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Thread: Malapascua/Moalboal Philippines Dive Trip

  1. #11
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    Part 3 Checking into Hotel...

    I should have mentioned earlier that if negotiated separately, transfers to from the airport in Cebu are around $65 dollars each way. Are you can take a taxi to Cebu North bus station (150-200 pesos) and then take a bus to Maya. Ceres runs brand new airconditioned buses. A bus to Maya runs 105 pesos and will take about 4 hours. If you have a large bag (like dive equipment), you should probably be prepared to buy a seat for your bags also. I had to do this when I took the bus from Manila to Batangas when I went to Puerto Galera in May. Then catch a ferry over to Malapascua Island (40 pesos). If I had arrived in the morning I might have taken this route. Arriving in the evening meant I would have lost a day of diving by taking the bus.

    You can negotiate a taxi to bring you to Maya from Cebu for between 2000-2500 pesos and a private boat from Maya to Malapascua Island for 700-1000 pesos. It ends up being about the same as if you let the dive shop or resort do it. A taxi will save you about an hour to an hour and a half travel time.

    I had originally wanted to stay at Blue Water Resort which is right next door. Blue Water Resort -- [ Malapascua Beach Resort ] -- I had some issues getting my IFPP approved (you would not believe the hoops I have to jump through as a military member to take leave in a foreign country). I didn't recieve final approval on that until the week before my trip started. By then all they had was a family room. I was willing to upgrade to a cottage, but not to a family room. A fan for this time of year was fine. I personally didn't feel the need for air conditioning. You're out diving all day and it cools down at night.

    After coming back from my first dive at Monad Shoal I met Andrea one of the dive shop owners with whom I had negotiated my package by email and phone. I did a little more paperwork for my courses that I was taking and handed over 79,500 pesos, for what at that point was a planned six day trip. She then had someone escort me down the beach to Hippocampus, which was about a five minute walk.

    They were expecting me at Hippocampus. Greeted me by my first name when I walked up. Everything was set. I signed in and then they took me to my room.

    Hippocampus is a nice hotel. It's right off the beach. I could sit in the restaraunt in the morning and see the water while I had breakfast. The room was basic with a bed, table, chair, a large set of shelves to store my things. I had a porch where I could set outside. A tiled bathroom, with, as advertised, brackish water. Cold water of course, but this is not normally an issue here. I did rinse my teeth with it when brushing with no ill effects. There was faucet outside in the center of the building for rinsing the sand off your feet. (I was barefooted for a good portion of my stay :-)). Freshwater is in short supply there. No public drinking water system. Public electric system works only at night. Many of the resorts including Hippocampus have their own generators and 24 hour electricity. There are no cars and no roads, just paths. There are scooters though :-) Drinking water is bottled water.

    I brought Salt Water Shampoo put out by Aquaseal and it worked very well. I don't see this on the ScubaToys website, but they do business with Aquaseal so I'm sure they can get it. After unpacking my things (not much to unpack I traveled light), I had some breakfast and then headed back to the dive shop.

    By 9:45 AM I was on back on the boat. My gear was there and tanks. This time there were some other groups onboard. Mostly Europeans. I don't remember actually meeting another American while I was in Malapascua, although I heard there were a few there. The boat crew set up my tank as we relaxed for the two hour boat ride to Nunez Shoal.

    To be continued.....
    Bill
    Just killing time during my surface interval ;-)
    "If it's too cold for a 3mm, it's cold enough for a drysuit!"

  2. #12
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    Status

    Sorry, I'm still digging through Malapascua pictures (remember I shot over 1300 photos). I'll be posting some surface shots and a few more from underwater. It's after 8PM here in Japan now and I have to get up at 3:45 AM for work. If I get the chance and am not to busy at work tomorrow I'll continue to work on the narrative portion of my trip report. It should be a slow day since Monday is a holiday. I can access ST from there. The photos I probably won't be able to do to much with until Wednesday my time.

    I hope to finish the Malapascua portion soon and get on to Moalboal where I shot in four days almost as many photos as I did in 9 days at Malapascua :-)
    Bill
    Just killing time during my surface interval ;-)
    "If it's too cold for a 3mm, it's cold enough for a drysuit!"

  3. #13
    Shark
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill22 View Post

    I should know by the beginning of summer where I'll be headed next. Guam is number one on the list, followed closely by Okinawa. I could go to Cuba pretty easily, which would open up the whole Carribbean for me, but I would probably try to stay in Japan before going to Cuba. To far from the Philippines :-D
    Bill I hate to tell you this...but since you are diving the Indo-Pacific region...nothing else will compare...go to Guam and use that as your jumping off point.

