We all met at Terminal 2 Singapore Changi Airport at 7am on the 7th to check in for the Silk Air flight to Cebu.
Everyone arrived on time and the check in was smooth, as always at Changi. Can’t say the same for my rushed panic after realizing I had slept in, but I still arrived just a smigen after 7am.
This Chinese New Year trip was to Moalboal in the Philippines, on the island of Cebu. Our flight took us directly to Cebu and we then had to endure a 3.5 hours van ride to Moalbaol. The vans were nice and comfortable, so that made the long journey easy.
Along the way I was amazed by the poor quality of roads and the fact that all the houses and shops were built right next to the road, leaving no space for pedestrian traffic. Everyone had to use the road and I mean everyone. The trip was only 80km and it took 3.5 hours because of the constant stream of slow traffic we had to overtake. There were push bikes, motorcycles, jeepneys, people, dogs, chickens and goats.
I was impressed with the road sense of some of the users, but not the humans. There were kids dancing on the road outside the school we past and other people just walking across the road without looking. The only creatures with any road sense seemed to be the dogs. Whenever the driver honked the horn as a warning we are coming, the humans did not move, but the dogs that were already off the road, moved further away from the road.
I saw another amazing thing at Moalboal. There was no dog poo anywhere but lots of dogs. It took me a two days to work out why. On the way to the dive shop on the second day it was dead low tide and all the dogs were on the sand doing their business. One dog, two dogs and many more made their way to the low tide area to poo. I wonder who taught the dogs to do that and how do they know to only go when it was low tide? I even held some 8 week old puppies on the last night. There is a great deal of respect for dogs at Moalbaol.
Anyway, we came to Moalboal to dive not talk about dog ablution habits like David Attenborough.
There was 14 in the group, Phil and Georgie, Robert and Daphne, Francois and Elodie, Craig and his son Rex and his mate Adam, Shoba and her daughter Tanvi, Hugo, Sarah and me.
Shoba and Daphne were non divers and enjoyed the resort, although after showing Shoba the photos from the first day, she is now considering diving.
We arrived late on the 7th and had a free evening before diving the next three days. We planned 4 dives for each day on the 8th and 9th and 2 dives on the 10th with a return flight on the 11th. Tanvi only planned to dive the first two days and poor Georgie was sick and only managed the first two dives. Georgie had only arrived in Singapore from the UK 12 hours before flying to Cebu. Jet lag and coming from cold to hot weather must have been her downfall. Anyway the rest of us competed 10 spectacular dives.
Moalboal is a small coastal town with small shacks and buildings along the sea, mostly dive shops, resorts and small shops selling souvenirs. We had a 5 minute walk to the dive shop from the resort along a very basic walkway that zigzagged everywhere, which was a clear case of ” build where ever you like”. Town planning was not a common feature at Moalboal’s rabbit warren like housing and roads. I think it best to call it an urban warren.
We did 5 dives at the nearby Island of Pescador and 5 dives at various sites along the coast of Moalboal. There were too many dive site names to remember, but they are all connected in a way.
Pescador was breathtaking wall diving with pygmy seashores, tuna, trevally, sweet lips, lion fish, scorpion fish, frog fish, three octopi and a few turtles.
We did see some sea snake skins, but no snakes.
There were no sharks or morays anywhere.
The coral and the structure of these wall dives were just out of this world. The soft and hard coral in many colours were covered by small fish also in various bright colors, orange, red, blue, green and so on.
I was blown away and really impressed with all the dives at Pescador. And the viz? At least 30 plus metres.
Turtles seemed to be the most common creature we saw at the other dive sites, which were also wall dives.
These sites were only 50 metres off the coast and dropped away quickly. We even started betting on who could see the most number of turtles in one dive.
The turtles were all green turtles and I only saw one small one. The rest were huge at least 1.5 metres long. I thought I had the game won at 7 turtles on one dive, only to be ousted by Phil when he spotted another on the safety stop (that I could not see), giving him 8 in total. Every turtle had two remoras on its back. I even saw one turtle trying to scratch them off using the coral, but the remoras just kept moving around and staying stuck. The turtles were just as curious about us, as we were about them and I managed to get some video and photos for you to enjoy.
We saw four frog fish, mostly small ones and the giant frog fish we saw was grey. They are amazing fish that choose to walk on their feet like fins and they just sit around waiting for some prey. They don’t move much, so they make for a easy shot.
