Asia | South East Asia | Philippines | Visayas – Sunday
With a mountaineer pack (courtesy of Mountain Man Dan) for all my gear, another backpack for the bare essentials, and a Lonely Planet book four years out of date (from Ikee Garrido’s library), I set out on my chautauqua. (it’s a Native American word meaning a journey where you don’t plan, and you don’t worry about what’s going to happen next).
And what an adventure it was. Six days of traveling, two plane rides and three fast-ferry connections and several different boat and land transfers, five dive destinations, ten amazing dives, one incredible skin dive, and a banca-load of new friends. Stay right where you are and I’ll tell you more about my fish eye view.
Story time! The first stop of my Visayas adventure was the town I was born in and grew up in, good ol’ Cebu. I flew in on Saturday (March 4); my friend Oliver (he was one of those that saw the whale shark during the Valentine weekend) picked me up and I crashed at his place for the night since we were leaving for Moalboal early the next morning.
Moalboal is about a two-and-a-half hour drive from Cebu City, clear to the other side of the island. We were up at a little past 6 and made the trip in good time, arriving in Panagsama Beach just before 8:30 — plenty of time for breakfast, since the first dive was scheduled for half past nine.
Oliver and I sat at a table looking out at the ocean (that is, if we looked carefully between the dive shops right in front that obscured the view), enjoying our tocino and coffee. I was excited; I’d heard and read so much about Moalboal, I was looking forward to our dives.
The first dive was at Pescador Island, a small landmass 30 minutes by boat from Panagsama beach which, according to the ‘Dive Sites of the Philippines’ book and the map the dive shop had on the wall, had pretty much everything you would want to see — hammerheads (‘hammarhead’, according to the map), oceanic whitetips, whale sharks, barracudas, and even manta rays, dolphins, and, at ‘Tortle Point’, sea tortles, este, turtles.
Our dive guide was a gangly fellow by the name of Carlo, who reminded me not a little of Mr. Bean, both in appearance and manner. I almost asked him to put his trunks on over his pants and then remove the pants from under the trunks.
He was also Mr. Bean underwater, so to speak. Let me just say that Pescador Island did not live up to my expectations, and I’m sure it had a lot to do with our dive guide not knowing where to look (among other things he did not know). The wall was very impressive, though, with lots of cracks and crevices, covered with fans and other soft coral as well as a variety of hard coral, and even a large vertical funnel they call The Cathedral, beginning at around 100 and opening up some more at around 70.
We did get to see some monster ‘cudas, though — a small school of about 7 or 8, with each fish easily 5 feet long. I guess that was good enough, but I’m determined to make a return trip to Pescador Island someday soon to find all the other big creatures.
We made a ho-hum dive at White Beach in the afternoon; there wasn’t much to see because a storm had hit the area the Thursday before and the coral was suffocating in a layer of white sand. Thirty-five minutes into the dive, Oliver and I called it quits.
All in all, though, it wasn’t really a bad day. Not an excellent dive day, not by a long shot, and I’m sure it could have been way better than it was, but not a bad day, either. I have to thank Oliver for taking me there; next time, bai, we’re going to see all the other big fish (and mammals, and reptiles), and we’ll know better than to dive with Rowan Atkinson, won’t we?