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Dive’n’Drive in the Philippines

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Dive’n’Drive In The Philippines

Janice Nigro dives the Visayas in the Philippines on her own terms – and in her own time.

There are a lot of ways to come up with a dive itinerary for a dream destination. The “no plan” kind of a plan is not exactly the typical consideration, especially when you will step off of a plane 7,000 miles from home with a load of dive gear and camera equipment. It is possible though if you want to dive in the Visayas of the Philippines, and not only will you take part in the fantastic diving, but you will also have a chance to experience more of the local culture unedited by another Westerner.

Dive’n’Drive In The PhilippinesI didn’t have a name for it before I arrived in Cebu City, Cebu, but by the time I left, I knew that my itinerary in development was locally referred to as the dive‘n’drive. The term refers to diving and driving in the Philippines where you can arrive by plane on one main island, but drive to several dive destinations on different islands with the help of ferry transport. It sounds perhaps familiar to divers who have been to Bonaire, for example, but where it differs in the Philippines is that it is both feasible and reasonable to transfer yourself, your gear, and even a car by ferry to a completely new island. Since ferries run daily, it is possible to move to your next destination any day of the week.

The dive‘n’drive is perhaps a different version of the liveaboard experience, but one that you are entirely in control of. You can leave one place for another, or not leave at all. You have the chance to mingle outside of a boat and eat the kind of food that you want each day. Most importantly, you have a chance to participate more directly in the local culture, like browse around a local market or have a ride in a brilliantly painted jitney that says “Jesus loves you” on it. The beauty of the dive’n’drive is that it is a work in progress and all the while you can adjust the plan based on the diving, the weather, and whomever you are with. It is for a group, or for one, or for one that becomes a group.

On your travel days, you can be diving either before you leave one destination or upon arrival to the second. When I left Dauin, Negros for Panglao Island, Bohol, I had the entire morning to dive in Dauin because the ferry was leaving at 15:30. When I arrived at Panglao Island, I got to say that my last day of diving was “this morning”.

Dive’n’Drive In The PhilippinesAdmittedly though, I had some inside help. This part I did plan. My connection in the Philippines (Alex) was a relative of some Filipino friends living in the USA. He was also a diver so I had a local dive expert as well as chauffeur/companion/travel agent. The first day was a drive across Cebu from east to west to Moalboal through some spectacular scenery. We stopped to eat locally made rice cakes in banana leaves, and then my new friends left me alone in Moalboal with a third new friend, Bo, who was from a Filipino family famous for diving. If I had planned the trip, it could not have worked out better.

Dive’n’Drive In The PhilippinesI had 21 days. Malapascua Island was on the mend after the typhoon, but Bo steered me away from there, as resorts were only marginally operational in January of 2014. Based on the weather and options available to me at the moment in the Visayas, he suggested a three-stop dive adventure which was also a three island adventure (actually more): Moalboal, Cebu; Dauin, Negros; and Panglao Island, Bohol. This plan sounded great to me and while the details were a bit vague, somehow it would work out in the way that island adventures usually do (barring all natural disasters which the Philippines had had enough of in the recent months).

Dive’n’Drive In The PhilippinesI had close to 600 dives at this point including temperate water dives (even Tasmania!). I was not necessarily expecting novel underwater experiences, just the “usual”. But you never know until you hit the water. The highlight of Moalboal in January 2014 was a sardine ball, which remarkably was only about 30 meters from shore rather than out in the deep blue. An amazing display of synchronized swimming. Macro life was prolific on every island. You can sometimes be jaded and say, “oh, I have seen this one before,” except for example, on Apo Island near Negros, where the nudibranchs were no longer macro subjects. It was as if the marine reserve was off limits even to predators of nudibranchs or they simply taste not so great.

The diving routine was similar in Moalboal and Panglao Island in that it was a short boat ride to a dive site, a backward roll into a hard coral garden, swim a bit to the drop off, and descend along a wall. In all three places, there were other smaller islands to visit: Pescador Island, Moalboal; Apo Island, Dauin; and Balicasag, Bohol.

Dive’n’Drive In The PhilippinesDive’n’Drive In The PhilippinesThere were amazing surprises. I thought I was having such a big adventure on my own…and then, I found myself in an 8-person capacity banca crossing over to Apo Island on my first dive day in Dauin. It was the one adventure that I have to say that if I had known what the situation was before I arrived that morning for the dive, I never would have agreed to it. Once I was at the boat, I thought that it would be all right because Filipinos crossed to other islands probably for centuries in these boats, and ours had an engine. Although I had to wonder when after the second dive, the trip was cut short because of the possibility of a minor typhoon.

Dive’n’Drive In The PhilippinesDauin was different than Moalboal and Panglao Island because the immediate area is a muck diving paradise. At Car Wreck, my official first muck dive in the Philippines, there were breeding cardinal fish – lots of them. It is an amazing behavior to witness because their mouths are stuffed full with their eggs, as if they have eaten too much banana and might throw up. Occasionally they will “burp” and a couple eggs will drop out, but otherwise, they swim around like this until the babies hatch. And during those magic last minutes of daylight, we peered at mating pairs of mandarin fish shedding clouds of their gametes on the house reef in Moalboal.

Dive’n’Drive In The PhilippinesThe Dauin dives were really a macro photographers dream. All sorts of critters were living on ropes and the other odd bits of metal deposited at different sites as artificial reef. At first glance, you would have thought it was an underwater desert, but there were incredible creatures to find if you had a Don Don or a Gardo as your guide. The dives at Dauin were similar, sloping brown sandy with tiny coral bommies. Each day we went to three new sites along the coast and then spent an exhaustive hour moving from one micro-habitat to the next, exposing unique creatures. What I did not expect was to find a field of anemones. Dauin South was a magical site for me because I was surrounded by anemones – green columns, red columns, white columns, polka-dots, open or closed – and they were covered with small cleaner shrimp.

