One to remember!
It was another searing hot Pilipino summer day in Puerto Princesa when our new guests arrived on the S/Y Philippine Siren. They were welcomed with a nice tropical drink and a refreshing cold towel and they all got comfortable for a day of briefings, setting up gear, doing paperwork and getting to know each other’s names.
As far as check dives go, this was a pretty cool one at Malayan Wreck. Hay faces after our first dive of the trip, because straight from the bat we spotted a big school of barracudas, plenty of grey reef and whitetip sharks and a massive school of bumphead parrotfish that were mating and clashing heads together. A nice gentle current took us along the wall and made us looking forward to more. The second dive was also at Malayan Wreck and with the current having changed direction, we now drifted the other way. On a corner of the atoll again we found big schools of fish darting around in the up and down currents. A very friendly hawksbill turtle came over to say, and struck a pose and showed his best side to our cameras. For the third dive of the day, we chose Gorgonian Channel. It was another gentle drift dive along the scenic wall with its gorgonians and soft and hard corals. The last dive of the day was at Amos Rock. The current allowed us to have a close look at the dramatic wall with its huge barrel sponges and rows of ancient gorgonians. We really got the chance to enjoy all the pretty features of this lovely dive site and seascape. We concluded that it had been a lovely day of diving!
After a nice quiet nights’ rest , we dived the first dive of the day at Delsan Wreck. With the nice gentle conditions it turned into a tranquil early morning dive. We spotted an oceanic manta ray flying by and swam through curtains of damsels and anthias. The last dive of the day we dove at Southeast Wall where we all saw a whale shark! The visibility in the last dive was amazing and the pretty and dramatic wall really came out fantastic. Hardly any current and the last light of the day hitting the reef; it was a gorgeous dive. Two of the other highlights of the dive were a wall of surgeonfish hanging in the blue and a massive school of bigeye trevally that did an impression of a typhoon above our heads. This surely was one to remember!
Ko-ok was on the schedule for the first dive of the day. We jumped in to find an impressive number of special creatures: six scalloped hammerheads, a devil ray, an oceanic manta ray and a swordfish! And besides that we saw a big school of bigeye trevallies, a school of bumphead parrotfish and curtains of damselfish and anthias. The second dive of the day at the site called Black Rock , we got to see a lot of fish action and to top it off we saw two manta rays that were being cleaned and were willing to oblige to the underwater photographer’s wishes. The next dive was at Black Rock South and that site is all about the sheer beauty of the reef. The reef to edge is stunning and combined with the pure white sand patches and the large amounts of schooling fish it is no wonder that one of our guests – the birthday girl Kinga – called this one of the most beautiful dive sites she has ever dived. We ended the day with Black Rock again, now jumping in at the north part. We found two hammerheads waiting for us, and, quite rare for this area, a blacktip reef shark. Satisfied with the catch we went home to the S/Y Philippine Siren and called it a day.
The last full day of diving started at Shark Airport. The shallow reef top is gorgeous with white sand and large coral structures. It was a delight to gently glide over the hard and soft corals through walls of small damsels, anthias and juvenile reef fish. The second dive of the day was as tranquil as the first one. We dove at Northeast Wall and the reef top as equally beautiful bathing in the sunlight. One of the groups spotted the resident scalloped hammerhead and took some nice shots of it. The site itself is dramatic with steep walls and overhangs and swim-throughs, which makes for really cool wide angle shots.
The dive at Washing Machine was fun too. We dropped in near the corner and swam a bit against the current towards it. When the current picked up, we turned around and drifted along the wall where schools of fish where hanging in the current snatching up the food bits. For the last dive we moved over to Wall Street to try our luck. We spotted a blacktip reef shark and plenty of the usual grey reef and whitetip reef sharks. Another highlight of this dive was the long stretch of steep wall with cracks and crevices that is covered in small gorgonians and corals. It is fantastic to go slow and look up and down the wall taking in the scenery. Anyway… a good day!
Once again the week has flown by, and we were already on our way to Jessie Beazley Reef for the last two dives of the trip. First off was the dive site Northeast Wall, and after that Southeast Wall, both of the dives heading towards the corner. There were lovely dives with a little current changing in directions, but the amount of fish and the unbelievable healthy reef top amazed our guests. On the corner both dives we found lots of grey reef sharks schooling; in the second dive we counted at least 22 individuals, swimming in a school, with numerous others scattered over the corner and the wall. Counting the white tips there must have been at least 50 sharks around. It’s great to see so many of these vulnerable species in one spot. One of our groups got an extra surprise act during their safety stop; a whale shark swam over to them and offered some smiles for the cameras.
After the two dives we started the engine and headed back to Puerto Princesa, on the way we had a drink on the sundeck, took some funny group pictures and enjoyed a last night barbecue. We arrived in the harbor late at night and switched off the engine for a nice quiet nights’ rest.
Thank you very much for this great cruise diving in Tubbataha! It wouldn’t have been the same without you!