When I think of a “house reef” dive, images of a dull dive somehow spring to mind. Perhaps it’s because many resorts offer diving on their house reef at a lower cost, that it would appear a house reef dive would be in some way substandard to the sites elsewhere. I’ve therefore tended to shy away from the house reef in preference of boat dives, so imagine my very pleasant surprise when I revisited Atmosphere Resorts’ own reef earlier this year.
I’ve been to the resort several times over the past few years and always love the coastal dive sites of Dauin. I’m a critter nut so it stands to reason that Dauin has become one of my all-time favourite dive destinations, alongside Lembeh, Komodo and Tulamben. Due to my somewhat prejudicial position I rarely dived the house reef and the dives I did make paled in comparison to sites such as “The Cars” and “Pyramids”. But this year, having read numerous reports about the great sightings on the Atmosphere House Reef, I decided to take a chance and sign up for the dive as part of my 20-dive package.
The change was completely outstanding! The Atmosphere dive team have been cultivating their own reef for the past few years. Not only is there a healthy coral garden for the critters to hang out but the purpose sunk containers are now encrusted with sponges and host to crinoids, with resident batfish and barracuda.
Our dive plan was to visit the containers first, as they lie between 22-30m, and then make our way up the reef slope. It was hard to ignore the nudis I spotted during the descent – but off we headed and what a reward awaited us. A pair of juvenile giant frogfish was hanging out in the sponges, ornate ghost pipefish hovered over the sand, crinoid shrimp and candy crabs were discovered in the feather stars and soft coral. A lovely anemone harboured a pretty aggressive group of anemone fish but we managed to get a few shots of the delightful porcelain crab; and all this was at the first container! Needless to say I didn’t make it to the other 2 before the deco time meant I needed to start coming up.
Our guides zigzagged up the reef slope pointing out yet more cool critters. A pair of velvet ghost pipefish was an absolute first for me (and my dive buddies), nudis, jumping leaf fish and crabs followed. The sheer diversity of marine life seen meant after an 80 minute dive another visit was still absolutely necessary! To say I was hooked is a complete understatement. In total we made 4 dives on the house reef, with a sunset dive turning up a pair of harlequin shrimp.
Can it get any better? Well the latest reports are those harlies have got busy and produced even more. A blue ring was spotted carousing the reef and a couple of painted froggies have been found on the reef slope. Other sightings include hairy shrimp and pygmy seahorses. The Atmosphere Resort house reef has totally changed my perception and I can’t wait to get back over there next year to discover even more.
If you’d like to learn more about diving in Dauin with Atmosphere Resorts and Spa, Susie will be at the Philippines Stand (#830) at DIVE2015 at the NEC on the weekend of the 24th/25th October. Stop by for a chat – she’s more than happy to tell you about the fabulous diving in the area – and not just the house reef either!