Jun 3, 2009

Diving in Boracay

I had the good fortune to experience some great diving in Boracay, Philippines. I'm sure the local Philippines divers would find the dives I did just average, but for me, it was absolutely spectacular. Beijing is a long ways from anyplace worthy of scuba diving. The only aquatic habitats in Beijing are mucky ponds, and the only thing you'll see there are thousands of species of spit and phlegm, rather than fish and corals.

The weather in Boracay was perfect. Underwater visibility was excellent, I'd say around 75 feet or more and even in the mid-afternoon, it wasn't too rough on the surface. Most of the local dive sites in Boracay are really close to the beach where the majority of the hotels are, 10-20 minutes ride at most, so the shops sell single-tank dives. It's around $20-30 US per dive depending on the shop. As in Thailand, if you want to pay with a credit card, the dive shops will tack on 6-7% to the bill to cover the fees that they get charged by the credit card companies.

On the last two dives, we had 3 divers and one PADI dive master (DM), all interested in both dives, so we didn't need to come back to shore and waste time. We just did the surface interval on the small boat and roasted in the sun.

Almost all the dive operators in Bora (note: Boracay is pronounced use motorized outrigger boats, called bancas. It's like a giant motorized canoe with a couple outriggers. Most of the Thai dive operators I've seen, on the other hand, use larger fishing vessels.

On the larger fishing boats, you giant stride off the stern into the water. For these smaller boats, the best way to enter with scuba gear is to roll in backwards. It's a lot of fun, and up to this point, I've not had the chance to enter the water that way too often. You should note that there's no head on these tiny boats. You've got to hold your bladder for a couple hours. You could always choose to turn your wet suit into a sewer if you can't control yourself like an adult.

Here's a photo of some of us in the water after rolling in off of the banca. Try to make sure no one's behind you when you roll in with a huge steel tank mounted to your back. It wouldn't be nice to conk someone on the head an knock them unconscious right before a dive.

Our first dive, Crocodile Island, was a nice, easy refresher dive for me. Lots of barrel sponges, gorgonian sea fans, reef fish, and even a cuttlefish disguising himself in the rocks. To add some comedy, there were two Italian guys in our dive group (total of 4 divers plus 1 DM). One of the Italians was French-looking and experienced, good buoyancy control, no dangling cables or anything. His buddy, a 6-foot tall swarthy fellow with more hair on his arms than I have on my head, sucked down all his air in about 40 minutes without telling anyone. Then he gave the DM a surprise by swimming over and breathing off his alternate regulator (octopus) to the surface. The non-swarthy Italian guy didn't even seem to notice and or care.

This is a photo of some of the surrounding area near the Crocodile Island dive site. The good stuff is mostly under the water.

The Camia Wreck dive was really nice. It's a large freighter-type ship that was purposely sunk to create a reef. It's sunk at a little under 100 ft depth. Our DM had no worries about taking the 3 of us in for several penetrations of the wreck. This is pretty cool, because a lot of PADI DMs are very strict about not taking non wreck certified divers to penetrate wrecks. It can be very bad if you panic in an overhead environment, not to mention in the dark and kicking up silt. I found the sea life on the wreck, to be not quite as good as the other dives, but swimming in and out of the wreck, and standing on the bow like in Titantic was really fun.

Another dive site, called Friday's reef, was the best dive for seeing nature. We were the only four divers on the site, with no other boats around at the time. If you took your time and keep pretty quiet you can get schools of all sorts of reef fish swimming around you. There were also quite a few large snapper swim overhead, just out of reach.

I suspect you could do all the local dive sites in Boracay if you had about two or three full days of diving there. I had heard that the diving here was just average, but I really enjoyed it, and I'd be happy to go back and experience more.


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