Dive and Snorkel adventure
From Korea you can fly to Philippines and back for around 300 dollars ! And as we are leaving Korea at the end of 2009 it was a matter of now or never. Well, in fact it was a matter of Paula picking the last destination and me being in need of some diving!! Whatever the reason, on November 12th we jumped on a flight to Cebu, arriving at midnight. We had booked a hotel and airport pickup, even though we normally don't have too much luck with airport pickup. This time was no different as our driver didn't turn up. But getting a taxi was no problem and the hotel had a room reserved for us, so who cares ?
Next morning we went on a quick supermarket run. Marilyn had promised Paula that there would be avocados all over and she couldn't wait to put her teeth into one. Unfortunately there seems to be a different avocado season in Cebu than in Manila, because while Marilyn was eating avocados in Manila, we couldn't find any where we were! Paula was a trickle (?!) disappointed. At this point she only had the tequila margaritas to look forward to. I think she was dreading this vacation!
Our first destination was Peter's Dive Resort (what else?!) in Padre Burgos on the island Leyte. To get there we went on a 4 hour ferry ride followed by an hour and a half in a private transfer from the dive centre. Padre Burgos isn't really on the tourist trail (thankfully) and we were to find that facilities for the tourist were somewhat limited. There are 3 dive resorts (that is, dive centers with hotel and restaurant) and one up-market hotel in the area. But that is the lure of the place. It's very local. The dive center turned out to be really nice - comfortable huts on the beach, great staff, good food and excellent diving/snorkeling. I did three days of diving there, including one whaleshark tour. The diving is very pristine there with very colorful fish and reef. It's been a long time since I have seen such healthy coral reefs .... After my previous dive trips to Palau, Australia and French Polynesia, it was nice to get back to basics - the small stuff and healthy reefs.
Arriving at Leyte Island
I love blennies - they are so cool!
The view from our room
.... right on the beach
The whaleshark tour started early in the morning. We had to cross the bay to a small hamlet where the inhabitants had put the whaleshark industry into an organized manner. We paid our fees and then the spotters took over. We cruised up and down the coast for over three hours but unfortunately the whalesharks eluded us. Instead we had two dives and a snorkel, so the money wasn't wasted!
Where have the blo*** whalesharks gone ?!?!?!
No whalesharks, so we just went for a swim instead (and a few dives)
When I wasn't diving we hung out at the pool or went to town (?) to walk a bit around. It's so easy to get around in the Philippines - just hail a motorized tricycle, pay a few cents and you are on your way. One day we went to see an orphanage in the village. In the restaurant we had met Jurgen who had dedicated the last 25 years of his life to the unfortunate children of Southern Leyte. He had quit his job in Germany, collected donations from his former co-workers and pretty much single-handedly built up a Children's Village, where he and his staff were housing orphans, abused and other unfortunate children. Unfortunately Jurgen wasn't there when we went - he was in town in relation to one of his other projects - but his staff was very helpful and gave us a good tour of the location. It is amazing what they are able to give these children. It didn't take Paula and me long to decide that we didn't really need any X-mas presents this year ... somebody needs it more than us!
From the Children's Village
Our own little adopted fellar - Gloria
We met some really nice people at Peter's. When you stay at a place like that you are very dependent on the other guests. The first few days we were a bit alone in the resort. There were James and Norman whom I dived with, but they didn't stay at the hotel, so we didn't get to know them all that well. The other guests kept a little more to themselves,then we met Stewart, Yuri and Peter and the last day we met Jesse and Jessica. They came with us to the Children's Village and although we only coincided at Peter's for a day or two, we got along really well. When we left it was in the company of Stewart and his two sons, Peter and Yuri. We had been unable to make up our minds regarding what to do with the last four days of our time in the country, but in the end we decided to go to Bohol - the next island over and on the route back to Cebu. Stewart,Yuri and Peder were heading the same way so we joined in.
Jessica and Jesse from California had left the surfboards on Mindanao and come over for a few days
Stewart, Yuri and Peter ... and my feet - Island style!!!
Traveling in the Philippines is fairly easy though very time consuming. It took us all day to get to Panglao Island on the east coast of Bohol. First a transfer, then a ferry ride, a bus ride and a tricycle. The bus seemed to make the complete tour of Bohol island - Stewart was trying to make sense of the route as we went along, but I think even he got confused after a while. But the main thing is that we got there in the end. In the rain.
Peter had just seen his first flying fish. Before that he thought we were pulling his leg!
Finding a hotel was a bit of an adventure. Stewart reckoned that he knew a few good places, but they weren't actually all that great (if you consider the bull**** you had to go through just to be told that they didn't actually have a room with three beds, even though they had started off claiming that they did). We only needed a room with two beds, so we were OK. Just didn't like the attitude of the hotel owner, so we just stayed one night before finding a friendlier place.
Next day we rented a private outrigger together and sailed over to Balicasag Island - famous for it's diving and snorkeling. They were very keen on snorkeling and when the snorkeling is good, I don't really miss the diving. And the snorkeling at Balicasag is very good. There is a fine wall starting right at the surface, so the fish and corals are never too far away. We spent all day in the water - Yuri actually got a bit worried when Stewart still wasn't out of the water after two and a half hours. In fact he was nowhere to be found ! But he eventually surfaced with a huge grin on his face ... he had found a good spot for fish watching!
A shoal of trevalle
Next day we rented motorbikes and went around on the island, stopping at beaches to snorkel. The reef is always close by, so it's just a matter of swimming out from the beach somewhere. Yuri and I even went night snorkeling off Alona beach, which was particularly good. That night we saw sea snake, octopus, cuttlefish (catching a fish), phosphorescent, decorator crab, moray, catfish etc. Peter was really bummed that he had been too tired to go !
At our favorite (German !) restaurant
Yuri and Peter on the bike - a bit shaky at the start but they soon got the hang of it!
At one of the beautiful beaches
Trying to be serious for a moment ..... it was hard for them !
Last day at Alona Beach Paula and I just chilled out, walked the beach and had drinks and dinner on the beach.
So did we find any Tequila Margaritas, I hear you ask ??!! Well, at Peter's there weren't any, but at Alona Beach I think you could find pretty much anything you'd want (well, not fresh avocados but we did have an avocado shake).
Below you can find a slideshow from our trip: