After spending 10 days diving in Malapascua over Christmas, I ventured back north for some macro. Because what is a dive trip in South-East Asia without some macro? It was ultimately affected by the presence of typhoon Nina smashing the region the day before I arrived, but as I always say “you can’t control the weather!“…
I flew on Philippine Airlines from Cebu back to Manila after my visit to Malapascua for another week or so at Anilao. Had a 30kg baggage allowance the entire trip because my domestic flights were on the same ticket as my international flights and the international baggage allowance carried through.
This was somewhat chaotic as I was scheduled to fly in the middle of the typhoon. My 10.30am flight became a 12.20pm flight, then a 2.30pm flight, then a 5pm flight…We boarded at 5.15pm, then sat on the plane (full of agitated kids and babies) on the tarmac until 7.30pm in Cebu waiting for takeoff clearance for Manila. We got to Manila around 8.30pm, then sat on the tarmac until just after 11.30pm waiting for a gate so we could get off the plane (did I mention the number of irritable kids and babies on board? Including the two 9-10 year old kids in the row behind me chanting “we want out!” non-stop for 2 hours). Luggage then took another hour. Then I had to get to Anilao…In the end the driver picked me up at the airport and the resort had arranged a hotel for me in Batangas somewhere for the night. Got picked up at 10am and driven to the resort. In the end, the travel delays meant I only missed 2 dives – it could have been worse. I’d been in constant communication with the resort on my phone the entire time, so they knew what was going on and had made all the arrangements with the transfer driver and the hotel in Batangas.
My flight home was a red eye that left Manila at 11pm, so I didn’t have to leave Anilao until 4pm. The flight left late from Manila, and I missed my connecting domestic flight in Cairns, but I just ended up getting on the next Qantas flight home, so no real dramas.
I’d booked a week of diving at Buceo Anilao because they offered a good deal for single divers. There’s this weird setup in Anilao where (generally) you have to pay for your own boat, which makes things financially difficult if you’re there on your own (or just with your partner) and don’t have a big enough group to split the costs. However there’s 2 resorts there that operate their own boats on a share basis – like just about everywhere else on the planet – and Buceo Anilao is one of them. It seems to be a weird Anilao anomaly, I don’t know what it’s about (aside from the obvious: $$$).
As mentioned above, the Batangas region got hit pretty badly by the typhoon, so this did affect resort operations a little bit. Their power was knocked out, however they did have backup generators – which they basically ran from about lunchtime and overnight (giving them a rest in the morning when we were all out diving) for the first 4-5 days I was there, after which it was back to regular 24/7 supply. This wasn’t a problem, even with charging all the gadgets I own – and they communicated the situation very clearly so there were no misunderstandings and we could prepare to charge gadgets accordingly. Wifi was obviously at the whim of the electricity supply, as was the airconditioning. But again, it was working when we primarily wanted it to work – at night after we’d finished diving. Otherwise, the rooms were nice and comfortable. Plenty of hot water, plenty of powerpoints, comfortable beds…Food was ok, a bit generic though (burgers, pasta, adobo) – same as everywhere else I’d eaten in the Philippines on this trip to be honest. There’s a few veg*n things on the menu. Breakfast was included in the price and lunch and dinner were a la carte. There isn’t really anywhere else close by to go eat out though, so you more or less end up eating at the resort for every meal.
The diving was also predictably affected by the typhoon. The sunset mandarin fish dives were suspended temporarily, as the dive site they used for it was shallow and was heavily smashed. Towards the end of my stay, they agreed to take me to go for a dive there because they knew I wanted to go – with the warning that it may not be any good anymore. In effect, I was the resort’s guinea pig for checking the mandarin fish dive site post-typhoon – they’re still there, if not a bit more skittish than one might expect 🙂 A number of other dive sites were off the cards for similar typhoon related damage reasons (like the freighter ship that ran aground right around the corner and landed on top of a dive site…oops).
Anyway, physical damage to the dive sites aside, the diving was pretty good considering the circumstances. I came to Anilao after having spent most of my muck diving holidays in Indonesia and Milne Bay in PNG. I’d previously been to Puerto Galera too, so going to Anilao just seemed logical at some point. It didn’t have quite the same degree of diversity as somewhere like Lembeh or Ambon, but what it did have was good. I was happily impressed with the photo opportunities that Anilao had to offer. I think it likely that the typhoon washed away a considerable number of critters (something the dive guides also mentioned), so please take this comment regarding the diversity with that in mind. There were a lot of comments like “oh, the resident is no longer at that dive site” between the different guides on different boats during surface intervals at different sites, things like pygmy seahorses being washed away and whatnot. I can only imagine how much better it could have been if the timing of my trip was a few weeks earlier. That’s the way these things go though, we can’t control the weather – and really, it’s just an excuse to go back once the critters resettle and the sites recover a bit 🙂 Because unlike Malapascua, I actually enjoyed the diving in Anilao well enough (even with the typhoon-related issues), to return in the future.
The current could be a bit strong at times (we called one dive because it was so bad it was effectively a whiteout – couldn’t see my hand in front of my face). Water temps were around 26 ± 1C according to my computer, and I was happy that I’d packed my 5mm as it actually felt colder than my computer technically said it was. A lot of guests were in 3mm suits, and more than a few were regularly complaining about being cold. Those who had the forethought to bring hooded vests with them ended up using them underneath. The guides were in at least 5mm and all had hoods. Viz was highly variable, but I’d say 5-7m on average – again, I’m in no doubt it’d be better if I hadn’t arrived there literally the day after the typhoon hit.
The photography was obviously affected by the typhoon as well. Viz wasn’t great, and the critter life was a bit depleted. Still, I consider it a reasonable effort under the circumstances.