Sunday, 27 January 2013

The Philippines - Our last day in Paradise

We woke up with a heavy heart, we are going home today. We had our last amazing breakfast, last sweet mangos then went back to the room to pack. There was only one thing left for us to do.

When I put my wedding dress on for one last time it felt like my wedding was years ago. Nothing really changed but still the fact that we are married holds an assurance for me. Paul helped me to tie the laces at the back of the dress then (feeling slightly stupid) waltzed down to the beach to take those wedding shots.
Let the photos speak for themselves.

We had so much fun during the shoot! The sun was shining, the sea looked calm and had that amazing colour again and it was good to go and swim in it even if my legs got tangled in the long trail of my dress. When we got ready I left it in front of the room.

When it was found the reception girl asked me what do I want to do with it and I said I want to leave it here. She asked hopefully: ‘can I have it?’. And so it happened that my dress has a new owner. It makes me so happy that it didn’t go into the bin as it is a lovely dress. I gave my email to the girl and she promised that she will send a photo of her wearing the dress. Paul said that probably as soon as it dries all the girls in the resort will try it on. I really hope they do. I like the thought that somebody might feel as happy as I did in this dress on the day of my wedding. 

Thursday, 24 January 2013

The Philippines - Dimakya Island (Diboyuyan Island)

Our last day on the island, last day of diving and the last day of our honeymoon. We felt excited but also sad that our dream holiday has come to an end.  We put our wetsuits on for the last time and went to dive around an island called Diboyuyan Island.

Kind of similar dives as on the house reef, bad visibility included. The only thing worth mentioning is that I found another shaded batfish! It wasn’t as nice as the other one, as that one was all black, only the outline was orange, while this one looked like an ordinary batfish, grey with stripes.

Elephant coral:

Alien coral (Paul named it):

Antler coral (I think):

Brain coral

When we got back to the resort we put out our dive gear to dry then ran back to the water for a last snorkelling session. We decided to look for the turtle again. While searching for it we stumbled upon this school of big eye jackfish. They let us swim quite close and Paul swam through the school many times, they weren’t bothered. I told him to get the camera while I moved back a bit so that I don’t chase the school further in the sea. As I was waiting and staying still they decided that they want to have a look at me too. The whole school of fish turned toward me at the same time then started to swim towards me then parted in front of me and swam around. These fish are quite big, all white with huge black eyes, all having a good look at me. They looked like ghosts. I usually enjoy swimming through schools of fish but I found this experience quite unsettling. I was actually relieved when they turned away. Luckily they stayed in one place though, so when Paul got back he could take some cool photos of them.

When we left them we went back to the place where we found the turtle and there it was! The same turtle with a bit missing from its shell! As we were snorkelling we couldn’t go down to play with it but (seems our luck never runs out) a few minutes later it came up for air. It actually stuck its head out so from the surface it looked like the loch ness monster, looked around, then swam to the sand to continue munching the sea grass.

We spent the rest of the afternoon lounging in the sun, soaking up as much as we can. Paul had a little snooze and I looked through my reef guide again to identify some more fish. We had our last big dinner at the restaurant then went for a walk on the beach.  

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

The Philippines - Coron (Kyokuzan Maru wreck dive site)

Today was a big day. We went to see the Japanese shipwreck called Kyokuzan Maru. This 136m cargoship was bombed in the WW2 in 1944 not far from the island we stayed on, it took us about 40 min by bangka to get there. It is believed that the crew had time to leave the ship before it sunk (always good to know). Hull, cargo holds and the engine room are still intact. It is lying in an almost upright position in 22-28m so it requires a deep dive therefore less divetime.

The weather was lovely when we set out. There were four of us diving with one dive master and the Swedish-Norwegian couple was very lovely. We were very excited as this is a world famous dive site. We usually do reef dives so a wreck dive was again something new for us.

Unfortunately the visibility was REALLY bad, later I learnt that apart from us being there in the wrong time (lots of plankton) it is also in part due to the nearby pearl farms. The pearls are treated with a certain chemical to get rid of the growing algae on them. This does not affect the sealife however causes bad visibility. As the ship is in a sheltered bay the currents can’t clean the water. On the good side the farms are protected by people with guns so there is absolutely no fishing in the area.