  4. #14
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    Part 4 Nunez Shoal and Calangaman Island

    These two spots represent what I felt was probably some of the best diving in the area. You have to hit it at the right time though. I made two trips there during my stay in Malapascua. Great visibility both times. The first trip on the first day I was there was probably a highlight to my entire stay in the Philippines.

    Nunez Shoal and Calangaman Island are fairly near each other. We left around 10:30 AM as I recall (sorry I should have written the times down). Because of the distance, this is a two tank trip.

    The sun was shining as we headed towards Nunez Shoal for the first dive. Near the beginning of the trip out we saw a pod of dolphins. That seemed like a good omen. Turned out to be the only dolphins I saw the whole time I was there, but thats okay:-) We were a group of about nine divers. One group from Europe, a family of four from Singapore, and myself.

    I actually remember the moment when I was on my first dive that morning at Monad Shoal when I felt myself start to relax and get into the trip. It's something that I am starting to become aware of when I take my vacations. A moment when I feel myself begin to relax. This is why we take vacations to get away, to unwind, to relax, to enjoy. Not to say that I don't enjoy my life in Japan or my life in general, but it's really nice to get away :-)

    As we aproached Nunez Shoal we took our cue from our guide and began suiting up. After we arrived the guide gave his brief and then we began approaching the bow of the boat two at a time to enter the water. One of the boatment would assist you with your tank. You would put on your fins and mask, stand up, take a step to the edge, and then step off into the water. Once everyone was in the water we descended together.

    At 12:34 in the afternoon of my first day, I was making my second dive. I was immediately struck by how clear the water was. Visibility was over 60 feet. Perhaps after diving in Japan all summer where a good day would be 15-20 feet visibility had an effect, but I thought this was really cool. We descended to the bottom, a short swim and we were over the edge of the wall which dropped much deeper than we could see.

    I was reminded right at the beginning how deceptive things can be when diving a wall. I rolled over on my back to shoot up at the other divers. Before I realized it I was below a 100 feet! I put a little air in my BC and kicked back up. My dive ended up averaging 56 feet... I have nothing against deep diving, if there is a reason, but it cuts into your bottom time to much :-))

    There were lots of nice corals, good fish life, the usual assortment... Lionfish, emperors, wrasse, angelfish, sweetlips, parrotfish, etc.... A very enjoyable dive.

    When getting back on the boat there is basically two procedures. You can hand your weights, up to the boat crew, then remove your BC/Tank and they will also take that. Then swim over to the ladder, hand up your fins, and then climb the ladder. The second way was to just go to the ladder, hand up your fins and then climb up while still wearing your tank.

    I preferred the second method, especially if the water was rough. As I think I've already mentioned the weather was not always the best while I was there. We were still able to dive usually, but I found that keeping my mask on and my regulator in my mouth went a long way in preventing me from inhaling water while trying to ascend the ladder :-)) I also felt the extra weight made me more stable on the ladder as I climbed up. There was always someone from the boat crew there to assist as you came up the ladder.

    After the first dive we proceeded to Calangaman Island where we anchored just off-shore. There were several fishing boats nearby. We watched as they pulled their nets in. Some people ate if they had brought a lunch, and others, went for a swim. If you want lunch, you have to make sure you make arrangements ahead. I think some people ordered their lunch through the dive shop and others just had the restaraunt at their hotel prepare one for them.

    After about an hour and a half surface interval, we started gearing up again. Another brief, by our guide and repeated the procedure from earlier. My next dive started at 3:19 PM.

    Again, great visibility, lots of different kinds of coral, fish life was good, and another nice wall dive.

    After the dive we headed back, arriving around 6PM. I was told that it was to late for a night dive. I think there was a little confusion there. It wasn't to late for a night dive, but it was to late for the Mandarinfish. You have to be there at dusk to catch them. I let it go, it had been a long day.

    My second trip to Nunez Shoal and Calangaman Island was a week later on October 31st. Was still good, but had to fight strong current on both dives getting over to the wall. Weather was also rougher that day. The group was larger and we had more guides that day.

    I was working on my Rescue Diver course and we were going to work scenarios at the end of each dive. Saw a really nice flutefish, but didn't get any good pictures.

    The strong current added perhaps a little more realism than I would have liked :-)) We came up a little earlier than the rest of the group. I had to work through unresponsive diver on the bottom and the surface a few times and then get them on the boat. Then I had to deal with first aid, CPR, etc...

    In between while anchored in a sheltered spot near Calangaman Island we practiced over and over unresponsive diver on the surface. This required simulated rescue breathing while getting them to the boat and out of their gear. I spent pretty much the whole surface interval in the water practicing.

    After we moved over to the other side of the island to start our dive. Found two really nice nudibranch's on the wall. Current was there, but not as strong as it had been at Nunez. At the end of the dive I practiced search techniques and then un-responsive diver on the bottom. Getting them to the surface, and to the boat. Playing out the scenario on the boat and what to do.

