Saturday, May 14, 2016

Malapascua 2016 Day 9 & 10

Malapascua Day 9 & 10

Day 9

We got to sleep in a little today.  We were up around 7 o’clock.   After getting the cameras and our stuff ready, we headed to breakfast.  We mixed it up a little today and I had a bowl of fresh fruit (including mango of course) and some homemade bread toasted, while Eric had garlic rice. 

Today we were doing a day trip to Kalanggaman island.  It takes about an hour and a half to get there by boat.  After our sleep-inducing ride to the island we jumped in for our first dive along the wall.  It is very pretty with lots of large fan and soft corals.  One of the guides pointed out a pigmy seahorse to me and after staring at the fan coral for quite some time, I was finally able to see it move.  They blend in so well, and are so tiny, that it is extremely hard to see them.  There was nothing overly spectacular, it was just a very nice place to dive and the visibility was good as well. 

After our first dive we headed to the island for lunch.  For lunch we had BBQ with rice, vegetables, and vegetarian noodles.  After we devoured our yummy lunch, we walked down the beach to the sand bar.  The island has a large sand bar that stretches out into the water that is almost as big as the island itself.  It is a very pretty island that is a popular place for the locals and tourists to take day trips. 

After we had all relaxed and explored the island a bit, we hopped back on the boat and headed out to do the second dive, which was along the wall, but in a different direction.  Toward the end of the dive we ended up on top of the reef with lots of little things to see such as the gobies with their “housekeeping” shrimp. 

We were on this trip with a group of 8 divers from Singapore who were all photographers.  As we were coming up to begin our three-minute safety stop, we noticed there was still one guy laying down on the bottom, taking pictures.  The guide started banging on his tank and I started shaking my noisemaker trying to get his attention.  We finally got his attention.  By that time he had already gone into decompression time of 17 minutes, which meant he had to stay under water for his safety stop for that length of time (instead of just 3 minutes).  We all sat on the boat and waited for him and the guide to surface and get on the boat.  By the time the diver was able to surface, he barely had any air left—he got really lucky.  That is why it is so important to always keep an eye on your air and no decompression time—no matter what you are doing. 

After everyone was back on the boat safety, we started our hour and a half cruise back to Malapascua.  By the time we got back to the resort, it was about 5:30 p.m.  We got cleaned up and came back to the restaurant to have some dinner before heading to bed for another early morning. 

Day 10

Today is our last day of diving.  We signed up to do the early morning Kimud Shoal/Monad Shoal 2-tank dive at 4:45 a.m.  Kimud Shoal is an underwater island where they have seen hammerheads in the past, so we thought we would give it a shot.  After our Layang Layang schooling hammerhead trip a few years ago was a bust, we have yet to see a hammerhead.  After the almost hour trip to get out there, we jumped in and swam around for about an hour.  There were lots of assorted jellies, but no hammerheads.

After everyone was back on the boat, we headed back to Monad Shoal to see if we could spot some Threshers.  After an hour surface interval on the boat, we dove in again.  I don’t think anyone saw any Threshers, but it was still a nice dive.  I did manage to see an anemone all balled up—which I have only seen a couple times.  It is really neat to see as some of them can be very colorful—this one was blue/purple. 

We did these two dives with the Singaporian group as well and everyone did a little better with watching their air/time.  We only had to collect up one diver that did not stay with the group on the second dive.  After everyone was on the boat, we made our way back to the resort.   We got back around 9:30 and I ordered breakfast for both of us before breakfast time ended at 10 a.m.

We enjoyed our breakfast and the wonderful breeze coming off the water before heading to our room to have a little nap before our afternoon dive at 2:30.  After our nap, we returned to the restaurant to have a snack before our dive on the house reef.  We had not yet had an opportunity to dive the house reef, which is really nice, so we were anxious to go today as it would be our last opportunity.

Gino was our guide for the dive and it was just Eric and me.   There is always some current on the house reef, but it wasn’t horrible today.  This was an awesome dive—the best of the trip and a wonderful last dive.  We saw all kinds of stuff—a stargazer (which I had never seen before), octopus, decorator crabs, porcelain crab, snapping shrimp, squat lobster, emperor shrimp, zebra urchin crab, box crab, urchin carry crab, clownfish with eggs, cuttlefish, nudibranchs and other usual suspects. 

After a great last dive, we rinsed all our gear and started the drying process in preparation for packing everything up.  We then returned to our room, got cleaned up, checked out the photos and video from today, and then headed to the restaurant to have dinner.  We won’t be diving tomorrow so we can stay up as late as we want and sleep in tomorrow.  We will be leaving tomorrow afternoon around 5 p.m. to get the last boat crossing before dark.  Our flight leaves Cebu just after midnight, but we don’t like cutting it too close getting to the airport since it involves a boat crossing and then a 3-4 hour drive to get there.  You never know what traffic or the roads are going to be like getting to the airport. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Malapascua 2016 Day 7 & 8

Malapascua Day 7 & 8

Day 7

Today was another busy diving day.  We got up around 4:15 a.m. for the 5:15 Thresher shark dive.  It was a nice dive today as it was just the two of us with our guide, Jo.  The rest of the divers were with other guides.  We saw quite a few Thresher sharks, and the current was much better today—much easier to stay in one place—but the visibility was still an issue.  I didn’t get any decent video but Eric got one or two photos that weren’t too bad.

