Tag Archives: Oriental Mindoro

Dumaguete and SEA Photo Contest-Part Two

After the days diving we stripped off our gear and put it in our crates for transport back to the dive shop. We then loaded into the jeepney for the ride back. There seemed to be a bit more traffic on the way back. Once at the dive shop, I gave my camera gear a good rinse, said my goodbyes, and walked the half block to the main road. From there I waved down a trike and headed back to Gabby’s.

The doorway to my room. Every room had a theme and I thought it was kind of cool that mine was “Lionfish” 🙂

After a shower, I went down and grabbed some food. Breakfast of course 🙂 Afterwards, I went back to my room, put all my batteries on charge, worked on photos a bit, checked Facebook, and went to sleep early.

Breakfast at Gabby’s. I know it might sound strange to some, but I LOVE spam and was really happy I could order it for breakfast 🙂

The next morning, Saturday, April 22nd, after a good nights sleep and breakfast, I set up my camera equipment with fully charged batteries. Then went out front and waived down a trike for the ride to dive shop. There we had a repeat more or less of the day before. A small amount of socializing. Verified all our gear was back in our crate, and then we loaded up for the trip to Dauin.

The dives on the second day were boat dives and we were to visit some sites outside of the sanctuary. The sites were all close by and we started gearing up once everyone was on the boat and we took off. The first dive site was called San Miguel (maybe after the beer?). It was mainly sandy bottom with some debris and coral here and there. My dive started at 9:17 AM. Although we dropped in with guides, we became spread out fairly quickly as we found subjects to focus our attention on. At the beginning of the dive I spotted a couple of sea snails creeping along the bottom. Then I saw a sunken piece of driftwood with a few gobies on the top. I saw that as an opportunity to work with the snoot I’d just purchased for my strobe.

What a snoot does is restrict the light from your strobe to a smaller area. They’re used to highlight the subject or certain areas of the subject. I’d used them in studio photography, but never underwater. When I was in Singapore for ADEX, one of the seminars I attended talked about the use of snoots and I was intrigued by the idea. When I visited Splash in Manila I talked to Jovic about it and bought one to add to my equipment. One of the things Jovic said to me was that some of the subjects I photographed would often blend into the background. Maybe not surprising when you consider that camouflage is a tool used by both predator and prey in the ocean. A snoot could help separate the subject from the background. The goby seemed a perfect subject to practice this on! I ended up spending a good period of time there… as long as I could get away with until my computer told me it was time. This was the maximum depth of my dive at 68 feet.

The use of a snoot highlights the subject by restricting light from the background and directing it directly where it is aimed. This results in a nice separation without a distracting background.

As I worked my way back up the slope, I saw a squat lobster on another piece of sunken driftwood. Took a few photos, then moved towards the area where the boat was moored. It was running close to an hour at this time and I could see other divers getting back on the boat. Although we’d been a bit spread out, we had always been in sight of other divers. Depth here was maybe 15-20 feet. By the time it was clear, my safety stop was finished. My total dive time ended up at 63 minutes. Water temperature was 80 degrees Fahrenheit and as I mentioned earlier, my maximum depth was 68 feet.

The boat moved to the second dive site called Ginaman. Most of the photographers spent the surface interval chatting and sharing what they had shot with their friends. When it was time we geared up and stepped in for our second dive. This dive started at 11:33 AM. Almost immediately I discovered that a large pillar of concrete almost completely encrusted in corals with plenty of life on it in less than 15 feet of water. I took my time moving around it. First was a juvenile lionfish. After taking several photos, I moved on and discovered a seahorse moving along the base. After photographing that, I found a banded boxer coral shrimp. Then another seahorse! Then a shortfin lionfish (also a juvenile), then a juvenile filefish. A little toby, then three more shortfin lionfish! Of course there were the usual cardinalfish, wrasse, and damselfish. It was a very small area, not more than a couple of yards on a side, but it was teeming with life!

Cardinalfish photographed in Dauin.

From there I moved out onto the sand and seagrass. I found a bottle with a crab dug in underneath. Commensal shrimp, there were a few fire urchins about. I found a small white sea hare. Then some coral outcroppings with Christmas Tree worms, and an anemone with saddleback anemonefish. To finish off the dive I photographed a small school of juvenile catfish. I was right underneath the boat and waiting for people to get on. They came along, feeding and swarming along the bottom as everyone who dives has seen numerous times! I thought, “why not?” and snapped a few shots! The second dive ended up being 69 minutes long with a maximum depth of only 17 feet. Water temperature was 81 degrees Fahrenheit. I ended up back on the boat with my tanks still over half full!

