Christmas is more fun in the Philippine Siren

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The Philippine Siren crew welcomed on board a new group of 16 guests all ready to enjoy a liveaboard dive trip in the Southern Visayas during Christmas time! 
The first diving day started with a check dive at Talisay Tree, Cabilao, and what a nice start of the trip it was! The very pretty wall with lots of soft and hard corals amazed the guests. Purple anthias, different kinds of damsels and fusiliers were colouring the scenery, while we were finding many types of nudibranchs. We also found a ringed pipefish carrying eggs, which was very special. 

Around 11 AM, we jumped back in at the site Gorgonian wall for the second dive of the day. This wall is famous for its layers upon layers of hard and soft corals, with the obvious massive Gorgonian Sea Fans to make it an unbelievable healthy reef. One of our guests declared that this is one of the healthiest reefs he has ever seen! It truly is a remarkable wall with so much life, colours and some denise pygmy seahorses to top it off. At Light House, we have a bagibanti pygmy seahorse and two giant frogfish in the same lime green colour as the elephant ears which are their habitats. The night dive at Cambaquiz was nice and relaxing and gave us the following catch: plenty of common lionfish, black-finned snake eels (3), robust ghost pipefish, solander’s toby, white lipped eel catfish, enigmatic moray, red-lined jorunna, decorator crab, hermit crab, banded coral shrimp, anemone decorator crab, tiger cowrie, reef squids, pelagic tunicates, massive green sea turtle, moon snail, five-lined ribbon worm, dwarf cuttlefish, tiny bobtail squid, penciled sea urchin, lots of crown of thorns.

Balicasag Island greeted us in this early morning with a sunny smile and so we jumped into the sea at Black Forest. The beautiful sloppy reef fully grown with soft corals and it was full of life on the reef top edge. The many schools of fusiliers made us dizzy sometimes blocking our sight seeing blue fin trevallies, long jaw mackerel, lionfish, map puffer, triggerfish, twin-spot snappers, pyramid butterflyfish, bearded scorpionfish, white-eye moray eels, tiger snake moray, crocodile needle fish, longfin batfish, orange-spotted trevally, zebra moray, peacock mantis shrimp, green sea turtles and day octopus.
The second dive was all about turtles, mainly green turtles munching themselves a way through the sea grass at Turtle Point. We logged two giant frogfish, one brown one and a green one to this dive and the guests were just as happy a little child. The afternoon dive at Rudy’s Rock and the sunset dive at Diver’s heaven added some more good stuff to the day’s catch: painted frogfish, giant frogfish, plenty of different kinds of morays, a whole array of shrimps, and a blue-ringed octopus. Not bad, not bad at all!

After the early wake-up call, everybody got up very excited about the whale shark dive in Oslob and it was more than worth it: 8 whale sharks with big schools of longjaw mackerel surrounding them! There were jacks around too. They were hunting the mackerel and doing so, they added some excitement to the scene. A great dive it was. We sailed over to the next dive destination, Negros Island and particularly, Dumaguete and the coast of Dauin. Its black sand dive sites are known the world over and they attract many underwater photographers taking their best shots at the odd shaped bottom dwellers. We dived three muck dive sites the rest of the day: Ceres, The Cars and Secret Corner. We spotted a wide range of cool guys: coconut octopus, ornate ghost pipefish, robust ghost pipefish, common and thorny seahorses – including some juvenile ones, different kinds of frogfishes, plenty of shrimps and crabs and an ambon scorpionfish, to new a few from the long list. The day’s result: happy faces and full SD-cards amongst the photographers and videographers on board.
There are 650 species of fish and 400+ species of coral in one marine protected area (MPA). That sounds promising doesn’t it? Well, it’s on the CV of Apo Island. It being an MPA, we are not allowed to do a night dive there, but we can and did do three great day dives in its waters. Our first plunge went down at Coconut Point; a well-known drift dive on the Northeast side of the island. Today it was a medium current taking us along Apo’s beauties: gorgeous coral-overgrown rocks and boulders that are colorfully highlighted by feather stars and crinoids in all colors imaginable. Big schools of reef fish such as damsels, surgeonfish, anthias, fusiliers and big-eye trevally darted around in the current and we loved the sight of it. Next up was Cogon, also a drift dive with big fish passing by like marbled groupers, starpuffers, broadclub cuttlefish, huge parrotfish and snappers. After lunch we took a dinghy ride over to Apo Island to visit some of the kids for a Siren Fleet Santa Special. We did some gift giving and supplied some broad smiling. The afternoon dive was at Rocky Point West. Most guests think that this dive site, at the west side of Apo, is the most pristine dive ever with its endless coral fields. This healthy reef is just stunning.
For the night dive we headed back to Dauin, Atmosphere House Reef. Some of the guests opted for a cocktail at the lovely resort Atmosphere while seven of them plunged in for a sixty minute thrill ride. At night the snakes come out and it’s exciting to see them out and about on the dive site. Beside our black-banded friends we spotted three different kinds of morays, a zillion shrimps and some Robust Ghost Pipefish.

This second day of muck diving, we started in the dive site called Mainit, which means ‘hot’ due to the hot yellow patches of sand at the sea bottom coming from the two volcanos on the Island of Negros. This nice transition dive consisting of black sand and coral structures, coming from Apo Island going back to muck diving, resulted in the following catch: oriental sweetlips, snappers, orange banded pipefish, schooling cardinalfishes, longface emperor, schools of fusiliers, leaf scorpionfish, longfin batfish, mantis shrimp, porcelain crab and a huge green sea turtle. The next dive was again at Secret Corner: cockatoo waspfish, bluefin trevally, puffer, fields and fields of garden eels, snake eel, robust ghost pipefish, painted frogfish, longhorn cowfish, mototi octopus, blue-ringed octopus, wonderpus, coconut octopus and a day octopus! Not too bad! Ginama-an which means ‘menmade’ was our afternoon dive destination. The more than hundred sets of tires were the habitat of giant frogfish (1 pink and green, 2 black), snappers, bannerfish, fusiliers, schooling glassfish, scribbled filefish, huge map puffer and  pygmy cuttlefish, just to mention a few!

For Christmas Day, we did a morning and afternoon dive at Pescador Island. There were no other divers so we had Pescador island and the all to ourselves to find juvenile yellow boxfish, oriental bonito, crocodile needlefish, bearded scorpion fish, massive giant frogfish, yellow spotted trevally, common lionfish, groupers, harlequin sweetlips, white-eyed moray eel, oriental sweetlips, fusiliers, chevron barracudas, octopus, loads of tube sponges, beautiful dramatic wall and colorful scenery with so much life! The Sardines dive at Panagsama Beach was done in perfect weather condition: sunny and calm sea. Apart from the 7.483.199 Sardines who were performing a wonderful dancing show, we also have ringed pipe fish carrying eggs and two magnificent chromodoris on the grey slope. While crew and guests were preparing themselves for the Christmas dinner, the real dive die hards entered the sea at Dolphin House for the night dive. It was obvious that even sea life was getting ready for Christmas dinner; but still a whole bunch of pipefish, arrow head crab, spider decorator crab, hermit crab, sponge decorator crab and day octopus were there to be found. After the lovely Christmas dinner, guests were concluding that this has been a wonderful Christmas with the dives, the Christmas decorations, the gifts and the food. Wow!

All the guests seemed not to have enough of Pescador Island so we dived this Island again, this time starting at the Cathedral, where they could spend more time in this beautiful cave. While keeping our right hand shoulder to the wall, we swam towards the sun and saw again the usual suspects. On top of that we have found a comet, a huge day octopus and a funny walking and swimming grey giant frogfish. The last dive of this day was at Tongo Point. Its beautiful steep and pretty dramatic wall was a nice back ground for red tooth triggerfish, fusiliers, oriental sweetlips, juvenile yellow boxfish, blue trevally, dogtooth tuna, a huge spiny lobster, peacock mantis shrimp, bubble coral shrimp, and day octopus. After the morning dives we set off for a 16 hours driving to Malapascua at calm sea and sunny weather. 

We arrived at Malapascua’s dive site Monad Shoal in the early morning. After the 16 hour boat ride over from Moalboal we were eager to get wet again and to experience being in the water with some thresher sharks. Because these long tailed beauties is what Monad Shoal is all about. The dive site is one of the very few places on earth where you can almost be guaranteed to spot a thresher or two in the early morning when they come for their daily cleaning session. Today we spotted at least two individuals and we had half a dozen sightings. After Monad, we drove over to Gato Island for the rest of the day’s diving. Gato is a very beautiful and diverse diving destination with soft corals, nudibranchs and reef sharks to choose from as your favorites. We dived the Tunnel and the Southwest during the day and we spotted some cool things. At the end of the ‘Tunnel’ we encountered two white tip reef sharks, who were playing around. After this we had to reset our eyes for finding smaller stuff like white eyed moray eel, two common seahorses, ringed pipefish and many different nudibranchs like baby Spanish dancer or blue dragon nudibranch. We also have found black velutinids around this island surrounded by a big school long jawed mackerel.  The night dive was just an amazing one. It seems everything was mating; mating bobtail squids, mating Spanish dancers and mating lovely headshield slugs! We also had spawning corals everywhere! Apart from all that we saw puffer,  painted stingfish, cuttlefish, scorpionfish, hermit crab, anemone decorator crab, elbow crab, sponge crabs, spider crabs, banded coral shrimp, floral egg crab, emperor shrimp on a Spanish dancer, banded sea snake and two baby bamboo sharks!

The last day of diving started with a beautiful sunrise and a lovely early morning dive at Deep Rock. Because there was hardly any current, we could just endlessly enjoy the colorful soft coral on the walls of the rock where we have found a huge scorpionfish, cowfish, porcupine fish, cuttle fish,  school of fusiliers, racing stripe flatworm, banded coral shrimp, peacock mantis shrimp and banded sea snake. Chocolate Island was a perfect last diving destination of this trip where we said goodbye to snowflake moray eel, ringed pipefish, cuttlefish, dragonet, , elbow crab, banded coral shrimp, boxer shrimp, squat shrimps and black velutinid. It was just a wonderful Christmas trip with all the special treats we have encountered underwater. Thank you everyone for sharing it with us! 

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