It had been 3 years since my last visit to the Philippines and I was itching to get in the water and revisit some of the spectacular critter sites along the coast of Dauin, Negros Island. Having spent 8 months in the region during my time as Cruise Director on the Philippine Siren in 2009/2010, I was keen to return and see for myself how the sites had changed and perhaps spot a few new critters along the way.
Not looking for a bus-man’s holiday, Thomas and I opted for a shore-based vacation at Atmosphere Resorts & Spa rather than joining a liveaboard trip. The resort has an amazing set up and from the first moment we were welcomed by all and felt immediately at home. Our apartment was luxurious and nicely secluded, the dive centre is very well thought out and the guides are top-notch, new additions since my last visit were the Sanctuary Spa and Yoga Hut – which made a welcome addition to the holiday – Anna certainly had healing hands for the post-dive relaxation.
Upon the advice of our guides Arjay & Lor our first dive was to be at Pyramids; an artificial reef made up of metallic pyramid shaped structures which are encrusted with corals and sponges. This was a new site for me and I was pleasantly surprised how much growth there was considering the short space of time since the site was created. Within minutes Arjay was gesticulating at a tiny devil scorpionfish and the macro critters just kept on coming; tiny painted frogfish, candy crabs, thorny seahorse, sawblade shrimps, ornate ghost pipefish were just a few of the finds during the dive. My favourite spot had to be the crinoid shrimp which was nestled within its home and very well camouflaged.
For our second dive we chose a shore entry to explore the Atmosphere House Reef; another critter haven. We were surprised by the number of sea snakes spotted during the dive- thankfully for me they were rather lazy and allowed us to approach. Not a lover of snakes I am however fascinated by sea snakes so it was great to be able to get up close to them. Other finds during the dive were leaf fish and many species of my beloved nudibranchs. Yes I am a self-confessed nudi geek! So once one was pointed out I could think of little else. The house reef, whilst a gentle sloping sand & coral garden also benefits from several sunken structures which have sponge and coral growths providing a perfect haven for numerous molluscs. A Nembrotha Cristata happily posed for photos and I was able to get some shots showing its rearing action.
Another dive highlight was Masapolod, where once again I was off nudi spotting – with several species being found including some rather amorous Nembrotha Chamberlani. More leaf fish and an elusive crab eyed goby were all pointed out by Lor, along with a hairy squat lobster ticked right into the folds of a barrel sponge.
With some great dives and several frozen margarita cocktails under our belts we bid farewell to the Atmosphere team for our return to cebu. Bringing our Aqua Lung travel gear we were able to save on luggage space which is a real benefit when flying with Cebu Pacific Airlines – the bag fitted neatly into the overhead locker and we didn’t have to pay excess. Fly to Dumaguete with Cebu Pacific Airlines or Philippine Airlines.
There are numerous resorts to choose from along the Dauin Coast all offering superb critter dives and Apo Island trips as well as trips to see whale sharks in Oslob. The Philippine Siren also combines diving in Dauin & Apo Island with dives at Moalboal, Cabilao & Bohol, for those who wish to take the liveaboard option.
We recommend diving with:-
Siren Fleet www.sirenfleet.com
Atmosphere Resorts http://atmosphereresorts.com
Amontillado Resort http://www.amontilladoresort.com
Liquid Diving http://www.liquiddumaguete.com