It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Anilao 2018

After much waffling about where to go for vacation this year, we landed on Anilao for a few reasons.  First, we wanted to go somewhere that had really good macro subjects.  Second, we wanted to go somewhere that was not ridiculously annoying to get to.  Rob had to be in Hong Kong for work in July, so we decided to go somewhere that we could get to easily from there, so that we could meet in Hong Kong and hang out there for a few days.

Anilao was a lot of fun, and they really do have great macro life.  We stayed at Buceo Anilao, which is definitely not a luxurious place, but it is a nice place to go if you just want to dive, sit by the pool, sit on your balcony looking at the ocean, eat, drink, etc.  Our dive guide, Elmer, was excellent at finding cool critters, but otherwise left us alone.  I would definitely go back to Anilao (and stay at Buceo Anilao), but I would probably go back at a different time of year, since the viz is supposed to be better in the winter, and apparently that's the best time to look for rhinopias.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Anilao 2018: Trip Home

Tasty food at the lounge
 On our last day in Anilao, I went to the spa for a massage in the morning.  It was fine, but nothing amazing.  It was all the way at the top of the hill that the resort is on, so there's a nice view from there.  Our flight was not until the evening, so we left after lunch.  On the way back, we took the opposite way around the little peninsula that is Anilao.  Once we got to Batangas, it seemed like we were in traffic forever.  I guess it was rush hour :P  Even
tually we made it to the other side of Batangas and then the trip to Manila was pretty speedy.

When we checked in, I was confused by our seat assignments, because I had changed them recently so we were seated together, and they seemed to have changed again.  Then we eventually realized we had been silently upgraded to business class.  W
oot!  We headed through security and made our way to the lounge.  The last time we flew out of Manila, the lounge was pretty crappy.  There's a new (as of a few years ago) Cathay Pacific lounge in Manila now, and it is roughly a billion times better than the old lounge.  We got some food at the noodle bar, and then still had a lot of time to pass because we got to the airport so early.  While we were waiting, they called us to tell us we had been upgraded to business class for the Hong Kong to SFO leg too.  Double woot!  So the flight ended up being not as terrible as it could have been, and roughly 16 hours later, we finally made it home and were reunited with the kitty cats :P

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Anilao 2018: Day 7

The last day of the trip.  Boohoo.  We did some pretty exciting dives today.  First we went to Red Rock, which is around the corner to the left of the resort, but much further than we'd been before, all the way back to Mabini town.  The site consisted of a nice pinnacle from around 20' to 60' that was very big around.  We didn't spend that much time on the pinnacle; most of our time was on the rubble at the bottom all around it.  I found what was one of my most exciting finds of the trip -- two tiny white Okenias!  I'm pretty sure they were Okenia brunneomaculata.  I couldn't believe it when I saw them.  To the naked eye, they looked like tiny Okenia felis, but with really skinny processes.  While we were having our fun with the Okenias, Pascal and Corina found a flamboyant cuttlefish.  I was sad to have missed it, but I think the tradeoff was worth it :P

We hung out on the boat for our surface interval and then went to another site near town for a muck dive.  It was pretty mucky.  The viz was quite bad and we didn't really see a whole lot, but we had a nice interaction with a (non-flamboyant) cuttlefish.

In the afternoon, there was horrible wind on our side of the channel, so we went over to Maricaban Island, where the wind was remarkably not horrible.  I neglected to take notes about this dive or the night dive, so once again, you just get pictures :)

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Anilao 2018: Day 6

Unfortunately my notes from the diving on this day are sketchy at best.  In the morning, we went on a wreck dive.  I believe (based on my not-so-extensive web research) it was the Daryl Laut.  It's mostly just the frame left, so you can swim inside without worrying about getting lost :)  This site could have been a cool site, but the problem was there were TONS of divers on it.  It was a zoo.  A zoo in technicolor.  Fins in every shade of fluorescent that they make :P  We found some cool nudis at the bottom and a big electric clam (inside of the frame of the wreck, in an area where for some reason no one else was).  We also saw a cardinal fish with eggs and a pink-eyed goby.  So cute!!  So I guess looking back on it, it was a pretty good dive in terms of all of the stuff that we saw, but all of the crazy divers are what were most memorable :)

After that, we headed back to Bethlehem, where we saw tons of slugs.

I took no notes at all about the afternoon or night dive, so those stories have been lost to the ages.  This is particularly sad, because this afternoon was when we finally managed to find a flamboyant cuttlefish, but I don't know where we were when we found it.  Boohoo.  Fortunately, the photos that Rob took have not been lost to the ages, so you can look at some more pretty pictures instead.

A hungry frogfish:

And last but not least, Shaun the Sheep nudibranch.  I have to admit, I thought Rob's obsession with getting this shot was strange, but once he finally got the shot, it's just ridiculously cute:

Friday, August 3, 2018

Anilao 2018: Day 5

For the first dive of the day, we went back to Elmer's Point to look for the pygmy seahorse again.  We saw 5 (well I saw 5; others may have seen more :P) on the darker pink sea fan.  We could not find any of the orange ones though.  Aside from those, which we spent quite some time looking at (and watching Rob take pictures), we saw a huge cuttlefish snoozing in the sand.