We could only imagine how impressive this ship must look in good visibility however due to the bad viz we only saw a small part of the ship at one time. It kind of caused a bit of disorientation sometimes but luckily our dive master had dived this site many, many times so we just followed him around. The other couple had a torch so sometimes I followed the light of the torch to look at dark nooks and crannies, you never know what you can find. It is said that you can still see cars and trucks in the cargo holds but of course we couldn’t see anything.

I am always in awe by nature how quickly can it claim something to be its own. After 70 years under water the ship turned into a huge coral reef full of fish. Wherever you look every part of the ship is teeming with life. There are amazing coral formations everywhere in many colours (I guess they would be in many colours but for us it only meant many different shades of green). It is strange to see a ladder, a lifebelt or a mast covered with life.

It is a really cool wreck to dive. There are many swim-throughs and you can even get inside the ship if you are brave and have a torch. There is a residential school of batfish here that followed us around like puppies, coming very close to take a look or having a good clean by cleaning fish while you swim past. Amongst some flowing soft corals we found hiding cuttlefish.

During the dives we had a break of two hours. There was an island very close we could swim to lie on the beach but we saw a reef not far from the ship so we decided to swim over and check it out. We didn’t take the camera but we saw a jawfish hiding in the sand with its huge jaw opening its mount wide and it was full of eggs! After splashing around a bit we swam back. The outriggers on this bangka were covered with a net and the crew threw out matresses on them. We had a lovely time lying on them soaking up some sunshine.

On the first dive we swam around one half of the ship and on the second around the other half. I know it’s tacky but when we got to the bow (stern?) I couldn’t help but do the Titanic thing. Here’s a video of the dive as well.

We got home around 4pm. After a little rest we climbed up to a viewpoint to see the sunset. While we were watching that we saw loads of bats circling around the island. It was quite a sight.

Monday, 21 January 2013

The Philippines - Dimakya Island (house reef)

Today was a perfect day.
After breakfast (main ingredient was mango) we walked over to the dive centre to do our first dive on this island. It was a shore dive so we suited up on the shore and simply walked into the sea. The seabed was covered with white sand and the visibility was only 5-8 m.

At first we were just cruising on the white sand and we didn’t see anything. I looked at Paul, is this really one of the best house reefs in Asia? He shrugged and signed ‘let’s wait’. A few minutes later we got to some rock that was full of fish. Then Toon, our guide signed ‘ray’. I knew it can’t be a manta so looked around then followed a pointing finger to the ground. A blue spotted stingray was lying under the sand, only its eyes and a bit of its spine were visible. As we got closer it shook the sand off itself and swam away.

Stingrays are much smaller than the mantas. Yes, they do sting but as long as you try not to disturb them and you don’t try to catch their tail they will not hurt you. Basically, as long as you treat every animal with respect they will not even think of getting close to you. Well, except a great white shark, maybe. During our dive we saw more stingrays, sleeping under the sand or swimming around us. 

Then Toon signed ‘cuttlefish’. We slowly crawled closer. There it was, a huge cuttlefish swinging to the rhythm of the waves. We stopped a little distance away. Paul got his camera ready. Usually these animals are very shy so you can only catch a glimpse of them but this one slowly swam to a nearby rock and started searching for food in the cracks like we weren’t even there. We’ve never seen a cuttlefish do anything else but quickly swimming away so we were completely mesmerise by this one. It changed its colours continuously, only on half of its body then on the whole, it was amazing.

 We can only imagine how nice this reef would’ve been with better visibility. There’s lots of fish here when you know where to find the rocks and they seem to be very friendly. We were hoping to spot a turtle but this time we didn’t have a chance. Toon promised we will try to find one on the next dive.

After our dive the sun was out and we went straight back into the sea to snorkel. There is great snorkelling here and now the sea was calmer and the location of rocks was more visible. We saw plenty of bigger fish getting a good clean by the little ones, hanging almost vertically, enjoyment clearly written on their whole body.  At some point hundreds of blue baby fish swam under us very quickly. Next time we have to bring the camera with us.