    After getting everyone back on we headed back. I took off from the night dive, it had been a very long day starting at 5:30 AM when I went out to Monad (saw two Threshers that day). I had bookwork and knowledge reviews to work on, so I took a small break....

    To be continued.....
    Bill
    Just killing time during my surface interval ;-)
    "If it's too cold for a 3mm, it's cold enough for a drysuit!"

  5. #15
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    A few more photos from Calangaman Island

    Sorry it's a max of 10 for attaching... heres a few more from Calangaman Island.... I initally was just going to post all my pictures in the gallery, but I think it's probably better to just attach thumbnails here as I go... probably makes it a little easier for the people reading this :-)
    Bill
    Just killing time during my surface interval ;-)
    "If it's too cold for a 3mm, it's cold enough for a drysuit!"

  6. #16
    Shark
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    Great report...not sold on the diving yet.....I will look forward to the...."To be continued....."

  7. #17
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    Part Five Bantigue, Tapilon Wreck, Lighthouse Reef/Wreck

    My next dive on the 25th after the morning shark dive was Bantigue. After the morning Thresher Shark Dive at Monad Shoal, I had gone back to Hippocampus for breakfast. Then it was back to the dive shop where I met with my instructor Steve who would be taking me through my Nitrox and Wreck specialties and Rescue Diver.

    I really think that I got lucky with Steve and his girlfriend Mal being there. Steve is from Australia and Mal from Sweden. They met while going through Divemaster/Instructor training. They had been moving around the last several years, having done time in the Mediterranean, Carribean and the last few years working on a live-aboard operating in the Red Sea. Very personable, knowlegeble, and experienced. I couldn't have asked for more. As it turned out the regular instructor was out sick. Steve and Mal were helping out while they're waiting for their work permits to go through as they have just been hired to work a live-aboard in Palau. Steve does incredible video work. He had done a promo for the dive shop and he would also put together a trip video also for anyone who wanted a memento. Mal is a really great photographer and gave me some really good tips that helped me a lot. I would log a lot of dives with them over the next week and a half. Really good people. I'm hoping to be able to go to Palau at some point to dive with them again. Mal usually played the "victim" during my Rescue practices and scenario's.

    A little after 11 I headed out to Bantique for a dive. I was in the water at 11:31 and out at 12:32 diving 32% Nitrox. It had been recommended to me that I dive Nitrox because of all the diving I had planned. One of my buddies in the dive club told me that the extra oxygen would keep me from being tired... I don't know... maybe. I did a lot of diving in Moalboal also in a short period of time on air and still felt okay. I had planned on diving Nitrox for the trip and to leave my computer set on air for the last day before I left to give myself some extra safety margin.

    Maximum depth at Bantigue was 49 feet, with an average of 36 feet. Not a really deep dive. Visibility was easily over 50 feet. At Bantigue there was lots of small stuff. I found three baby lionfish underneath an outcrop of coral... not a good angle to get a picture though. Lots of gobie, clownfish, damselfish, pipefish, a thornyback cowfish which looked just like the ones we have in Japan and a seamoth which I had never seen before. Also the largest nudibranch I have ever seen. It was several inches across and actually as it turned out was capable of swimming through the water... very cool.

    The next dive of the day was at the Tapilon Wreck. In at 3:46, out at 4:24 PM. This is a WW II Japanese wreck. It's pretty much been blown to hell. The bow actually points off at an angle from the stern. Not only a wreck dive but a fairly deep one also. The wreck sits in just over 90 feet of water. I was diving 32% Nitrox. Visibility was not as good, maybe the worst that I experienced during my trip, probably 20-25 feet. This was the first Wreck dive for my course. Steve also had an AOW student along also.

    I found a nice nudibranch. There was a huge school of barracuda that seemed to call the wreck home. Also saw a small lionfish and various other fish life. The next morning on my second dive there also saw a sea snake and remoras. I had not seen remoras before that weren't "attached" to something... I was a little worried they might try to attach to me :-)) There might be the possibility of a "limited" penetration from the stern which is open, but I don't know that it would be worth it.

    Lighthouse Reef, is where you find the Mandarinfish. You have to be there at dusk though. If you get there to late then you're not going to see it. Once it's full dark then they dissappear. It's close to shore, only about 10 minutes by boat from the dive shop. It's also a shallow dive. I made four dives there and my maximum depth was only 36 feet.

    On my first night dive the same day of my first dive at Tapilon, we got there to late for the Mandarinfish.... It was still a nice night dive though. Saw an octopus, different types of crabs, seahorses, and bigeyes, which I could never get a good picture of. On other night dives there I also saw banded pipefish, a small Leaf Scorpionfish and even an Anemone Hermit Crab and of course the Mandarinfish mating ;-) Visibility was usually over 30 feet... could have been more, but most of my dives there were at night.