After the dive, we collected everyone up, including one of the owner’s, Matt, and his student who were diving on rebreathers.  We had stopped the boat and were waiting for them and the next thing we knew someone was knocking on the hull of the boat.  As the rebreathers make no bubbles, there was no way for the boatmen to tell where they were.

After we got back to Evolution, we had our usual French Toast breakfast with fresh sliced mangos and relaxed for a short bit before our next dive at 9:30 to Lapus Lapus. 

This was our first dive to Lapus Lapus on this trip.  We jumped in and there was a fair amount of current.  We managed to see a couple seahorses before we had to head up more shallow as we were running low in our no decompression limits.  We actually stayed down a little longer and our guide, Jo, headed up as he only had 1 minute left of no decompression time.  So Eric and I cruised around for a while longer before we surfaced.  Eric got some practice deploying his SMB (surface marker buoy—AKA safety sausage) under water. 

After the boat collected us up and everyone was accounted for, we headed back to the resort.  On the way back we got to see the boat parade circling the island.  Today and tomorrow they are having a big fiesta here on the island and the boat parade was part of the festivities. 

We rinsed off a bit and then headed to lunch.  We sat and talked with a diver that just arrived from France yesterday, Francois.  We had a nice chat, ate our lunch, and then relaxed for a while before our 1:30 dive to Deep Slope.

We had already been to Deep Slope twice before, but because of the tides today there was too much current to dive just about any place else.  The seahorse was still in the sea fan here and we saw an orangutan crab, nudibranchs, and all the other usual suspects.  In the beginning of the dive there wasn’t much current, but by the end it was starting to get pretty strong, so we headed up. 

We got back to the resort around 3:30 or so and got cleaned up and looked at the pictures and video we had captured today.  Afterward, we headed to the restaurant to get some dinner and chat with people.  We might also wander into the village and check out the fiesta as well.

Day 8

Today I decided to sleep in and Eric got up at 4 am to go do the shark dive.  I ended up getting up around 6:30 and the boat got back from the dive around 7:30.  Eric said the sharks came in close and he got some really good video—he decided to take my video camera instead of his camera.  I had ordered breakfast as soon as I saw the boat returning, so after Eric rinsed his gear off, we had breakfast sitting in the loungers by the beach and looked at the video he shot.  He did get some really good video—I told him of course he would see something good, because I did not go…

Our next dive was at 9:30 to Bogtang Bato, which seems to be the staff’s favorite dive site.  It is a rock pinnacle that is covered in soft coral.  It is possible to swim circles around it, but the current is pretty strong a lot of the time on some sides.  We saw at least three or four different color and size frog fish, and the highlight was a mantis shrimp just standing out in the open (which we have never seen before—usually they are hiding in a hole or under a rock and won’t come out for anything).  He/she was very cooperative and I got some video and Eric got a really good picture.  We managed to swim around the entire pinnacle in the current and were the next to the last people to surface.

We headed back to the resort and had lunch before our 1:30 dive to Devil Ray Corner (at Monad Shoal).  There was some pretty good surface current here, as there usually is, and we followed the mooring line down to the bottom.  We cruised around at around 100+ feet for a while and actually saw a couple whitetip sharks and a Thresher.  After that we cruised along the wall and found a huge puffer fish and some other interesting stuff to look at.  The staff here trusts us enough that they usually let us finish up the dives on our own as most people run low on air way before us, so we look around for a while longer and then do our safety stop before surfacing.  Eric and I managed to find a mooring line to go up to do our safety stop, but we probably should have just floated away with the current as there were a lot of jellies floating by us.  Eric got a sting on his chin and I got some on my hands (about the only parts of our bodies exposed).  It just turns red and stings a bit for a while.  We put some white vinegar on it to help calm it down when we got back on the boat. 

After returning back to the resort, we got all our gear rinsed out and got cleaned up.  We looked at the video and pictures that we had taken today and then walked over to the restaurant for some dinner.  We ended up sitting and chatting with one of the other divers who has been diving with us, Aidan—from Ireland.  After dinner and some good conversation, we all decided to walk to the main part of the island and check it out.  It was a good night to do so as it was really windy, which makes it not so steamy once you get away from the beach. 

We wandered around the barrio for a while and then made our way back to Evolution.  By this time it was around 8:30 and we headed to our room so I could type up the blog and we headed off to bed after a hard day of diving…

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Malapascua 2016 Day 6

Malapascua Day 6

Today we got up around 6:30 and Eric got the cameras ready and we headed to breakfast a little after 7.  By now you can probably guess what breakfast consisted of…

We were scheduled to leave at 9 am for a day trip to Gato island for two dives with lunch in between.  Gato island is about a 45+ minute ride from Malapascua.  After we got in the water it was a slow start, but then we saw quite a bit of stuff—a flamboyant cuttlefish, a frogfish, sea snake, among many others. 

