When I got a chance to travel to the Philippines recently, I couldn’t resist fitting in a dive. After all, the beautiful blue green waters in this region are known for it’s marine life and Manila is well placed in terms of access to the sea.
On a beautiful and sunny (and I should mention hot) Sunday, we set off on our road trip to Anilao, the primary diving area around a two and a half hour drive from Manila city. My colleague, who had also recently got a taste of the underwater thrill called diving agreed to take me to the dive site and also accompany me for the dive. We were also lucky to have another colleague who is a certified divemaster, leading the dives.
The highway drive was pleasant and the road was good all the way through. It actually feels a little like the US since the road signs and the construction seems to be modeled on the US. However, the countryside, the trees and the houses had a distinctly Asian flavour. In fact, another colleague had recently travelled in a few of the interior towns and said it reminded him very much of home (Kerala).
Anyway, back to our trip. We took a quick breakfast break at a MacDonald’s on the way and then we were off towards our destination. We headed to Aquaventure Reef Club, one amongst the many diving school in these parts. Anilao is dotted with all these resorts which offer diving. Just make sure you’re going some place recommended and reliable. This one recognises both SSI and PADI certifications.
The waters are relatively warm here. And on the surface, the weather is hot and muggy. We geared up and packed off on our first dive, which was just around the corner. It didn’t take us more than 15 minutes and it was very close to the shore. The marine life down under is similar to the Andamans, and this whole area is actually a reserved marine sanctuary. Saw quite a few different kinds of fish and beautiful corals. It was quite a relaxed dive, we just sauntered from point to point and didn’t really stop anywhere.
For the second dive, we went to another well-known point called the Cathedral. It was again very close to the shore. We encountered schools of silver jacks, which just swam past us. The fish seem to be quite friendly too around these parts and come pretty close and don’t seem intimidated by us humans trespassing into their territory. The Cathedral is so named because of a large cross which was dropped in this part of the ocean by former Philippine President Fidel Ramos in 1983 and blessed by Pope John Paul II. It rests on the floor, having gathered a lot of moss and other accumulated underwater organisms, making it quite an interesting sight.
The fish that you’ll probably sight are angel fish, wrasse, triggerfish, surgeonfish, damselfish, pufferfish, Moorish idols and butterfly fish. Also look out for the colourful nudibranchs and sponges.
We didn’t get a chance to go into the open waters as I had a flight to catch the next day and we need a respectable 24 hours between dives. But considering the reputation of the region, I was happy that I managed to pack in a dive. Having done my certification in the Andamans, this was my first experience diving in another country and it was quite memorable. Now thinking of other exotic diving locations. Bali, maybe?
Photos courtesy: Winston Rubio, divemaster
Dive location: Off Bagalangit Point, Anilao, Philippines
Visibility: 10 to 25 meters
Depth: 20 to 30 meters