Anilao – a Scuba Diver’s Macro paradise

There’s never a dull moment on my trip in the Philippines, especially when it comes to transportation. I was repeatedly told that to get from Tagaytay to Anilao I needed to get a bus to Nasugbu (Batangas) and then I could get a Jeepney to Anilao and from there a tricycle. Turns out that Nasugbu is absolutely miles from Batangas City and so I’m now on a second bus, after sunset, which could take two hours to drop me at a junction not too far from where Jeepneys to Anilao may or may not be passing. We shall see I guess!

I love the strange transportation tickets in the Philippines. I’ve already seen a few cool ways. This one shows a man hole-punching about a dozen different holes to show the fare and the start and end mile markers!

We had a slight change of plan but we managed to find a Jeepney headed to the right place without me having to go all the way to Batangas City. It was an interesting ride where I felt like I was in the way with my big bag but then I noticed that Filipinos who had never met before would happily squidge themselves between other passengers so that everyone had to shift up so it’s not really seen as rude.

I arrived at Mabini Crossing and jumped out of the Jeepney then grabbed some fast food from Andok’s Chicken before taking a trike to Anilao Dive Inn Hostel where Dean was expecting me. I paid 70 for the trike from Mabini Crossing and Dean said that you can often pay 40-50 as a westerner.

I spent a few hours chatting with Dean and Rem, both very experienced divers. Rem is one of the most experienced diving instructors in the Philippines and it was him who discovered the whale sharks at Donsol!

My first dive day in the Philippines had a really leisurely start; I walked with Dean down to the ASDC Dive Centre, run by Gina for about 8am where I had some coffee and sticky rice. I paid 4,500 Pesos (£67) for three dives.

I joined three Americans, Elise, Tom and Jeff, for the morning fun dives. They are over here for a conference and they have a day off so they get to go diving!

The boat is nice and pretty comfy on the tiny waves. We went for about 20 minutes to a site called Dive Trek.

It’s so exciting to have my own GoPro now!

I had some time to myself at the reef while we waited for Jeff to get some more weight from the boat so I was finding loads of great topical fish to follow. I saw some more Christmas tree worms too! And Moorish Idols (one of my favourite fish). I found at least four species of butterfly fish. I found a filefish towards the end of the dive and some cool bubble corals.

The coral in the middle is made of squidgy bubbles

Christmas Tree Worms

On the second dive we saw an enormous jack swimming right by us and I found some huge starfish out on a sandy area of seabed. This was a dive of miniatures; I saw loads of cute little nudibranches, and an electric clam waving its scary tentacles. I saw a pair of large pufferfish making a beeline for the reef and a tiny but very grumpy ribbon eel.

We surfaced in a patchy cloud of jellyfish and Jeff was stung on his hand.

My first dives with the GoPro were excellent and I actually took my 3-way selfie stick down which may be unconventional but it worked! And I was able to get shots a bit closer to nervous fish because my bubbles were just that bit further away. The GoPro was really easy to use in its underwater case so I could easily switch between photos and videos.

For lunch we had a delicious buffet of traditional food and the best dish for me was the green beans and squash cooked in coconut milk! The Americans left and I joined with another group to go to another dive site for the afternoon.

We went to a dive site closer to the dive centre and I dove with just the guide as the others all had their own guides. At first glance it was a barren area, strewn with rocks and completely covered in silt (a muck dive) and it looked like there was barely anything alive. It was very sad to see so much litter on the sea bed including Hessian sacks and little brightly coloured shards of plastic which are sadly easy to mistake for nudibranch. But if you look more closely then everything is alive and it was a good dive – I saw loads of nudibranches. We found a huge group of arrow crabs hiding amongst the rocks.

A raggy scorpionfish

I had to move so that my face was just inches away from an absolutely tiny shrimp clinging to a piece of whip coral, too tiny to get a photo.

I saw leaves blowing around in the current and at one point realised that the one right next to me was actually a waspfish (look exactly like dead leaves).

Back at the dive centre I found someone’s dive hat. I had been chuckling underwater at all the stupid things people were wearing. My guide was wearing a cap, a person I passed was wearing a black hood with cat ears, I saw a pink cuddly monkey being dragged along behind someone’s tank. Bizarre. But when I got back to the dive centre and tried one on, well, that changed everything…

Doncha just love my hat!

I sat writing my logbook watching the sunset over the bay and it was a truly serene moment.

I had dinner at a hotel/bar/restaurant between the Dive Centre and my hostel called Saltitude. I ordered a beer and lay in a hammock attempting to do some planning. The WiFi was utterly lame so I put it off until later on and just listened to music in my hammock by the sea before heading inside to eat. There was absolutely no atmosphere despite it looking like a nice place. The only music I can hear is some HORRENDOUS karaoke from across the bay and the woman I sat near (a member of staff counting cash) is singing along to it!

I had to add the atmosphere to this photo..

I ordered bihon guisado, a thin noodle dish with vegetables and chicken. The portion was unbelievably huge. I eat a lot and this was just enormous. It was tasty too. I paid 79 Pesos for the beer (£1.17; not very cheap considering the dive centre sells them for 50) and 199 Pesos (£2.96) for the food. Overall it was nice and I guess there isn’t anywhere better for that price but unless you’re looking for solitude then bring your own atmosphere!

I went back to Anilao Dive Inn Hostel and made use of the really fast WiFi and spoke to Dean about my onward plans. It’s much hotter tonight but the fan in the room is nice.

Dean is very helpful and he is contacting friends of his in a few of the places I am hoping to visit to see if they can hook me up with good diving.

My next journey is to go diving in Sabang, near Puerto Galera, which looks fairly close on the map…. But it’s on a different island so it’ll be a long trip.

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