I was shooting one small yellow frog fish when Phil arrived to take some shoots too. I moved away just as the frog fish opened it mouth. Damn, that would have been an awesome shot.
I did see two scorpion fish fight. The local dive guide was as surprised as I was. One scorpion fish was quietly going about its business, patiently waiting for prey, camouflaged against a rock on the wall when another darted at it from the left, open its mouth really wide, bit the fish on the rock and then it swam off towards the right. I have never experienced this behaviour before. And it was all over in a couple of seconds.
We dived a small airplane wreck, when I say small, I mean a two seater fiberglass plane. Once a few of us sat in the cockpit and had our photos taken then we moved on to the reef.
Dynamite fishing was outlawed some 10 or more years ago in the Philippines, but there was still evidence of the damage in some areas. The coral is slowly growing back and thankfully they stopped this barbaric fishing technique when they did.
Fisherman are still allowed to catch fish at Moalboal, however they are only allowed to use a hand line, no nets or other destructive manners are allowed. I kept seeing these white rocks with something tied to them and I asked the dive guide what they where. He explained that they are rocks from the land, hence why they look out of place on the sea floor. There is also a rope made from bamboo tied around the rock. The fisherman use these as a sinker to get the baited hook to the bottom and then they yank on the line to break the bamboo rope holding the rock off the line so the bait can just float around looking more natural than a weighted bait. Great idea and better than using lead weights.
Another thing the locals do, is that they use recycled truck tyres for mooring lines. They hand cut a stip from a tyre that can easily stretch to 10 – 15 metres. They then tie it around a rock. These tyre lengths are stronger than traditional rope and very plentiful.
The highlights to me was for sure the frog fish, followed by the turtles, but mostly how well the trip went. The dive shop and the resort were just perfect and we dived nitrox 32% every dive. We headed out every morning and did 2 one hour dives with a 45 minutes surface interval, then we did the same in the afternoon after a 2-3 hour surface interval including lunch. Nitrox is awesome and we could not have done the same profile dives on air.
It was nice to be away from Hantu (a local island off Singapore) and enjoy the 30 plus metre viz on all of the dive sites. Some places were a little milky though as Moalboal also shares the Monsoon Season with Singapore.
Since Georgie was not diving I buddied up with Phil, who was out to get everything he could from his tank and dive time. He was also using a 15L tank and I was using a 11L tank. I did however finish every dive with 80bar but I was trying not to pee in my relatively new 5mm wetsuit and could only last 50-55 minutes before rushing to the loo on the boat leaving Phil behind. Phil was also doing extended safety stops taking photos of Tiga his new plastic pet tiger, with various poses in his new underwater world.
On the last dive of the trip we all got out early and left Phil behind in shallow water. We were about 50 metres from the beach at the front of the dive shop and considered heading back and leaving him to swim back. The captain started the engines and suddenly Phil appeared at the ladder to our applause.
The best part of the trip was the company and the fun we had in and out of the water. If we were not enjoying ourselves diving, we were laughing or listening to stories or recapping last night’s antics. The food was excellent and we had some great dinners. Amazing people, amazing food and amazing diving. What else could you ask for?
As I have said a few times in the past, “growing old is mandatory, but growing up is not.” And living by this saying, I decided to have a bit of fun on the last dive.
I took my reel and clipped one end to Phil and held the other, stopped finning and let him pull me along, it took him a few kicks to figure out something was wrong and soon turned around to see me laughing my head off. I did the same to Francois and Elodie. When Francois worked out my game, he turned around and gave me a smirk and put his hands on his hips, I was laughing again. Francois videoed me doing the same to Elodie, she felt the line, but looked the wrong way, still finning she looked the other way and saw me attached to her. By now everyone was watching me and all had a good laugh.
Adam completed his PADI Junior Advanced Open Water Course during the trip. Prior to the trip he did, navigation, search and recovery, peak performance buoyancy and wreck dives ex Singapore.
All he needed to do was one deep dive to 22 metres. All his dives at Moalboal were to 22 metres, so he certainly earnt his scuba diving certification.
The Philippines is just fantastic, this was my third dive trip to this country. I can’t believe how well priced everything is. Food, drinks, accommodation and diving are well priced. Phil even commented how hard it is to spend money. I will go back again and recommend you do too.
I hope you enjoy my photos (to view more photos from our trip, please visit our Facebook page) and a video is here