Dive’n’Drive In The PhilippinesOne twist to the dive ‘n’ drive was that a dive site for whale sharks, Oslob, on the southern end of Cebu, was actually easier to reach by the dive boat from Dauin, which is on Negros. Another diver had warned me ahead of time, that while I would certainly see a whale shark, it would not be with the same kind of excitement as with a spontaneous sighting. I took the opportunity anyway, and in the end, I am not sure I would recommend it. It felt a bit like a circus, and it might not actually be good for the whale sharks. I have to admit, however, that to see this dark shadow slowly turn into a giant fish looming directly over me was awesome.

Ultimately though, I found the other islands to be a distraction at Dauin; Dauin itself deserved at least another three to four days just to focus on the muck dives.

Dive’n’Drive In The PhilippinesI can’t really say that it is exactly one thing or another that makes a good diving trip great. It is some kind of combination of the reef life and the people and culture, and not necessarily in that order. I have been to great places for diving but not connected with the vibe of the resort or boat. But with guides like Bam Bam, Bismark, Don Don, Belyong, Jaguar (guess if you are choosing wildlife better to be Jaguar than pygmy something or other from underwater)… So my time seemed as if it was up pretty quickly. On top of it, the dives were so relaxing in all of the places, that I was taking some of my best underwater photos.   And therefore, I will leave it to my photos as the ultimate proof for the remarkable diversity in the Visayas.

Travel tips/details:  Love’s Lodge, Panagsama Beach, Moalboal, Philippines; El Dorado Beach Resort, Dauin, Negros; Oasis Resort, Panglao Island, Bohol

Janice Nigro is an avid scuba diver with a PhD in biology.  She is a scientist who has studied the development of human cancer at universities in the USA and Norway, and has discovered the benefits of artistic expression through underwater photography and story writing of her travel adventures.

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Diving below the waves of the Western Cape, South Africa – Windmill Beach (Watch Video)

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Head under the waves of False Bay and explore the incredible diversity that is found along the Western Cape. The bay has popular dive spots from diving amongst the biodiverse underwater kelp forests to jumping in with the playful and friendly cape fur sealions (Arctocephalus pusillus). The bay along with the rest of the South Africa coast is known for the range of shark species that are found from the shallow coastal shores out into the open oceans. The coast is also home to numerous endemic shark species such as puffadder shyshark (Haploblepharus edwardsii) and Pyjama shark.

Situated a short drive out of Simonstown is the shore dive at Windmill beach. A short swim over the sand and through the large boulders you enter the incredibly diverse and colourful kelp forests (Ecklonia maxima), a species that can grow up to 12m tall. Life is found in abundance from the base of the kelp where many sea urchins and species such as abalone can be seen then heading into the canopy many shoaling fish species can be observed.

Diving with the local dive club – Cape Town Dive Centre.


Follow Jake aka JD Scuba on the YouTube channel @Don’t Think Just Blog.

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Gear News

Fourth Element to make diving tools from recycled PPE

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Fourth Element has partnered with recycling and repurposing experts, Waterhaul, to retask the mask; turning single-use plastics into the tools we use in pursuit of underwater adventure. Face masks and other items of PPE from hospitals are melted down into blocks, sterilising the material which fourth element purchases, recycle and transforms.

These cave line markers are the first of what fourth element hopes will be many products using this waste material to give it a new life beyond protecting the lives of our frontline healthcare workers. Each marker re-uses the equivalent of two disposable masks. Waste is given a new direction.

The end product is completely safe. The PPE is heat treated by the hospital: the plastic is heated to high temperatures multiple times; first to make the blocks within the recycling process, and also whilst injection moulding the parts.

What makes this OceanPositive?

In the UK alone, 58 million single-use plastic face masks are thrown away every day, littering landfills and polluting the environment. Globally, we use 129 billion per month – that’s enough to wrap around the world 550 times! Over the last 12 months, a recorded 1.5 billion have entered the ocean, disrupting our ecosystem and endangering marine life across the globe. And that’s just what has been recorded.

These lines markers are made from recycled PPE, each one saving two masks from entering landfill or our oceans. Part of fourth element’s Zero Waste and Zero Plastic initiatives; to re-purpose as much plastic as possible and find new uses for products at the end of their lives.

We believe that this is the way,” said Jim Standing, co-founder of fourth element. “We are all going to have to tackle the challenges of a post covid world and one of these will be how we deal with the waste we have created as part of keeping ourselves and in particular, our frontline workers protected. We intend to play our part.”

For more information visit the Fourth Element website by clicking here.

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Explore the amazing triangle of Red Sea Reefs - The Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone on board the brand new liveaboard Big Blue.  With an option to add on a week at Roots Red Sea before or after. 

Strong currents and deep blue water are the catalysts that bring the pelagic species flocking to these reefs. The reefs themselves provide exquisite homes for a multitude of marine life.  The wafting soft corals are adorned with thousands of colourful fish. The gorgonian fans and hard corals provide magnificent back drops, all being patrolled by the reef’s predatory species.

£1475 per person based on double occupancy.  Soft all inclusive board basis, buffet meals with snacks, tea and coffee always available.  Add a week on at Roots Red Sea Resort before or after the liveaboard for just £725pp.  Flights and transfers are included.  See our brochure linked above for the full itinerary.

This trip will be hosted by The Scuba Place.  Come Dive with Us!

Call 020 3515 9955 or email john@thescubaplace.co.uk

www.thescubaplace.co.uk

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