Cheap at half the price

Diving was not really high up the list on our agenda when we decided to go to the Philippines. But since we got our diving license renewed and after the amazing dives at Balicasag, we were badly hooked and really wanted to go again.

Our Master Travel Plans for the Philippines was pretty much shot by now, so we decided we’ll just wing it the whole way. It’s a good thing we did that because we found out that the dive centres in Dumaguete organize dive trips to Apo Island.

It’s a big thing.

Apo Island is one of the top ten dive sites in the world. Besides the vibrant (read:unbleached) corals, Apo Island is supposed to have more marine lifeforms than there are uncredited background musicians in an episode of Glee.

And the best part of it all? Diving in the Philippines is a lot cheaper than it is in a lot of the other parts of the world.

While we were in Dumageute, we stayed in Harold’s Mansion.While it is more of a hostel than Bruce Wayne’s manor, it is pretty comfortable and comes with its own in-house dive centre. Harold quoted us 2500PHP (US$59 or 41 Westeros Silver Stags)/head for three dives out at Apo inclusive of pickup/refreshment/lunch/all equipment rental.

It was one of those few times when we did not need to do a comparison across other shops and just agreed to go along.

Even so, we (ok, I) was not particularly convinced and I was sure that there must be a catch somewhere.

First off, the rental equipment we checked out was pretty ok. They were not fresh off the rack, but they were definitely serviceable and more importantly (to my unprofessional eye) safe.

And then we were transferred via a pickup truck to our boat boarding point. We had to share seating space with the dive equipment in the truck. It was a bit of a squeeze and there was a period when I had my ass dangling out in Filipino traffic like a makeshift meat bumper.

I’m not kidding.

At that point in time, I was all prepared to make myself miserable and thinking, “AHA! NOW the cost savings come in!”

That’s when they brought out the big guns.

Exhibit A: The “boat” that was taking us to Apo… It’s comfortable, clean and comes with a very friendly crew. The pylons at the side can even be used as a improvised diving platform/monkey bar/playground.

Our Ride

Exhibit B: The Dive Master, Toping was crazily cheerful and very detailed in his dive briefs. So detailed he even brought along a white board to supplement his brief. Although halfway through the day, we suspected the white board was for him to wean off a DrawSomething addiction. He was also really patient with the two bumbling divers he had to string along.

The Master… Diver…

Exhibit C: The Crew. We never felt so pampered in our lives! The only “equipment” we needed to “prepare” ourselves was the wetsuit. The support crew prepared all the gear and readied all the equipment for us.

Prepped and ready!

They even help scaredy cats SOME divers off the boat with a gentle push.

Exhibit D: The Diving. It IS one of the top ten dive sites in the world. There’s the wall dive which is reminiscence of our dives in Balicasag. And then there are the volcanic plateaus which, for us, is like floating through a dreamscape of bubbles. One of those experiences we’re really glad we had.

Wall diving

Hard/soft corals along with tonnes of marine life attach themselves to the wall. It’s quite surreal, actually. Kind of like an M.C. Escher sketch.

Stages of Turtle spotting: Discovery, Creeping up, And trying to spot the turtle again

Turtle!

The dives were also a bit simpler than the ones we had before. Many of our dives are at depths of 7 – 20 meters. The currents are relatively gentle so we don’t have to exercise that much. More importantly, these are also depth that my DiCAPac casing works in! So, great cam whoring opportunities abound!

Floating… just keep on floating…

Total Cam Whoring

Did I mention that Apo Island itself is really beautiful? It’s on par, if not better than some of the Thai resort islands that we’ve been to. The boat anchored off various points around the island before and after every dive for us to take a break.

That, in itself was probably (but not really) worth the price of admission.

Just chilling…

and goofing around…

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