Sea Hare photographed at Dauin.

At this point we headed in to the beach at the marine sanctuary. I was invited to have lunch, but I opted to stay on the boat and take a nap! I think I was still recovering from my trip down from Malapascua!

After lunch, everyone started returning to the boat. For the third dive we dropped in a site called Punta. My dive started at 2:59 PM. Punta also turned out to be a sandy bottom with some coral here and there. I almost immediately discovered a waspfish! I haven’t seen them very often so I was happy to find one! The last one I’d seen was in Puerto Galera last year. I took several photos and moved on.

Waspfish photographed during a dive at Dauin.

I spied a goby and took a few photos. As I kicked away from the goby I saw a small frogfish! As I began to work around the frogfish it occurred to me that I’d never gotten a picture of one with it’s mouth open. I’d heard that all one had to be was patient and here was an opportunity as I was in a group of people who could quite easily spend a significant amount of time photographing just one subject to get it right! After shooting several angles and checking exposures. I settled down to wait. 30 minutes later the frogfish yawned! After getting the shot from the side I knew that I was going to have to do this again at some point to get the same shot from the front. Still I was pretty happy to get the shot!

Frogfish yawning photographed during a dive at Dauin.

After getting that shot I started towards the guide and the other photographer curious about what they were shooting and had a crab come scuttling along. As I maneuvered for a shot, he seemed quite willing to attack me if I got to close! After taking a couple of photos I let him go! I’d spent so much time on the frogfish, that ended up being my last shot of the dive! I checked my time and it was time to head for the boat so I caught up just in time. I never did see what the other photographer was shooting! I ended up with a dive time of 62 minutes with a maximum depth of only 13 feet! Yes I had well over half a tank left again! 🙂 Water temperature was 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Not surprising it was a bit warmer given the shallow depth.

A crab photographed during a dive at Dauin. He seemed quite ready to remove one of my fingers if I got to close!

We headed back to the marine sanctuary after the dive where we offloaded and were transported back to the dive shop in Dumaguete. Again taking about an hour with traffic. At the dive shop, it was a repeat of the day before. I rinsed my camera equipment, said my goodbye’s and walked down to the main road to catch a trike to the hotel.

I grabbed a quick shower and then went to meet my friend Mark Gormley. Mark and I met the first time I came to Dumaguete in December 2009. Mark is from Australia where he’s in manufacturing. His wife Marmae is from Cebu. When he and I dived together at Dauin he showed me his lot which is beachfront at the Dauin Marine Sanctuary and talked about his plans to someday build a dive resort there. Although it’s been 7 years since we’d seen each other, we’d kept in touch via Facebook and occasionally chatting. By sheer coincidence he and his wife were in town the same time I was there. He’d messaged me a couple of weeks earlier and I’d let him know that I was going to be there so of course we made plans to get together.

Mark called me on the phone from Australia last December and talked to me for 3 hours after I got out of the hospital in Singapore following my heart attack. Mark also had gone through a heart attack a few years ago and he wanted me to know that it didn’t mean that I wouldn’t be able to dive again.

I’d been told by the cardiologist that did my first angioplasty and stent in Singapore (and I have to say also saved my life), that I shouldn’t be in denial and that I’d likely never dive again. Mark assured me that lots of people, including him, did come back to diving after a heart attack so this was not necessarily true. I was really appreciative of that at the time as although I’d put on a positive face for “Facebook”, I was quite depressed about the possibility that I wouldn’t dive again. I never knew about Mark’s heart attack as he’d never mentioned it to me when we’d chatted.

I met Mark and his wife and niece at the Hayahay which is a great local restaurant. They will let you pick out your seafood and cook it to order. They have good pizza’s too! We had an enjoyable evening catching up. Mark has spent a lot of time in the Philippines and has been coming here even longer than I have. He’s a wealth of knowledge on the Philippines and also on the local dive scene. They gave me a ride back to Gabby’s and we made plans to try and see each other again before I left. I’ll talk a bit more about the resort he’s going to open in my next post.

My next post will start with our day trip to Apo Island. I’ll be working on that tomorrow so stay tuned!

2nd week in Puerto Galera

Thursday the 25th was a nice day. We dived Alma Jane which is one of my favorite dives in Puerto Galera. The Alma Jane is an old Filipino freighter that was scuttled in 2003. An 80 ton ship, at 30 meters (98 feet) long and 10 meters (33 feet) tall, it’s a really nice size. It’s a very open wreck and easy to penetrate the cargo holds. It sits in more or less a 100 feet of water.

