It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Philippines 2012: Day 1: Local diving with Atlantis

We met up a little early since we had to setup our gear in the morning.  We had both forgotten to bring our STAs, but since all of the DMs dive with backplates and wings, we were told on arrival that they could hook us up with STAs (phew).  So we had to scavenge from the DM gear to find ones that would work for us, and figure out how to rig weights and stuff.  I ended up just using a small weight belt, after a couple of sketchy attempts to mount weights on the cam bands (my STA has weight pockets).  Once that was taken care of, they loaded our gear onto the boat, and we headed for one of the “far away” local sites (a 12 minute boat ride), called Coral Cove.  This site is around the eastern point of the island, then southwest from that point.  It was crazy flat when we got to the site.  Rob asked the crew if it was always this calm.  They laughed and said no.

We were diving with Norm, and it was to be a 70 foot max depth dive.  The site slopes down gently from about 20 feet to > 70 feet (we didn’t quite stick to the 70 foot max depth, but I don’t think we got much past 80).  Rob was shooting macro, so we were looking for critters.  We saw a few different kinds of nudibranchs, one Pygmy seahorse, two frogfish, and a (black) ribbon eel.  Plus lots of cute little fishies and crustaceans.  One cool thing that Norm pointed out was an electric clam.  I did not even know that such a creature existed!  It was really cool to watch it “arc”.  The second frogfish that Norm found was multi-colored, with an interesting pattern on it.  Unfortunately, Norm found it after Rob had already thumbed the dive.  We had worked our way up the slope by this point, so I asked Rob if he really didn’t have the gas for some pictures, and sadly he did not.  There was a decent amount of current on this site, and we were at some points swimming against the current (I think because Norm wanted to find the pygmy seahorse for us).  It was a bit of work :)

The second dive was at West Escarceo, which is closer; it is not quite to the point to the east.  We joined another boat with some chaps from the UK for the rest of the day.  This was another site that was reefy on a slope.  This dive was with Cris, who was good at pointing out little critters.  After lunch, we went back to basically one site over, to a site called “Wreck Point” with Thax.  Our nudi-finding skills improved with each dive, so we saw more of the ones we’d seen before plus some new guys. 

There was a dusk dive to look for mandarin fish, so we initially thought we wouldn’t have time for the second afternoon dive, but Rob didn’t comprehend this concept, and talked them into taking us for a quick dive just out from of the resort.  Like a one minute boat ride.  We were joined by another diver who had just received his delayed gear, so this was his first dive of the trip.  This site was pretty much sand with little patches of reef, which had plenty of neat critters.  All in all, across the day dives, in addition to the nudibranchs, the other critters that I liked the best were the orangutan crabs (which are SO cute).  And that electric clam was really awesome.

The mandarin fish dive was similarly close to the resort.  The plan was to spend 20 or so minutes in the rubble area with the mandarinfish and then swim off for a night dive.  We were told that the fishies wouldn’t like white lights, so a couple people had red lights to use instead.  We were briefed to drop down around this rubble area and form a circle, and kneel on the sand and wait for the fishies to come out.  I’m not exactly a fan of kneeling on the sand (not so much for philosophical reason but because it just isn't comfortable in my opinion), but hovering in a circle, when there is current, is a bit of a pain.  Rob found the perfect spot in the circle so he was just swimming a little bit into the current.  And left me to get swirled around in the current :P  At first I was getting pretty bored because I would just occasionally get a glimpse of one or two of the fish, and I could barely make them out.  I guess my eyes eventually adjusted, because eventually I was able to see them really clearly and I could pick out pairs of them all over the place!  So then it got fun.  We ended up spending about 45 minutes with the mandarinfish, and then swam around a bit to look for other critters.  The memorable critters that we saw were a white cuttlefish (my first ever, not a flamboyant though) and a really cool (maybe a little creepy-looking) flatfish.

Somewhere during the course of the day, I managed to destroy yet another E/O cord on my light.  I hate E/O cords. 

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