In May 2017, I had the great pleasure of being rewarded during the annual "Emirates Diversity Divers" photo contest. I went diving in Puerto Galera, Philippines.
Having never taken the time to dive my palms in the waters of the Philippines, I was eager to go to Puerto Galera. So I got in touch with the club " Marco Vincente Via Marianne, to book a week in March. The best diving season in the Philippines is from January to June. The rainy season, it goes from June to October.
Many of my diving friends and photographers had already told me about the fantastic waters of the Philippines. "You will see, Philippe, you will be able to observe a lot of creatures that you rarely see elsewhere, more easily and during the same dive!" "
Having gathered my diving equipment and especially my photo equipment. I just had to wait for D-Day.
On the way to Puerto galera
To get to Puerto Galera, you have several flights a day to Manila. Then an employee of Marco Vincente will meet you at the airport with a driver who will drive you to the port of Batangas, south of Manila. It takes between 1h30 and 2 freeway hours, to reach the port. There, another person will have booked you a place to board one of the many maritime shuttles to reach the port of Puerto Galera on the island of Mindoro. You will have 1h15 of boat, comfortably installed even at sea time.
During the journey, you will be able to observe all around you the landscapes made up of mountainous islands covered with forests.
When you arrive at the small port of Puerto Galera, you will be surprised by the atmosphere that this island exudes. Once again, a Marco Vincente employee will meet you at the dock to take you directly to the hotel.
A warm welcome
Arrived at the hotel you will be surprised of the very warm and almost family welcome that the employees release. Before they even introduce you, they will call you by your first name.
The hotel is in a quiet side street. A small road leads to the beach known as: "White Beach", in just 2 minutes on foot. The hotel has a large swimming pool, a bar / restaurant on the top floor as well as a breakfast room with terrace by the swimming pool. Two minutes from the hotel, the diving center has all the space you need to store your equipment, as well as classrooms and photo work rooms.
In addition, the hotel will offer you a free massage session.
After the arrival briefing, it is time to prepare and assemble my camera equipment so that you do not forget anything once on board the boat.
First day to dive.
The first day of diving begins with a meeting at 7:00 am for a very generous breakfast in the hotel restaurant, by the pool. During this meal, I was able to get to know the people of the group in which I was included. In total the group consists of 5 divers and myself. They are retired Americans and an organizer. After having talked, we board the small van which takes us in just 5 minutes to the small port where the boat and its crew are waiting for us.
There, we discover our boat that will serve us during these 6 days of diving. The boat is actually a big pirogue as we see everything around us. But this one, is able to accommodate more than 12 divers for 3 dives per day. There is a large room in the center of the boat where you can eat and a large plant works for photographers, with a desk to charge the batteries of cameras and flashes.
The rear of the boat is a large shaded platform from which you can equip yourself and then jump in and out of the water. There is also a semi covered Sun Deck with the captain's cockpit. On board, 3 guides (Marlon, Sherwin and Warren) await us as well as the crew made up of 2 cooks, a captain and 2 crews.
The dive sites
The majority of the dives are done around the small peninsula of Sabang beach. Only 20 - 25 minutes by boat. For MUD Macro dives we have a large playground: the bay of Puerto Galera. This bay is one of the most beautiful in the Philippines and one of the richest in the world due to its diversity in marine life.
For those who are interested, night dives can be organized and those close to the hotel. Indeed, these dives can be done directly on "White beach". The place can seem deserted from all underwater life by human activity during the day. But it is not. At night, the sandy bottom of this beach turns into a real hunting ground for any marine animal. Crab of all kinds or shrimp, move on the sand in search of food while trying to escape predators. These, like octopus and other cuttlefish will surprise you with their different way of swimming or disappearing under the sand.
How to describe the day dives: just more beautiful and varied from each other.
For those who will discover the Philippines for the first time, your desire will be just to return as quickly as the underwater life is rich and diverse. The dives, usually one hour, will seem 25 minutes as there are things to see and you will forget the time. Feel free to chat with the guides who will be delighted to guide you to the creatures you are looking for. They know the funds as their pockets and despite the weather conditions, they will drive you to dive sites always pleasant.
A must for the macro
For the fana of macro photos and even the other divers, Sabang bay is a unique place where you will be able to observe incredible creatures. For my part, I was able for the first time to several species that I had not observed before. Between toad fish of different size and color, or the yellow seahorse pygmy, the blue ring octopus, not to mention the various seahorse species.
The diversity in these waters is simply incredible.
Be careful also you put your hands because these funds are also very rich in scorpion fish of all kinds. These are so well camouflaged that even when the guide shows them to you, it may take several seconds before you can see the shape of the fish. But the most incredible creature that I could observe during my stay, was the Flaming cuttlefish. This creature is always on the move and gives the impression of walking rather than swimming. But the most incredible is her colored dress which is constantly in motion. It gives the impression of fire running over his body.
Verde Island a very rich site alive
During your stay and to cut the rhythm of the reef dives, the club will make you discover, on one or two days, the reef of "Verde island". This small reef on the edge of the channel east of the small green island is described as "the marine center of biodiversity in the world".
It will take barely an hour by boat to reach the reef. From there, and depending on the current, you can dive on the falling side or on the reef side.
Once in the water, you can admire the immense diversity of marine life with its colors, shapes and species. All around the reef, grow in great tranquility, large giant sponges. These tubes are all of various shapes and varied and can exceed one and a half meters high. Because of its geographical location, the reef is always subject to the current. This gives a constant food for the creatures of the reef both at the fish and coral levels.
The crew members of the boat will do anything to help you and to make you relax. On board hot towels and ginger tea will be waiting for you on your return from each dive.
At the end of your stay you will be given a summary list of the dives made as well as their description.
As you can see, the range of diving is endless in terms of discovery and wonder. The service, the good mood and the sympathy of Filipinos will make your stay an unforgettable experience that will remain in your memory and for some the desire to return.
Text and Photos by Philippe Lecompte