    Lighthouse is also where I got up close and maybe a little two personal with a sea urchin. I managed to move into it while maneuvering for a picture and got stuck good in my right hand. I was stuck in four places and in two of them the spine broke off. Stung like the dickens :-)) I decided at that point that 55 minutes was enough for a dive and my dive guide and I headed for the boat, doing a "swimming" safety stop at 15 feet.

    The next day after a second dive at Tapilon where I had to work on mapping, we made a dive on the Japanese wreck at Lighthouse. It's a very shallow wreck, close in to the beach... maximum depth 17 feet. The main purpose was to practice running lines. The wreck is very open. Nothing left really but the shell, so it's not an overhead environment by any stretch of the imagination. First I practiced running lines on the surface, then below. There is enough of the wreck there to have things to tie off to. There was a juvenile lionfish inside the wreck and also a small anemone, with a tiny clownfish to go with it :-) I think I saw lionfish on almost every dive that I made while I was in the Philippines.

    To be continued.....
    Last edited by Bill22; 11-19-2007 at 04:59. Reason: add another Tapilon photo
    Bill
    Just killing time during my surface interval ;-)
    "If it's too cold for a 3mm, it's cold enough for a drysuit!"

  8. #18
    TadPole
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    awesome report and pics bill! Thanks for sharing and I look forward to the next chapter.

  9. #19
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    Mandarinfish

    I should have added more on Mandarinfish, especially since routine sightings is one of the things that Malapascua is known for. I only made it out one time for the Mandarinfish... the other times it was full dark when we arrived and was too late.

    On the Mandarinfish dive that I made there were boats already there from other dive shops when we arrived. Everyone had taken up stations in the area that they came out in. As my guide and I swam around looking for a spot, I saw one and pointed. We took up positions, but the fish was staying down in the coral and I couldn't get a good shot.

    My guide signaled me to turn off the modeling light on my strobe. He then held a flashlight, shining it through his fingers to reduce the amount of light. It was right at dusk, and we were less than 20 feet down, so we still had some ambient light. Just enough to frame the pictures, kind of.... :-)

    The male which is twice the size of the female would move in and cover the female. They would swim around for a few moments together, then seperate.... then come together again. I got pictures, but not a single sharp one :-( That is an ongoing problem with my camera, getting it to focus in low light.

    This went on for maybe five minutes then it was over... full darkness had arrived (we had just made it). I had already made three dives that day and barely made it back in time from the last one to get there in time for the Mandarinfish.

    The Mandarinfish is a very colorful fish and apparently not so easy to find in other places. Definitely another highlight of the trip :-)
    Bill
    Just killing time during my surface interval ;-)
    "If it's too cold for a 3mm, it's cold enough for a drysuit!"

  10. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by chip104 View Post
    awesome report and pics bill! Thanks for sharing and I look forward to the next chapter.
    Thanks Chip :-) Actually your trip report on Coron was my inspiration :-) I liked the detail that you went into and I thought to myself that is a good way to do a trip report.... I really appreciate now the amount of WORK that you went into on that! ;-) I understand not everyone has the time to do it that way. I certainly have other things I need to be doing, which is part of why it's taking so long... I do apologize to everyone for that. I only have Gilianio, North Point, Chocolate Island, and Gato Island left... Then I can start on Moalboal :-))

    A number of things take up time.... One is the sheer volume of pictures I took. I also try when I can to identify specific species, which sometimes requires me to look through my fish identification books if it's a fish that I don't know. I don't always find them, or I find something very similar but not exact.... and maybe a few times I've said to heck with it and labeled the photograph "fish" ;-) The other thing that takes time of course is the writing itself. I refer both to my dive log and the photographs I took to refresh my memory on things.

    I had planned on taking more notes and more surface shots while I was there, but I was truthfully a little overwhelmed with all the work I set for myself. Nitrox and especially Rescue Diver were very time consuming in the reading and bookwork that went along with it. I spent time outside of diving working on Rescue skills, reading, and doing the Knowledge Reviews. When I wasn't diving I was working on my coursework.

    That hard work paid off as I got a 98% on my written exam for Rescue Diver. My instructor agreed with my reasoning for why I answered the question I missed the way I did and I understood the reason of why the other answer could also be right :-))

    I have to go to the credit union and get money this afternoon. Then I have a doctors appointment and then I have to go get measured for my dry suit :-) I'll try to work more on this tonight.
    Bill
    Just killing time during my surface interval ;-)
    "If it's too cold for a 3mm, it's cold enough for a drysuit!"

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