After a big lunch we were feeling quite lazy before starting our second dive, the mission was to find one of their famously friendly turtles. During the dive we realised that here even the fish are very friendly and curious, they let you to swim very close to them. When Paul was taking a photo of a giant moray eel a few big black fish swam all around so Paul had to chase them away. No turtles, though.

 We started to get back to the shore, swimming on the white sand. Toon turned around and was just about to show us the ‘going up’ sign, when Paul signed ‘turtle’ an pointed up. A small turtle was swimming above us with two yellow remoras attached to its shell. It landed not far from us. We were on it straight away but it just started eating sea grass like there’s no care in the world. Our guide gathered some sea grass and dropped it just in front of the turtle and it ate it all up quickly. The sand was fine and we made big clouds with our fins in the shallow water but our friend didn’t mind at all. It stayed with us for almost 15 min but then it needed to go up for air and we let it go. Wow, what an experience! A turtle interaction time, just for us! Well done Paul for spotting it!

By the time we finished the dive the sun was gone but we sat in the sun loungers looking over the sea and talked about the turtle.

During dinner we were having our dessert when the band came over and asked if they can play a song of our choice. It is quite common in South East Asia that small bands or a man with a guitar stops at your dinner table to play something for you but usually they do it for money. We even had an encounter with a band who did not want to leave our table unless we pay them tips. Therefore we always thanked them but refused the offer. Here however it was part of the entertainment offered so for the first time we enjoyed our dessert with a band playing only for the two of us.

 We had a little read at the clubhouse then we finished our day gazing up at the clear sky full of stars whilst lying on the beach.

Special thanks to the Jack family, to Jamie and Anna, to the Cable family and the Hubbard family for the chance to dive at this amazing location. 

Sunday, 20 January 2013

The Philippines - Dimakya Island

In the morning I woke up early and looked around. The sun was shining, the tide withdrawn completely and we even had a few more pets around (Greg, the gecko disappeared by that point).

Spot the bird!

I love this guy, it looks like it's wearing sunglasses!

We had an amazing breakfast, gorged ourselves crazy with mango again then went to find the hiking trail the resort’s booklet mentioned. It was surprisingly steep and treacherous but it was good to do some exercise. The view from the top was stunning.

We were told that the boat will leave at 10.00 so we got ready and waited around. It arrived an hour late full of other passengers. We got on. Everything seemed calm and dry so we put our life jacket on and our luggage and backpack in a plastic cover with a raised eyebrow. We were even told to put the backpacks not on the floor but next to us on the seat. It all seemed way too much precaution….for a few minutes. Then we got out to the open sea and the waves suddenly grew and our little boat was struggling to go ahead. We were going very slowly but still big waves started to crash against the boat and covered everybody with water. We were given towels. A Korean family was having great fun oooh-ing and aaaah-ing after every wave, the mother even asked whether this is a typhoon! We had great fun with Paul laughing at others’ reactions.

After our eventful journey we finally arrived. A band was playing the resort's welcome song for us and we even got welcome drinks! What a welcome!

We dumped our stuff and went on an expedition around the island. It has a lagoon with cool big lizards in, hidden beaches and great wildlife.

The sea has an amazing colour here and apparently we can go snorkelling on the house reef that we attempted straight away of course, but the we did not find anything and the waves were so strong that it was quite dangerous to get in and out of the sea. Oh, well.  

We checked out the dive centre and were told the hard truth. We came diving here at the worst time of the year. The visibility is ridiculously bad, everything is white. The sea is still quite rough so we won’t be able to do the Apo Reef diving safari. The dugongs are not around either, and there is only one turtle nest on the island that will hatch in February. To be honest it left me quite disappointed as I was really looking forward to these activities however the island is beautiful, their house reef was apparently voted to be one of the best house reefs in South East Asia and is full of turtles. There is a cool Japanese wreck that we can check out as it is in a sheltered bay and the visibility is not affected that much. We signed up for our dives then raided the seafood and the mango section of the buffet dinner. I reckon I could eat mango three times a day for a very long time. I’m up for it!