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

Standard

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 288: Kilima Bay, Puerto Galera (Philippines)

Standard

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 286: Monkey Beach, Puerto Galera (Philippines)

Standard

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 269: Pinnacles, Similan Island #9 (Thailand)

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Dive time: 00:55:00
Max depth: 32.6 metres
Temperature: 28 C
Visibility: 25 metres
Buddy: Axl
Surface interval: 03:02:00

The swell was still tossing the boat around as we jumped in. We descended on some large rocky outcrops with a few gutters that had large fan corals, barrel sponges and plate corals on top. We ended up a bit deeper than originally planned, and I spent a fair bit of the dive coming quite close to the NDL.

The site had some absolutely enormous boulders, including one that just looked like the hull of a ship with a pointy end rising out like the bow. Really majestic and awe-inspiring. There wasn’t much growth on the big boulders save for the occasional small fan or green tube coral but there were quite a few parrotfish or angelfish looking for snacks.

We saw a couple of hawksbill turtles on the dive, one was near the the bottom of a mooring, persistently trying to crack some sort of crustacean that was stuck on a rock. Towards the end of the dive on massive beds of dead coral was another turtle that looked like it was eating a crab, with a few angelfish waiting for scraps.

I also saw a giant moray eel, a couple of giant trevally, a couple of lionfish, Kuhl’s stingray, a pair of clown triggerfish, and blue faced angelfish.

 

Dive 266: Shark Fin Reef, Similan Island #3 (Thailand)

Standard

Dive time: 00:54:00
Max depth: 28.0 metres
Temperature: 28 C
Visibility: 30 metres
Buddy: Axl
Surface interval: 03:01:00

My first buddy Edwin had issues equalising so I was turfed to the other group of divers with Axl as the dive guide and two other guys. The site was one massive rock that gently sloped upwards, with a few squeezy but nice swimthroughs, including one with some fans that I thought I was going to tear through (luckily I didn’t!). A really nice cruisy and relaxing dive with lots of green tube coral, fans, whip corals and anemones. There was a bit of a current in the middle of the dive so it was even a chilled out drift dive.

I saw some three-spot angelfish, parrotfish, moorish idols, schooling bannerfish, a massive round batfish, a giant triggerfish, a small hawksbill turtle asleep in a hole, white spotted boxfishes, about 4-5 barracuda near the surface, 3 giant trevally, oriental sweetlips, a billion fusiliers, and spotted unicornfish.

 

Dive 220: Punta Sur, Cozumel (Mexico)

Standard

Dive time: 00:54:00
Max depth: 33.5 metres
Temperature: 28 C
Visibility: 25 metres
Buddy: Sandy

What a way to bring in the 30s! Punta Sur is supposed to be one of the best dive spots in Cozumel and we had a fun dive going through some nice swim throughs, including one called The Cathedral since it had a high, pointed opening.

Lots of rocky outcrops with so much growth, soft sponges, hard and soft corals, loads of huge emperor angelfish and grey angelfish, small groupers, hunting barracuda, parrotfish, a turtle, and right at the end on the ascent, we saw a spotted eagle ray on the bottom.

We had a group that was pretty good on air so ended up racking up 8 minutes of deco. Great dive!

Dive 192: East Rock, Pulau Si Amil (Malaysia)

Standard

Dive time:  00:45:00
Max depth:  27.1 metres
Temperature:  29 C
Visibility:  10 metres
Buddy:  Jose
Surface interval:  14:08:00

Back in Si Amil today and another great dive with lots of critters about.  Our DM, Alvin, was searching for pygmy sea horses on the gorgonian fans but unfortunately we didn’t find any on this dive.  However, we did see a leaf fish, cute little shrimp, nudibranchs, a couple of lion fish, including a juvenile that was about 5cm long (cute!), and a variety of eels including a massive moray eel, spotted garden eels poking their heads out of the sand, a blue ribbon eel, and an even smaller juvenile moray that was probably only around 20cm long.

Just as we were up at the top of the reef to do our safety stop, Jose saw a small turtle just hanging out.  It was just happily chilling out at around 10m and seemed oblivious to Jose’s paparazzi flashes.  Alvin mentioned after the dive that it was quite rare to see turtles around Si Amil so we were very lucky indeed to have a turtle sighting!

The diving here on Si Amil reminds me a bit of Sydney diving, with rocky outcrops with decent growth on them, but the amount of life here is just spectacular.  Truly a macro photographer’s paradise!

Dive 185: Hanging Gardens, Pulau Sipadan (Malaysia)

Standard

Dive time:  00:49:00
Max depth:  21.3 metres
Temperature:  29 C
Visibility:  15 metres
Buddy:  Ralston
Surface interval:  01:14:00

Filling in as a last minute replacement for the Sipadan trip backfired on me for this dive as there was no second DIN tank for my second dive.  However, one of the DMs was kind enough to lend me his BCD and regs for the dive.

As soon as we dropped into the water, we spotted turtles everywhere – beside us after having come up for air, beneath us swimming along the reef, and along the wall with heads hidden in holes. At one stage of the dive, we saw three turtles resting in one small alcove section of the wall!  The highlight though, was a large turtle perched on a rock, facing out into the blue, and using the rock as a scratching post!  It wasn’t fazed at all by the paparazzi flashes, or by me coming face to face and eyeballing it less than a metre away.  It just kept scratching away!

This site seemed to be much prettier than I remember it from the first day here, with the wall being covered in lacy fans and corals – just spectacularly colourful.

Along with some patrolling barracuda, I spotted a green moray eel that was out swimming along the reef, hunting for food.  Not your usual encounter with an eel during the day!

Dive 182: Midreef, Pulau Sipadan (Malaysia)

Standard

Dive time:  00:49:00
Max depth:  17.7 metres
Temperature:  29 C
Visibility:  15 metres
Buddy:  Dhon
Surface interval:  01:19:00

I was excited to be heading back to Midreef after a stunning dive yesterday and today’s dive was no disappointment despite the poorer visibility.

This site is just stunning with all its beautiful hard and soft corals, and huge gorgonian fans – it’s like swimming around a rich person’s exotic sea garden!

Along with the usual reef fish that we’ve been seeing here at Sipadan (and the first giant clam of the trip!), this dive was just completely memorable for the “oh WOW”-moments.  Only 4 minutes into the dive at around 5 metres, we saw a school of around 15 bumpheaded parrot fish that cruised by us with their big ugly teeth bared – up until now we’d only seen the lone one cruising by so this was just so cool.

We descended deeper and swam along the wall, and at around 14m I rolled over to look back up to the top of the wall and the surface and just saw an ENORMOUS school of barracuda circling right above us up at around 5m!  Dhon had just turned around to point out yet another turtle right ahead when I pointed up to the barracuda.  He was clearly impressed as he banged his tank and got everyone to swim back up towards the top of the wall.  The school of barracuda probably numbered around 400 fish (although my poor estimating skills mean that I’m probably out by quite a few hundred fish!), and they were circling so tightly that they pretty much blocked out the sun!  Amazing!

Then back at around 9m or so, I was cruising by checking out the wall when I noticed a girl in the group gesturing right past me to her buddy.  I turned around and there was a turtle cruising right next to me, only around 2m away!

Stunning dive.  This site has to be my favourite at Sipadan so far – just 2 out of 2 awesome dives here.