The Best in the East

How many times have you read a web page that offers some of the best diving in the world? One day I will click on a site that offers average diving, ill fitting equipment and a staff who don’t really care.

Last month, however, I took a group of divers down to Puerto Galera in the Philippines for four days of learning to dive and doing advanced training. Four hours south of Manila on the island of Mindoro, Puerto Galera offers without a doubt some of the best diving in the Asian Pacific region. Put simply this is a divers paradise. World class diving, top equipment and dive staff who go beyond what you expect to ensure a great dive trip. From easy shore dives to advanced technical diving this is a must dive location, for any diver visiting the region.

The whole area is designed with dive travel in mind. Shore diving begins as soon as you enter the water as the reef begins right off the shoreline. There are over thirty dive sites within fifteen minutes offering some of the most enjoyable dives I have ever done.

Asia Divers is the premier dive store that offers a holiday that will satisfy even the most jaded travelling diver. A PADI Five Star facility that has lead more than 30,000 divers in the area and the staff has fifty years combined teaching experience.

Starting with a shore dive to shake off the cobwebs, you enter crystal clear, warm water. The only reason to wear a wetsuit is to offer protection from accidentally rubbing against coral. From soft corals to forests of staghorn you never stop being amazed at the variety of electric colored fish that live here. Cleaning stations abound where you can observe this almost car wash like mentality; large fish hang back waiting their turn. I counted four different anemones that were home to various species of clownfish, from almost pale sand colored to blood red, they protect their patch.

Drift diving is one of the reasons that this area is becoming famous. A superb briefing by the Divemaster ensured that we all knew exactly what we were going to see at every stage of the dive. The dive is aptly called "The Canyons" and dropping onto the edge of the wall the current slowly picks up as you sweep up to the point. With a depth of around 26m (85ft) air consumption is normally a problem, however on this dive you do not have to fin at all…the current does all the work. Large pelagic yellow fin tuna hang in the background whilst soft corals bend with the water. Dropping into an amphitheater sized hole, a large orange gorgonia fan about 3metres (10ft) wide stands sentinel, whilst triggerfish guard the entrance. The dive ends at the large anchor where you hang in the current, often with large turtles cruising up and looking the divers over, then swimming away with curiosity satisfied.

Two wrecks sit in 18m (60ft), offering a fabulous introduction to wreck diving, the first is a 50ft yacht that was cleaned and sunk for divers. Large schools of batfish live in the area and they know that divers mean one thing…food, so as you approach the wreck they come to greet you. They are happy to eat out your hand, but a word of warning, leave your finger hanging out and they will suck on it. You can penetrate the yacht, but a magnificent lionfish has already taken up residence, after ten or fifteen minutes it’s a one-minute swim to the second wreck an old fishing boat. This is simply teaming with life and you almost disappear amongst the fish. Lionfish glide above the collapsed decks and stonefish lay in nooks and crannies. After another ten minutes here you head south east to the coral reef and gradually come up to around 5m (15ft) for a safety stop whilst you explore the reef. We enjoyed this dive so much we came back and did this site twice as a night dive.

Technical divers are fully catered to as well, from basic nitrox to rebreather training. And given the variety and challenges of diving here, nitrox and beyond is making great headway. If you are considering taking the step to learn technical diving, then this is a great place to learn.

Then to finish up, on the drive back to Manila, you can go via an extinct volcano. The magnificent Tagaytay rises 700m (2310ft) and you follow this beautiful ridge around the crater, stopping for lunch overlooking the lake in the middle. A perfect end to an excellent dive trip.

This was the first time I had decided to book and organize everything over the Internet, and guess what – not a thing went wrong. From initial inquiry to waving good bye at the dock, dive travel could not be easier.

Links:

Asia Divers

http://www.asiadivers.com

The Philippine Diver Magazine

http://www.diver.com.ph

Action Divers

http://www.actiondivers.com

La Laguna

Capt’n Greggs

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