Liveaboard Diving in the Philippines
Liveaboard Diving in the Philippines
After an early start and a hearty breakfast I was collected from the hotel in Manila and joined the shared pick up for the 3 hour drive to Batangas. After meeting the guests, who would be joining me on this cruise, from Holland, Italy, Switzerland & Germany we were treated to a fantastic lunch at our meeting point by Abi & Romi. The excitement mounted as the dive liveaboard Philippine Siren cruised into view and so when lunch was finished we were transferred to our new home for the next ten days. Chris, our cruise Director, gave everyone a thorough briefing of the boat and all her features followed by the introduction to the crew and then cabins. We had a relaxing afternoon setting up equipment, charging cameras, and slowly getting to know each other. Then, the first big treat…chef Jimmy talked us through our first meal aboard the Philippine Siren. This was followed by a quiet drink and a little serenading from the crew on the bow of the boat, with everyone excited about the diving ahead.
The first three days of our Batangas-Coron itinerary were spent in the Anilao area with some of the best muck diving to be had. With dives on sites such as Secret Bay, Anilao Lighthouse and Koala we were treated to such highlights as Hairy Frogfish, Clown Frogfish, Pygmy Pipehorses, Ambon Scorpion fish, Ribbon Eels (in all 3 flavours), Pygmy Seahorses and everyone’s favourite, a wonderful pair of Flamboyant Cuttlefish…and this before I get started on the huge array of monster nudibranchs. If muck is not to your taste then there were also some great reefs with Sombrero providing everyone’s favourite, with some even opting for a second dive in the coral garden. For myself and team Italy though, we opted for the current driven Beatrice Rock with it’s spectacular hard and soft corals, Trevally, Coral Groupers and of course the Giant Frogfish. After more briefings it was time for us to leave Anilao for the delights of the walls of Apo.
Over three days around the reefs of Apo we dived sites such as Apo Mayor North & South, The Lighthouse, Apo Minor and the Bahuras (29 & Cinque). We were lucky enough to have sharks on most dives with White Tip Reef sharks in abundance and several sightings across all groups of Grey Reef Sharks. There were Hawksbill and Green Turtles as well as all the usual suspects out in the blue such as Giant trevally, Big Eye Trevally, Rainbow Runners, Napoleon Wrasse and some truly enormous Tuna!!
Along the walls of Apo Mayor the corals and sea fans are very rich and contain lots of life with large groups of Damsel Fish, Surgeon Fish, Blennies, and fantastically decorative bright purple Cardinal Fish all in attendance. We were also lucky enough to dive here a few days after full moon so the currents were moving plenty enough to bring in the big fish, without making the big descents on Bahura too difficult. Highlights for me were sharing a hunting buddy pair of White Tip Reef Shark and Giant trevally with Eric, The free floating pelagic Sargassum Frog Fishes with everyone and hearing the screams of Jackie from underwater as she leapt from the rib after realising that a banded sea snake had crept in for a little nap. More fantastic food from Jimmy & Boy helped calm the nerves though, as well as a cheeky cocktail as we watched the sun set during our cruise to the south and Coron Bay.
Once in Coron we wasted no time diving on the wrecks of the Japanese fleet that litter the sea floor here among the pearl farms with dives on vessels such as the Akitsushima, Okikawa Maru and the Luson Gunboat to name but three. Not only are the wrecks fantastic to see but they are teeming with life!! Huge black corals adorn the wrecks along with schools of Batfish, Wasp Fish, Pipe Fish and oodles of Nudibranchs.
As we reached the last day of diving we were treated to a dip in Barracuda Lake. Truly a one off experience!! A balmy 30 degrees at the surface rose to a totally tropical 38 degrees by the time we hit only 15m / 50ft. This didn’t seem to bother all the Catfish and Gobies that call this lake home (as well as the lesser known monkey fish) and certainly I was very disappointed to have to go back to only 28 degrees in the ocean.
With the diving finished the final night was spent indulging in Jimmy’s final meal, with some fantastic barbequed delicacies followed by a truly unforgettable floor show. A fantastic end to a fantastic diving holiday. Yet again, new dive buddies made and new plans forming for everyone for their next cruise. Thanks to all aboard for a great cruise and congratulations especially to Danisa & Dominic who not only completed their nitrox course with us, but also shared their honeymoon with us.
Until next time everyone!!
Photos by Mik Jennings