diving in the Philippines and then California

oh yeah — I landed…

Tomorrow I will have been in the US for one week. I forgot to mention this to you all. Truth be told, I didn’t forget as much as I was really tired when I got back and didn’t much feel like sitting and typing. This same feeling has had a negative effect on my ability to start working again…

But let’s not talk about work. I have much to tell you about diving, both in Mindanao and in California.

Diving Ligid Island

So the last week I was in Davao I was consumed with diving. John said they were doing a dive to Ligid (sp?) island and suggested that I join the group. When I arrived at the shop, no one from the group was there. I thought it strange that everyone would be late, and asked John about it. At that point I learned that they were actually all in one family and that they had chartered the boat for themselves. This was (of course) after I had told another guy whose class dive had been cancelled due to bad visibility near the wreck he was scheduled to explore. We did end up crashing their dive, which they didn’t mind at all. It was fun to be with a group of real divers. (In contrast to accompanying friends on “discover dives” or diving with friends who have limited amounts of experience).

Ligid Island is on the northeast side of Samal (the biggest island in the gulf). 80% of the shoreline is basically rock which juts directly out of the water, making for a cool dive site which started at about 30 feet and dropped to 90 or so at places. First we explored Ligid’s caves — which I was very excited about, being as I was looking for a new challenge and hadn’t done much cave diving. In actual fact, the caves were very small and posed no particular challenge. Still, they were really cool to see. It’s pretty wild to be under a roof of corals.

After lunch and a little surface time napping on the white sand beach of a little cove, we headed over to Pinnacle Point for a pretty challenging dive. The currents there are strong, with a couple of them crashing together, creating a downward current which had the odd effect of making our bubbles go down away from the surface in some areas. We dove in one direction which was initially with the current, then switched to against the current without changing our direction when we hit the meeting point. After a little while struggling with that, we reversed direction to ride the current, floated around in the current crash point for a little while and then surfaced. This area is really alive and fun to dive, although the constant water movement definitely limits visibility. We could see maybe 30-40 feet at most at any time (remember this when you read about Monterey later!). We heard that some divers have seen reef sharks there, but didn’t see any on this dive. (darnit!)

Diving Coral Garden

Ahhhh…. Coral Garden. It’s on Talikud Island, near Babusanta, a lovely white sand beach resort. This is the dive site I know better than any other, since I’ve done at least 30 and perhaps as many as 50 dives there. When I left, my buddies at Whitetip Divers were talking to folks about making it a marine sanctuary so I was extra excited about going out there to see what it looked like now. Well, the sanctuary conversations are still in process 4 years later and not much movement has happened there. I was actually quite sad when I came up from our dive because, while there was still an abundance of fish there, much of the coral was dead and the water was more full of silt than I remembered. However, it didn’t look like damage from dynamite fishing and there wasn’t enough development on the island to cause erosion or fertilizer pollution in the water. I asked Rowell, the divemaster, about it and he said that the area suffered during El Nino. I’m not fully sure how, but something about the months without rain followed by months of nothing but rain suffocated much of the coral and it’s still trying to recover. The change was dramatic and took me by surprise. Not all the coral was dead, however, and I’m hopeful that a full recovery will happen. At some point I’ll scan the photos I took last time I was there so you can see what the place can be.

After Coral Garden, we did a little beach entry dive from Babusanta which was mostly uneventful except for a stumbling across a favorite hangout for lionfish. I’ve never seen such a large cluster of them before. I was with a fairly novice diver who thankfully did not try to touch them — on the surface we discovered that he had no idea that they were so poisonous. We also saw quite a number of blowfish there. A fun simple dive overall.

Diving Carmel

Back in the U.S. Getting here was uneventful and my last week was filled with naps and trying to unpack and catch up with work. Not much interesting to tell you all there.

Yesterday, however, I went diving in Monterey. Actually, we went around to Pinnacles off Carmel and then to another unnamed dive site on our way back to Monterey. I confess that the last time I went diving in Monterey, I loved simply being underwater, but didn’t fully understand the point of trying to dive in an area that was sooooooo cold and where visibility was sooooo bad (around 5-10 feet). Well yesterday, we had 2 great dives, with great visibilty, about 35 feet (it’s all about perspective!). We saw all kinds of crazy things, including some solo and some colonial salp (like the salp chains pictured here), lots and lots of fish of all sizes, much healthy coral, cool anemones, and all kinds weird and wacky things that I can’t name. From the boat, divers spotted an 18-foot long salp chain, a grey whale, and a number of otters and seals. Once again, my “dry suit” did not keep my dry (that’s 4 failures on 4 tries), but I’m told that I would have stayed warmer if it did. I may try again, or may go for a thick wetsuit next time instead. No matter, I’m always happy underwater, and I had a great time. I will dive Monterey again.

That’s the update for now. I’m back stateside and happily out swing and salsa dancing again. More on my local adventures in the future.

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