Dive 292: Camp Cove, Watsons Bay (NSW)

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Dive time: 00:47:00
Max depth: 5.8 metres
Temperature: 22 C
Visibility: 5 metres
Buddy: Lisa Godden

It has been almost two years since my last shore dive in Sydney. In that time I’ve dived in Thailand and the Philippines, forgetting that we have such easy and accessible diving right in our own city. Especially if you have all your own gear, it’s a matter of driving to the designated site, getting geared up, and just walking in off the beach or diving in off rocks!

Today’s dive at Camp Cove was the first Sydney dive in a while for myself and Lisa, and the first time in a long time that we’d dived together. Thankfully we arrived before 9am to score a parking spot in the car park because it quickly filled up. After minor mishaps for us both with our gear (I must remember to keep an allen key in my kit!), we waded off the beach into the water.

We swam across the sandy bottom and patches of sea grass, spotting a very cute little baby cuttlefish along the way, before we came across the reef. The reef is a series of long wedges of rock jutting up from the sand about a metre high. We saw a common stingray, a few big toadfish, red goatfish, large red morwong, a fat chromodoris nudibranch, quite a few small silver bream, schools of eastern pomfrets, mado, cute juvenile leather jacket, and a green moray eel that came out for a swim. I almost landed on top of a scorpionfish when I saw a boat going overhead and attempted to flatten myself on the bottom.

My mask kept fogging up, which meant that I was leaking water in it every 5 minutes to swish it around before having to clear it. We popped up inside the northern sea wall but a bit too early, so swam around the old Sydney Water Police wharf back to the beach. It was a nice relaxing dive and it felt great just to get back in the water.

Fun in the Filipino sun

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For many years, I’d heard of the great diving in the Philippines – beautiful reefs, lots of fish, and loads of historical wrecks.  I recently managed to get there to experience it for myself, along with my brother, his girlfriend, and our mate Steve.

We went to the dive centre of Puerto Galera, which was a 2 hour drive from Manila airport to the port town of Batangas and then a 1 hour ride on a bangka boat to La Laguna beach in Puerto Galera.  We arrived at our amazing resort, Out of the Blue, where we had a villa right at the top of the hill that had great views over Sabang Bay.

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We didn’t dive on our first day there, but took the opportunity to unwind with cheap beers, mangoes, and massages.  One thing I didn’t expect was the number of older, foreign men with young, pretty Filipino women.  Call me naive but I had thought that this was a dive destination, not a seedy, girlie destination!

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Thankfully, the diving was fantastic and it was well worth the trek here.  The diving was relatively easy here, with mild currents at most, but the reefs were colourful and teeming with fish.  We even saw a few turtles!

divers on a boat

On our last day in Puerto Galera, we took a day trip around the island in our own private jeepney, one of the flash buses common to the Philippines that were former US military vehicles.  We went to check out the stunning views from the mountaintop Ponderosa golf club, White Beach, and a lunch at Tamaraw Falls.

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After we’d had our fill of diving, we island-hopped to the premier beach holiday destination of Boracay.  I usually find top rated beach destinations a disappointment whenever I go on holidays because we simply have amazing beaches in Australia, but this was one beach that definitely lived up to the hype.  Walking across the beaches of Boracay is like a heavenly dip in powdery, silky soft talcum powder, and the water is a beautiful turquoise blue.

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Boracay is a fun holiday destination, with loads of restaurants and bars, sunset sailing, and checking out the local seafood markets.  We had one night out on the town with a pub crawl group, where we met lots of great fellow party people from the Philippines, the US, Saudi Arabia, and a few other Aussies too.

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For great diving and beaching, and a cheap Asian holiday destination, I would definitely recommend the Philippines.  It’s a laid back country with friendly locals, and has the advantage of being an Asian country where English is widely spoken. I’m looking forward to heading back to the Philippines sometime to check out more of the country’s spectacular diving and beaches.

Dive 291: West Escarceo to Hole In The Wall, Puerto Galera (Philippines)

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Dive time: 00:47:00
Max depth: 18.9 metres
Temperature: 27 C
Visibility: 20 metres
Buddy: Steve
Surface interval: 17:23:00

This was our last dive in Puerto Galera and it was a fantastic summary of everything we’d seen here. Beautiful reef with abundant fish life. As soon as we descended, we saw a green turtle, which started swimming off into the blue. Our dive guide Huw also showed us an electric clam hiding under an overhang, which had bright red tentacles and sparkled with blue electricity like a disco ball.

We also saw a mantis shrimp scurrying around the reef, a white eyed moray, two fat jorunna funebris nudibranchs, a batfish, trevally, baby lion fish, a couple of clown triggerfish, and a chromodoris annae nudibranch.

The beginning of the dive was a bit painful since I found it difficult to equalise my left ear but it got better as the dive went on.

Dive 290: Sabang Point to Monkey Beach, Puerto Galera (Philippines)

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Dive time: 00:46:00
Max depth: 22.3 metres
Temperature: 28 C
Visibility: 20 metres
Buddy: Alan and Angela
Surface interval: 02:13:00

Another relaxing reef dive, where we drifted along the reef from Sabang Point back to Monkey Beach. Sadly we didn’t see the turtle in the same spot as we did yesterday, however we did see lots of fish life on the reef, including a pretty juvenile sweet lip, a ball of cat fish, many cleaner shrimp, a white eyed moray eel, giant pipefish bobbing its head up and down from the sand, lion fish, a clown triggerfish, and a few big trevally.

