau about 20m deep. I decide to get a nitrox air/oxygen mixture. That has a margin of safety, but has strict limits of the depth you can reach. With this mixture the limit is 28 meters. If you surpass this, you get oxygen poisoning. It is still dark when we leave and soon after dawn starts. When we reached the shoal, we don our gear and jump in the water. It is strictly prohibited to use flash on with the camera, which scares away the sharks. After a short time waiting we see out first shark, and then lots of them. The water is rather murky, so you see them only if they are very close. Thresher sharks are beautiful creatures, the upper part of the tail longer that the shark itself. Everybody is exited that we see these rare and beautiful sharks. And the tail indeed is longer that the body. The big sharks have extremely long tailfins and are luckily not hungry this time of the day. More show up now, most of them only grey and vaguely visible in the dark, grey water.

In the afternoon we went to Ubang Batu site. A sunken island with steep sides, down to 25 m. We decend to 25 m and are looking for interesting fish and animals living in the hard and soft coral.

Next morning we visit an other divespot. Then I see something alarming. An anchor apparently lost its grip and was pulled by a blue cable to a few divers. They were too far away to warn them, but I had my camera ready to make pictures of the event. They got nasty entangled but quickly managed to escape. Further all of us could enjoy the bright colors and interesting animals.. We spot a scorpionfish, the most poisionous fish in the world,, perfectly camouflaged. Another one is hardly visible . Never touch the bottom! The red soft coral is stunning. As is a strange nudibranch

At dusk we depart for a night dive. We are lucky to see seahorses,banded pipefish and manta shrimp, digged in the coral sand.

Next day I book a daytrip, to the wreck of the Donna Marilyn, a ferryboat of 98m long that was wrecked 20 years ago and was situated 32 m deep. It is a two hour trip, and the captain again manages to find the wreck without any instrument. It became rather short, but deep dive in murky water, with a heavy current, as my buddy runs out of air.

But the highlight of the day is a visit to the Gato Island, after sailing another hour. There is a cave under and through the island. There are areaís where you can see sharks, mating squids , pygmee seahorses who are so perfectly camouflaged that they are almost impossible to see at the gorgonian soft coral, even if you have your finger next to it. To my surprise there were dwarf seahorses , they are supposed to live only in the American side of the Pacific.. The mating squids are engaging in group sex and displaying different kind of colors. The pygmy seahorses are so clever camouflaged, that it is very difficult to spot them on the gorgonian coral fans. They are exactly as the background. The dwarf seahorses are easier to spot. The squids were engaged in group sex .The lucky one was dispaying bright blue colors, the next one displayed the blue when he was thinking it was his turn.. At last we saw a spanish dancer Again my Australian buddy ran out of air early, so he should work on his technique. After a rewarding dive we set course for Malapascua again. The next morning was my last dive, as next day I will fly to Holland and there is a strict 24 hours between diving and flying. I decide to go again to the sharks, in the nice company of Spanish Vanesa and French Nico. We get awesome pictures of Thresher sharks and devil rays, a kind of Mantaís.I even have a video of it, it cost some times to load

Next morning at 6 I leave with the boat, to the main island Cebu. Arriving there, the taxi is ready and after a relatively quiet trip, I have ample time to check in for the plane to Singapore. To my surprise, after 20 minutes the captain announces the landing on Davao on Mindanao island. I have a big question mark, if Iím on the right plane, but it was a not-announced, but scheduled landing. In Singapore I meet my sister and brother in law and can congratulate nephew Richard with his newborn baby Stanley. He was just born prior the 29th of march in Singapore. For Chinese people it is very important not to be born on the 29th of February, so the hospital was crowded with women NOT giving birth on the 29th.

The flight from Singapore to Amsterdam took an extra hour due to the headwind of more than 200 km/hr and one and an hour after landing I was happy to be home again.

Malapascua???? Great!!!!!!!!

Click here for a video.

\
Click on a picture to enlarge The pictures you see after clicking on the small thumbnail pictures, are shrunk to 5% of their original dimensions

If you like to see a picture in full glory, send an email!

For pictures click here Back to Homepage