Schools of snappers, squirrelfish, schools of batfish are all-around the wreck. Lot’s of cardinalfish inside, I spotted a couple of lionfish. Really nice dive. This was my deepest dive of this trip so far at a 101 feet.

A school of snapper follow a squirrelfish around the hull of the Alma Jane in Puerto Galera, Philippines. Photo taken on August 25th, 2016.

A school of snapper follow a squirrelfish around the hull of the Alma Jane in Puerto Galera, Philippines. Photo taken on August 25th, 2016.

We worked our way along the bottom towards the bow and then came up the port side and over the rail amidships. We then worked our way through the cargo holds forward, then up and out and back down the starboard side before departing the wreck amidships and heading towards shallower water.

As we left the mostly sandy area around the wreck we found plenty of coral. The “usual suspects” were out. I spotted a banded boxer coral shrimp and later my guide pointed out a white-eyed moray. At the end of the dive we spotted 2 different turtles who didn’t seemed bothered by our presence at all! They looked like they’d been around enough to ignore having their photo taken. We ended up with a 58 minute dive.

Hawksbill Turtle photographed in Puerto Galera, Philippines on August 25th, 2016.

Hawksbill Turtle photographed in Puerto Galera, Philippines on August 25th, 2016.

My second dive of the day we went to Manila Channel. We dropped into the water over a sandy area. Right at the beginning of the dive as we were just starting our descent, I saw my guide make a quick motion to grab a 20 peso note that was floating in the water. I thought lucky for her. When we reached the bottom I glanced down and saw a 1 peso coin. I thought cool! Then I spotted a 5 peso coin and then another 1 peso coin. I thought about showing her what I’d found but decided it could wait until we were on the boat. I tucked the coins into the pocket on my harness and continued with the dive.

When I caught up to her she had found two dragon sea moths. I snapped some photos then we continued the dive. We came across a small wreck. Nowhere near the size of the Alma Jane… maybe a 20 foot small boat. I spotted a good size Emperor and the batfish that seem to hang out at every wreck.

Small school of batfish on a wreck in Manila Channel, Puerto Galera, Philippines. Photographed on August 25th, 2016.

Small school of batfish on a wreck in Manila Channel, Puerto Galera, Philippines. Photographed on August 25th, 2016.


Although not really the time of year for nudibranchs we did spot them as we have on other dives… 3 different species. Hawkfish seemed to be in abundance (I have a fascination with the for some reason), lot’s of butterflyfish, anthia’s, damselfish, wrasse, two different species of moray eels, and coral outcroppings. Towards the end of the dive we had a lot of coral on our left and mostly sandy bottom on our right with coral outcroppings here and there. Coral Gardens can be a dive in and of itself. We just got a little taste that day.
A pair of Dragon Sea Moths crawl across the sandy bottom in the Manila Channel, Puerto Galera, Philippines.  Photographed August 25th, 2016

A pair of Dragon Sea Moths crawl across the sandy bottom in the Manila Channel, Puerto Galera, Philippines. Photographed August 25th, 2016


Our maximum depth was 74 feet. When we hit the surface our dive time was 1 hour and 12 minutes. We arrived to a bit of a current and swells that hadn’t been there when we descended. There was a bit of boat traffic but that’s normal with so many dive operations around.
Our bangka boat approaches us for pickup after a dive in Manila Channel, Puerto Galera, Philippines.

Our bangka boat approaches us for pickup after a dive in Manila Channel, Puerto Galera, Philippines.


Back on the boat I showed the guide the 7 pesos I found. Turned out that she had tucked change in the pocket of her shorts after buying something and forgotten it was there! When we started our descent the money came out. I asked how much change as I handed her the 7 pesos and she thought for a moment and said 27 pesos. What are the odds that after that, she would get all back?!

As it turned out that was my last dive of the week. I took Friday off from diving. Saturday I was sick and Saturday night I was really sick (vomiting and diarrhea)! I went to the doctor on Monday and he prescribed Bioflu for my symptoms (which by then were severe cough, congestion, headache). I’m a bit better today, but expect it’s still going to be at least a couple of days before I can dive again.

Unfortunately not much to report this week, but I am trying to blog at least once a week just to keep up to date. I’m spending almost all my time in bed now trying to beat this flu and get healthy so I can dive again. A week from now I’m expecting to be heading to Manila for the DRT Show. That should be a fun weekend! Hopefully I will see some of you there!