This dive was rather interesting.  About half way through the dive we were all in a larger group in one area when I looked over and saw one of the dive group with no regulator in his mouth, kneeling down on the sand, attempting to reach back to his tank.  He looked very calm, so I was not sure what he was doing.  One of the other members of our group (diving with double tanks, as she had just finished a tech diving class) who was a bit closer noticed this as well.  When she approached him, he gave the out-of-air sign and she gave him her regulator.  Apparently his tank had not gotten turned on all the way and worked fine until he got to a certain depth and then due to the pressure it could not provide any more air.  The dive guide came over and made sure his tank was turned on and then his pressure went from 0 back up to 2000.  He went back to breathing off his tank and continued his dive.  I think we were all a bit shocked.  He was so calm we all thought he was kidding—but obviously not.   

After the first dive, we got back on the boat and had a surface interval of about an hour and half, during which time we all had lunch.  The second dive was also at Gato Island, but on a different side of the island.  The dive started by entering an underwater tunnel, which went all the way through to the other side of the island.  This dive we saw Harlequin shrimp, frogfish, huge crabs, eel, ocellaris clownfish, another sea snake, sharks, and various macro shrimp, etc. 

After two good dives, we headed back to the resort.  We got back around 3 o’clock and headed to our room to get cleaned up and check out our video and pictures from yesterday and today.  Then we headed to the restaurant to have some dinner so we could get to bed early for the shark dive again tomorrow morning.  Prior to turning in for the night we played a round of “worms” with the two couples we had met from Oregon.  After the game was over we wished the well as they would be leaving tomorrow morning and we would be out on the shark dive early in the morning.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Malapascua 2016 Day 4 & 5

Malapascua Day 4 & 5

Day 4

Eric and I both woke up around 4:30 this morning and then were awake on and off until we finally got up around 6 a.m.  It is hard to turn off the body clock once it gets set. 

We headed to breakfast around 7 a.m. and had the French toast again.  This time I got mine with bananas and a fresh mango on the side and Eric got his with diced mango on top—either version is delicious. 

After breakfast we got our gear ready for the first dive at 9:30 which was to Chocolate Island.  This was by far the best dive of the trip so far.  We must have seen just about everything but sharks on this dive.  We saw our first ever flamboyant cuttlefish, regular cuttlefish, nudibranchs, a pair of black hairy frogfish, an orange frogfish, a sea moth fish, and many others I can’t recall (typing this after having two mango daquiri’s at happy hour—it’s a wonder I can remember anything).  After a great dive, we made our way back to the resort for lunch and some lounging before our afternoon dive at 1:30. 

The dive at 1:30 was to Devil Ray corner—a dive we have never done before.  It is actually out at Monad Shoal, which is where they do the morning thresher shark dives.  On the way to the drop off for the dive, we saw a bunch of Devil Rays flapping their wings on the surface of the water.  We were hoping when we got in the water at the dive site we would see some.  Unfortunately, we didn’t see much of anything on the dive but a couple of larger cuttlefish. 

After our afternoon dip, we headed back to the resort for dinner and reviewing our photos and videos for today.  My camera and housing are working out quite well so far.  It is super easy to white balance and the color and clarity seem to be really good. 

We are going to crawl into bed early tonight as we have to get up around 4 a.m. for the Thresher Shark dive at 5 a.m.  Eric and I are signed up to do three dives tomorrow and Eric is also going to do the night dive.

Day 5

Today was an early morning.  We were up at 4 a.m. to get ready for our 5 a.m. Thresher Shark dive.  The boat headed out just as the sun was coming up.  It is about a 45 minute boat ride to the dive site, but it is a nice ride in the early morning with the sunrise and the ocean breeze. 

It wasn’t too terribly busy at Monad Shoal by the time we got there.  We dove in and there was actually quite a bit of current.  Not too long after we got in we saw a couple Threshers, but the visibility was poor so we were unable to get any decent video or photos.  We swam around for a while hoping to see some other Threshers or something else like a ray, etc., but we only saw one other Thresher.

After everyone was back on the boat, we headed back to the resort for breakfast.  We had a short rest before the next dive scheduled for 9:30 to Chocolate Island.  We had done this dive yesterday and it was the best dive we have done so far, so we were anxious to do it again. 

We headed out to Chocolate Island, which is about a 30 minute boat ride away.  We dove in and right after our entry there was a very large sea snake hunting and feeding.  That is the first sea snake I have ever seen in the water.  I was able to get some video of it.  We managed to find the orange frogfish again and some other interesting critters.  At the end of the dive, as we were finishing our safety stop, we saw another sea snake surface for air and then dive back down. 

After the dive, we headed back to the resort to have lunch before our next dive to Deep Slope at 1:30 p.m.  We had done this dive the other day as well and found a lot of neat stuff.  This dive it was just our guide and Eric and me.  We managed to find the pigmy seahorse that we had seen the other day, multiple types of shrimp, and of course nudibranchs, as usual. 

After another good dive, we came back and had a bite to eat at the restaurant before Eric headed out again for the evening/night dive at 5:45.  While Eric was out diving I sat at the restaurant and talked with a couple from Oregon that we have done some diving with and typed up the blog for the day.