Dive 289: Sabang wrecks, Puerto Galera (Philippines)

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Dive time: 00:46:00
Max depth: 19.8 metres
Temperature: 29 C
Visibility: 20 metres
Buddy: Steve
Surface interval: 02:10:00

This dive was pretty much right out in front of the dive shop in Sabang Bay. There were three small wrecks, including a pretty intact yacht. The wrecks had a fair bit of coral and sponge growth, and lots of fish calling them home. We saw a lion fish, a very cool mantis shrimp, 4 razor fish pretending that they were some sort of sea grass, a school of bat fish, and a moray eel with many cleaner shrimp as company in the engine block of one of the wrecks.

Dive 288: Kilima Bay, Puerto Galera (Philippines)

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Dive time: 00:43:00
Max depth: 21.6 metres
Temperature: 29 C
Visibility: 25 metres
Buddy: Steve
Surface interval: 17:41:00

Our second day of diving here and it was another beautiful reef dive. We saw a turtle on the reef, happily letting us come up close. We also saw a couple of sweet lips, trumpetfish, lots of anemone fish, nudibranchs.

Dive 287: Alma Jane, Puerto Galera (Philippines)

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Dive time: 00:28:00
Max depth: 29.9 metres
Temperature: 29 C
Visibility: 20 metres
Buddy: Steve
Surface interval: 02:03:00

The Alma Jane was a small cargo ship, which was scuttled right in front of Small La Laguna beach, where we are staying. The wreck sits in 30 metres of water with a line going straight from the surface to the stern.

The visibility was not as good as the previous dives but still decent. We swam around the wreck at first and saw lots of growth on the hull, and a few groupers sitting under the bow. I could see the rudder was still intact but didn’t see the propellor. There was a big school of batfish at the bow, all facing into the mild current, and quite a few batfish on the deck amongst the steel beams.

Our dive guide Huw pointed out three different coloured frog fishes, which was good because I’m never able to spot them. Steve and I also swam through the cargo hold.

The dive was relatively short since Huw and I had already done two dives already today and I came within 5 minutes of deco. Shared my air with Steve just before we came up the line since he had 60 bar and I had 100 bar while we were still at 25 metres depth.

Dive 286: Monkey Beach, Puerto Galera (Philippines)

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Dive time: 00:47:00
Max depth: 21.3 metres
Temperature: 29 C
Visibility: 20 metres
Buddy: Alan, Angela
Surface interval: 02:15:00

Steve sat out this dive, and what a mistake! We saw a huge Hawksbill turtle on the sandy bottom of the reef, munching away happily while we were watching it. After a couple of minutes being the centre of attention, the turtle swam off up to the surface.

Another nice relaxing dive, drifting along to a mild current. We saw trumpet fish, anemone fish, a couple of banner fish out in the blue, a marbled grouper, a blue and yellow grouper, a few parrotfish, and juvenile banner fish. The reef was covered in lots of hard and soft corals, as well as whips, fans and feather stars. We even saw a little feather star swimming, looking very funny like an octopus having a seizure.

Dive 285: Sinandegan, Puerto Galera (Philippines)

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Dive time: 00:36:00
Max depth: 20.4 metres
Temperature: 30 C
Visibility: 20 metres
Buddy: Steve

This was our first dive in Puerto Galera on a trip to the Philippines with my brother Alan, his girlfriend Angela and our schoolfriend Steve. It was only a short boat ride out from the beach in the banca to the dive site. After a backward roll off the boat, we descended onto a reef in a little bay. I think it had been too long between dives for me since my gear was so dry and so full of air bubbles that it was a bit of a struggle to get down from the surface.

I was diving with Angela’s new GoPro to test it out for her since she didn’t yet feel confident enough to concentrate on filming while diving.

The site was a gentle slope from 4m down to around 20m, where we found a fair bit of current. So we drifted along the reef with the current, very relaxing, although I was hoping the others weren’t freaking out too much.

We saw a banded sea snake, nudibranchs, moorish idols, spotted sweet lips, humbugs, anemone fish, and generally lots of fish life.

Dive 284: The Apartments, Long Reef

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Dive time: 00:47:00
Max depth: 23.8 metres
Temperature: 17 C
Visibility: 10 metres
Buddy: Caro

This dive was organised by Steve and his mate Greg on our own private charter with Herb.  It was my first dive in Sydney since the one with Steve back in March.

We motored out to Long Reef and jumped into the water.  Even with my hood on I could feel the water was freezing cold.  I spent most of the dive mulling over whether I could bear doing a second dive in this ice cold water.

The reef was mostly big granite boulders with kelp on top.  We saw quite a few blue groupers (male and female), big schools of eastern pomfrets, old wives, striped wrasse, a large Sargent Baker and leatherjacket.

I felt a bit overweighted for the dive.  I sank like a stone when I first descended and had to pump a fair bit of air during the dive to stay neutral.  Must remember next time not to use 4 weights!

In the end I decided not to do the second dive, and just enjoyed the surface interval where we putted around whale spotting, and even saw two baby humpbacks performing full breaches.  Amazing!