Diving the Southern Visayas and Malapascua is always a blast!
A group of 15 divers embarked the Philippine Siren liveaboard in Cebu. As everyone arrived at the same time, we were able to set off in the afternoon to reach Cabilao right after dinner and start our dives the day after!
The check dive of the trip was at the dive site called Talisay Tree. The water temperature was 27 degrees Celcius and the visibility was 15 meter, so that was a good start. A lot of juvenile fish were to see in the shallow, with the juvenile barramundi as the high light.
Cabilao is well known of its beautiful soft corals and the astonishing colors when the sun comes out. On Gorgonian Wall we found again the pink denise pygmy seahorse and also a huge banana nudibranch.
The next two dive days we spent in Balicasag. The dark and steep wall of Cathedral was a comfortable hiding place for the big school of bigeye jacks. And although the visibility was not great, we still could see them from very close. While green turtles were busy having sea grass as late breakfast, one black and one brown giant frogfish were to be found at the plateau. The brown one was even taking a long swim as a good morning exercise.
The other side of Balicasag hosted a big bunch of nudibranchs. Five kinds of nembrothas were found: miller’s nembrotha, kubaryana’s nembrotha, crested nembrotha, chamberlain’s nembrotha and lined nembrotha. Many schooling fish like anthias, fusiliers and longjawed mackerel filled the ocean in the shallow parts where beautiful soft and hard coral formation are to be seen. The high lights of the night dive were starry night octopus, green turtle sleeping, zebra moray eel, reptilian snake eel and honshu pipefish.
The early wakeup call at 5:15 am on the fourth diving day was not for nothing. We encountered at least five whalesharks in Oslob. The first one was just after 5 minutes. As it got lighter during the dive and when the sunrays came through, we saw many more of these beautiful animals. After this amazing experience we headed south where we could stick our noses in the black sands of Dauin. This famous volcanic area of East Negros is the place for a lots of beautiful creatures. It also seemed to be the season for ornate ghost pipefish and juvenile frogfish. The many unexpected creatures such as leaf fish, ornate ghost pipefish, short tail pipefish, thorny seahorse (2x yellow, 1 brown/white), flamboyant cuttlefish (one girl and one boy), juvenile painted frogfish (one smaller than 1 cm), tropical bottle tail squid, bobtail squids, phantom velvet fish and juvenile cockatoo wasp fish, especially during the night dive, made our guests conclude that this was the best dive day of the trip so far.
Apo Island was our next destination. The sun was out when we dived the incredibly full grown Apo reefs with all kinds of hard and soft corals. The scenery was amazing and we spotted a few turtles here and there. After the second dive at Apo we headed back to Dauin where we did a dive at Pyramids and a night dive at Atmosphere House Reef. Some of us skipped the night dive and hopped on a dinghy to Atmosphere Resort for a sunset cocktail at their lovely bar.
The next day diving the Visayas we spend muck diving Dauin again. The dive sites Cars, Ceres and Ginama – an brought us ornate ghost pipefish, flatworms, sea horses, orbicular burr fish and an abundance of funny and odd-looking shrimps and crabs. And we ended the day with another spectacular night dive at San Miguel, finding 5 juvenile frogfishes and a cute couple of ambon scorpionfish.
The captain started the engine and we drove the boat over to Moalboal area where we dived the following two days. We started our exploration of the area by diving the beautiful waters of tiny Pescador Island. It’s well known for the dramatic steep walls and abundance of corals on its shallow plateaus. After two dives at Pescador we headed back over to Moalboal. We anchored in a secluded bay and dived two more dives resulting in the logging of more turtles, a comet and a massive sponge crab.
The following day the Sardine bowl of Panagsama Beach was on the menu. We were treated on some underwater fish-ballet with the bowl swirling around the divers. After the 7 million or so Sardines we slow-dived the beautiful walls of Moalboal’s coastline and found: scorpion leaffish, reef squid, broadclub cuttlefish and a funny orangutan crab.
The last two and a half days of our trip we reserved for Malaspascua and nearby islands. Some highlights of these two days? We dived with the thresher sharks and 6 eagle rays at Monad Shaol so it was well worth getting up early and be first in the sea at 05:55 AM. At Gato Island we found more sharks; white tip reef sharks to be exact. Chocolate Island brought us an outstanding night dive. At this shallow dive site we saw starry night octopuses, pleurobranchs, sea hares, scorpionfishes, t-bar nudibranchs, and more.
The last two dives were at Calanggaman island. This tiny romantic island was also the setting for our lovely beach barbeque and some good fun jumping off the boat into turquoise waters.
After a good night sleep in front of Malapascua, our guests disembarked in Maya on Cebu island. Yet again another great adventure with the Philippine Siren ended with hugs and happy faces.