Diving from Southern Visayas to Tubbataha with S/Y Philippine Siren
Diving from Southern Visayas to Tubbataha with S/Y Philippine SirenOn May 12 we welcomed our 14 guests, from the USA and Canada in the Cebu Yacht Club to start a fantastic 14 days trip through the Southern Visayas of the Philippines and towards the legendary Tubbataha Reefs. This cruise on board our luxurious Phinisi Schooner was led by Tanya Burnett of Island Exposure. We were incredibly lucky with the weather throughout the entire trip, no waves and only one morning with rain, allowed us to go wherever it pleased us and we were able to show our guests the best dive sites of the area. We had beautiful sunsets during this trip and our guests enjoyed watching them with a cocktail or a glass of wine on the sundeck.
Our first stop was Cabilao Island where we had our first taste of what the area has to offer with Ghost Pipefish and Warty Frogfish and a lot more macro life at Cambaquiz and the hard choice for photographers when it comes to pick a lens for the Lighthouse where there are Pygmy Seahorses as well as large schools of Jacks and a beautiful assortment of corals and sponges. We ventured on to Panglao and Balicasag on the next day where we had very good dives with turtles, more jacks and many nudibranchs, especially of the Nembrotha genus and we also found out on that day that the fashion cautious Giant Frogfish wears black this year! Greg started his course with the new Poseidon MK VI rebreather in Panglao and is now the first certified rebreather diver of the S/Y Philippine Siren. Congratulations Greg!
Next stop was Dauin, the Macro Mecca of the Visayas with marvelous muck dives over black sand. We spotted Seahorses, Demon Stingers, a burgundy-red Ambon Scorpion fish, countless Frogfish in a variety of colors and sizes, various kind of Ghost Pipefish, and did, in my opinion, the best Mandarin fish dive site in the world; with 50 to 60 of the tiny flamboyant fish darting around and displaying their mating ritual just before sunset. Besides that we saw too many other critters to mention them all!
After Dauin came the big crossing to Cagayancillo and Tubbataha, and their different environments offering yet another fabulous array of marine animals. On our first dive in Cagayancillo we were surprised by a pair of spotted Eagle Rays that gracefully circled below us for a couple of minutes and a lot of schooling fish towards the end of the dive as the current picked up a bit. Then it was time for some shark action at Tubbataha’s Shark Airport with countless White tip Reef Sharks as well as some Greys in the deeper water. The next days we worked our way through the two Atolls that make up the National Park and World Heritage Site, with plenty of Reef Sharks, Manta and Eagle Rays flying by, huge schools of Jacks and smaller schools of Diagonal-banded and Harlequin Sweetlips, massive Dogtooth Tunas. On numerous dives we saw big Marbled Stingrays and we are thinking of giving the dive site Triggerfish City a new name: Turtle Highway! On a early morning dive at Delsan we tried to visit the solitary Great Hammerhead Shark but he must have been on holiday and sent us his substitute a smaller Scalloped Hammerhead, which was just as good.
One of the most memorable dives was certainly at Amos Rock where we had an awesome encounter with manta rays. Three of these majestic animals were feeding near the surface on the beginning of the dive and one of them decided to stay with us for the entire dive, doing loops in front of us to gulp in tiny Krill and plankton. Dana, one of our divers, made a stunning 15 min video of the Manta feeding and playing with the divers. When we watched this video we counted 96 loops he made, that means during the hour we spend with him he must have done 350 or so loops, unless Dana just had the video on repeat! I think he will still have a severe case of motion sickness today!
Towards our last two days at Tubbataha the current, which was very weak for the first part, picked up a notch and showed us what real Tubbataha current can be, we managed to do three dive sites in one dive: Donato’s Wall, Shark Airport and Washing Machine in one go. This is exhilarating diving and maybe not everyone’s favored way to see the reefs but brings in a huge amount of life that otherwise stays further away from the walls that plunge into the abyss. There was suddenly more schooling fish and bigger Sharks like Silvertips, Bull Shark, and Kevin saw another Hammerhead off the wall, very rare during a dive in broad daylight. On the 24th of May, the last day of the cruise it was Teresa’s and Vernon’s 23rdc wedding anniversary and we celebrated it S/Y Philippine Sirenstyle with a love song performed by the crew and a delicious Black Forest cake freshly baked by the Chefs. We wish you all the best Trish and Vern and looking forward to welcoming you all back again for another fantastic dive adventure in the Philippines…
Photos by Chris von Damm and Tanya Burnett