Monday, October 26, 2020

Diving the Philippines

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For expats living in Asia The Philippines offers some great leisure and holiday experiences, not least of which are the fantastic reefs of Puerto Galera.?? Despite a lot bad publicity relating to kidnappings and the political situation most tourist destinations remain as far away from any trouble as you could ever want to be.

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The Spaniards discovered Puerto Galera in the early 16th century as a safe haven for their trade ships during heavy squalls and typhoons; the words literally mean ‘Port of the Galleons’.?? The sheltered Bay of Puerto Galera itself remains an anchorage for boats during bad weather to this day, although it’s the beaches of Small Lalaguna and Sabang that now provide the main attraction to new comers.??

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Diving really couldn’t be easier, all the convenience of a liveaboard but with the flexibility of being land based.?? Imagine a thirty second walk from your room at Atlantis Dive Resort to your waiting equipment, a choice of dive sites six times a day to over thirty different locations all of which are just a ten minute boat ride away.?? Add that it’s some of the best diving in Asia and there will be no more than six other divers with you…?? What are you waiting for?

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One of the reasons the area holds so much appeal to many divers is not just the convenience, but the added satisfaction that most dives are ‘guided’ by experienced Divemasters and Instructors, all of whom are fluent in English, ensuring you get the most out of your chosen site.?? Local outrigger ‘bangka’ boats provide the most common form of transport to the sloping reefs where the marine life improves yearly.?? Regulars to the area usually make a habit of visiting ‘The Canyons’ or ‘Hole in the Wall’ which have always been great dives but with added protection over recent years have become undeniably world class.?? ‘The Canyons’, which usually finishes on a large coral encrusted Galleon anchor, is home to large schools of Yellow Tail Snappers, Sweetlips, Rabbit Fish, Bat Fish and Emperors as well as the usual abundance of smaller reef fish.?? With sightings of Manta Rays, Hammerhead and Thresher Sharks in the area, why go anywhere else???

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Puerto Galera is a great ‘all year round’ dive destination, the water temperature varies from between 22c in February, to 29c in May and June and it’s unusual for the visibility to drop below 15m.?? Big tidal exchanges make for some exciting drift dives; in fact during the summer months we can treat you to some of the most challenging dives you’re ever likely to go on.?? ‘Kilima Drift’ is a favorite for those who prefer roller-coaster dives, but if you prefer a leisurely hour at 12m, ‘Coral Gardens’ and ‘West Escarceo’ have unbeatable Table Corals, Fans, Basket Sponges and smaller aquatic life.?? If you want to venture further a field there are some great day trips to either Verde Island and the famous "Drop Off" or the volcanic "Hot Springs" at Chicken Feather Island where you can sit at a depth of 20m watching hot bubbles rise from the ocean floor.??

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Puerto is also a convenient starting place for five-day liveaboard trips to Apo Reef and the Wrecks of Coron.?? There really is something for everyone — from beginner to cutting edge technical dive projects; Atlantis offers refresher dives through to Nitrox and Trimix diving.

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A feature of recent developments has been Dive Center collaboration.?? Several wooden boats have been sunk which have all made interesting sites and three years ago dive operators in the area got together to create "The Puerto Galera Dive Association".?? Since it’s conception the association has worked to improve safety, dive shop communication, community involvement and general diving around Puerto Galera.?? The association meets monthly and is currently working on, amongst other things, conservation in the area and mooring improvements.?? Last year the Association leased with The University of the Philippines and assisted in a successful Giant Clam seeding project.??

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Puerto Galera also offers numerous isolated coves and beaches just waiting for your visit, there are not many places left in the world where you can have a whole beach to yourself.?? Kayaking, hiking, swimming and snorkeling add to the list of non-diving activities.?? Some of the best views are from Ponderosa, a nine-hole golf course 1, 400 feet up a near-by mountain.?? Of the regular attractions, the biggest Hash Run (no drugs involved!) in the Philippines meets every Sunday afternoon outside Captain Greggs.?? The runs wind their way through the beautiful Puerto scenery to the ever-popular "On On " (post run/walk party), although most people just enjoy a leisurely stroll to the awaiting beer.

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The area is a popular, safe location for single travelers as well as a growing family destination.?? Direct private transfers from Manila, hot water, mini bars, internet facilities, swimming pools and great variety of restaurants, including Thai, Indian and Italian as well as local cuisine all combine to make the area one of the most popular weekend retreats for Manila residents.?? The area is malaria free with only the usual vaccination requirements.??

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If you’re looking for a mix of local ‘laid back’ charm, fun and great diving, look no further.?? Enjoy bountiful marine life on every dive, maybe not Manta’s and Hammerheads, but have you ever seen a Pigmy Seahorse or a Robust Ghost Pipefish??? And, if your reading this thinking about furthering your dive training – undoubtedly some of the best Dive Instruction in Asia.

["Pipe fish" right]

Legend has it that once sailors arrived on the island; they never wanted to leave without a promise to come back.

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