After that, we went to the other end of Secret Bay for a muck dive.  Rob and I got almost immediately separated from the rest of the group, because Rob stopped to photograph a sheep nudibranch.  We couldn't find the rest of the group, so eventually we surfaced and followed their bubbles back down.  Doh.  We saw more sheep nudibranchs (Rob's favorite), a ghost pipefish and a sea horse.  It seemed like we spent a lot of time on this dive not finding anything, but I guess overall we had some good finds.

In the afternoon, we went to Bubbles Point.  We went out and back along the wall and saw lots of slugs on it, including several new-to-us dorids.  The wall has tons of encrusting sponges.  This spot was definitely one of my favorite sites in terms of topography.  The wall is nice and it has lots of great stuff living on it.

We did a dusk Mandarin fish dive, which was a pretty long boat ride to get to.  We found a bunch of Mandarin fish, but they weren't in the mood.  We hovered in one spot for about 60 minutes staring at the coral rubble that the fish darted in an out of.  There were a couple of times I really thought they were going to come out, but it never happened.  After we finally gave up on the Mandarin fish, we saw two cuttlefish and two squid.  One of the squid was very cooperative with photos and videos.  So we ended up spending quite a bit of time with him, and that sort of made up for busting out on the Mandarin fish.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Anilao 2018: Day 4

Today was wide angle day.  It would turn out to be the one and only day that Rob shot wide angle.  We went over to Maricaban Island, a little to the right from the resort.  The spot had really nice coral formations, but the viz was chunky and it was cloudy.  This is, of course, why we didn't end up doing more wide angle days.  Apparently the bad viz is seasonal, so it would be interesting to return during a better viz time of the year (there are also certain critters that are only around other times of year).  We saw a little school of barracuda and also a lot of anthias and other tropical fish.  It was a nice dive, but just not the best conditions for photography.

Next we wnet back to Mainit, but we went more toward the point and shallower.  In this area, there were some really nice pinnacles and walls.  The viz was bad again.  It was kind of variables; there were spots where the viz was pretty good, but overall it was pretty murky.  But Rob managed to get a few keeper pics in the better viz spots.

In the afternoon, Rob switched back to macro.  We went to a spot near where we had looked for flamboyant cuttlefish yesterday, to look for pikachu nudibranchs.  The site was called "Nudibranch Safari", and has a slope down to about 70', where there is a flat muck area.  We had no luck finding Pikachus, but we found plenty of other slugs to keep us busy.  I guess it's a pretty good name for the site.

For the night, we went back to Secret Bay.  We saw three ghost pipefish immediately after descending, so it was off to a good start!  Other than that, we saw lots of tiny nudibranchs.  There was one which I thought looked kind of Aplysia-like, and when I showed it to Rob, he wasn't really sure that it was a nudibranch.  In the process of trying to inspect it, it flew off of the hydroid or whatever it was on and we almost lost it to mid-water.  But then Rob managed to get some pretty cool shots of it against the black of mid-water.  Right at the end of the dive, we found a squid, and we followed him up to the surface.

Pina colada, at last
I guess a food shipment had arrived during the day, because they finally had pineapple at the bar, so they could make me a pina colada.  So I finally got my pina colada, and confirmed that mango coladas are actually tastier than pina coladas.  I will have to put this new knowledge into use at home sometime, when it is good mango season.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Anilao 2018: Day 3

In the morning, we headed over to Maricaban Island, and spent the whole morning (including surface interval) there.  Our first dive was at Bethlehem, which has scattered reef on a downslope, which flattens out to a rubbly area around 60 or 70 feet.  We were promised we would find tiny nudibranchs on the dive, and we did indeed see lots of different ones.  Some of the coral on the way up the slope looked pretty nice too.  The reef goes all the way up to about 10'.

We spent the surface interval anchored on a little beach.  The second dive was at Kirby's Rock.  This site has a pretty sheer wall, and a little pinnacle just off of the wall (which I assume is the rock that the site is named for).  This was one of the nicest sites, in terms of pretty reef, that we went to.  The wall and the pinnacle were both very colorful, with all different colors of crinoids and tons of yellow sea cucumbers all over the wall.  There was some different colored soft coral (like they have in Fiji) as well, and lots of different colored little sea fans too.  So just lots of different colorful life all over the wall.  This site would be good for wide angle, especially when the viz is better.  We saw two frogfish on this dive, one of which was HUGE, four moray eels, a hammer crab with eggs (which Rob got an awesome picture of) and lots of different nudibranchs.  It was a great dive.

In the afternoon, we went back over to Maricaban Island for a muck dive, but this time to a dive site to the left after you cross the channel.  I'm not sure what the name of the site was.  We were looking for flamboyant cuttlefish.  Upon dropping down, we immediately found two non-flamboyant cuttlefish, which were still pretty cool, since they were the first cuttlefish we'd seen on the trip.  We also saw a mimic octopus, which was so cool!  We lost Rob for a little while during the dive; while we were able to communicate with him by tapping bolt snaps on our tanks, it took a while before we managed to actually find each other.  This should give you an idea of what the viz was like on the dive.

The night dive was another site past Secret Bay, but a little bit further down the beach than where we went last night, I think.  The theme of this dive was cephalopods.  So many cephalopods.  We saw cuttlefish, different kinds of squid, and octopus.  Yay.