Into the blue with creatures great and small…
Into the blue with creatures great and small…
For the 13 night trip from Cebu to Puerto Princesa we welcomed guests from the U.S.A., Canada, Russia, UK and Czech Republic with chilled champagne, followed by a delicious lunch prepared by Chef Noynoy. Once dive equipment was checked and all had successfully participated in the lifejacket drill, ably assisted by the crew of the Philippines Siren, we started our exciting journey. The following day we jumped in at Panggangan near Cabilao Island, always a great place for a check-dive, and within five minutes of being in the water our divers and guides had spotted the first special critter of the trip – a Pegasus seamoth. The day’s diving continued with many special macro creatures being seen: pregnant male Denise and bargibanti pygmy seahorses, together with many vibrant nudibranchs, in particular the aptly named banana nudibranch. A really good start said our guest, Phia.
The second day of diving we spent at Balicasag, a small island that’s similar in appearance to many in the Maldives. During the four dives we covered the main areas of interest around the island accompanied by green sea turtles, with remoras attached. Special mention must be made of the bobtail squid enjoying a shrimp dinner during the night dive. – Darren’s description was full of surprises!
Sun shining and the sea like a mirror, the host brings you an aromatic coffee served with piping-hot toast, and then you snorkel with six whale sharks! Does life get any better? After studying these giants of the underwater world we again looking for macro life: Dauin was our next stop for some muck-diving action: At Cars (two VW vehicles used as an artificial reef), we found in excess of eight ornate ghost pipefish with four robust ghost pipefish in all different kind of shapes and colours. Special critter of the day was definitely the hairy frogfish. Mind-blowing says Dan, the group leader from UnderSea Scuba Center.
Flamboyant cuttlefish, not one, not two, not even three, but at least five appeared at the muck dive sites. Thorny seahorse, frog fish, indian walkman, shoals of squid and another seamoth – and the list was endless. It was an incredible, and I am still not sure if all our divers realized yet what they saw. During the afternoon we had time to get to know each other better while drinking freshly made cocktails at the Atmosphere Resort. Guest Carol just said it straight, “What a freaking awesome day it was!”
Siquijor is another site that delivers with stunning walls and slopes full of staghorn corals in pristine condition. The marine environment there is particularly healthy and in good shape. We were lucky enough to see some turtles, juvenile batfish and at sunset, mandarin fish. Not everybody went on the evening dive as some guests elected to enjoy a cold beer on the sundeck as the sun dropped over the horizon in glorious colour.
Early in the morning we left for Apo Island where we started with a drift dive, which allowed all of our divers to practise in the currents before we arrived at Tubbataha. Coconut Point has a beautiful hard and soft coral field with sea snakes, green and hawksbill turtles often in residence. The second dive was at Rock Point West where the guides were able to spot a variety of nudibranchs and macro critters. After the two dives we commenced our long cruise to Cagayancillo of approximately twenty-two hours, though the crew couldn’t have chosen a better time to raise our brilliant white sails. After the guests took some pictures it was time for the sundeck-party.
What does a sundeck-party look like? Well, imagine a cool box full of ice cold beer, great music, an even greater bunch of people, sails up, blue skies and lighting provided by a ‘stunning sunset’. Let’s not forget to mention the dancing part! I won’t go into further detail – as they say dancing-stories that happen on the boat – stay on the boat, but I can say every second of it was enjoyed!
Cagayancillo was our stop-over to Tubbataha. Two great wall dives with a plateau overgrown with soft corals the divers were happy to take macro shots of Denise pygmy seahorses; though many thought a wide-angle would have been a great choice as well. Tubbataha welcomed us on the first dive of the season with 16 eagle rays passing by in a school. In all the dives Tubbataha maintains why it has such a great reputation. Schools of fish, eagle and marble rays, plenty of reef sharks and turtles – just spectacular!
After finishing off the diving for the trip at Jessie Beazely Reef with two fantastic dives, where we were treated with a school of scalloped hammerhead sharks we were on our way to Puerto Princessa in Palawan. We had some laughs, a photo contest with Darren Ellis taking the plaudits for his whale shark shot (above) and enjoyed a wonderful barbeque to end our trip.
All-in-all it was a wonderful two week experience for our guests and the crew alike. We said our final farewells in Puerto Princessa and we were on our separate ways, although no one was going to forget this trip for a very long time…
Salamat (Thank you) from the crew of the Philippine Siren II!