Saturday, February 4, 2017

Mabini Day 1

We flew from Israel to the Philippines through Seoul. The first leg was 10 hrs, than 4hrs connection in Seoul, and then another 4hrs leg to Manila. We left Israel at 10pm and arrived in Manila at 10pm (local time). Most of the group was flying with us, except for two (Hagai and Gal) who arrived few hours before via another flight, and Omer who was supposed to land about the same time as us. Collecting everyone took much longer than expected, and so we set on our way at around midnight.

Two vans collected us and drove us to our destination, which was another 3hrs, and for some reason we stopped twice to resupply along the way. After all of this, we got to our rooms around 4am.

I woke up a bit after 7. Going outside I could finally see where we are. The whole village is built s built on the slopes of a hill rising out of the water.

I set to construct the camera and check all the components. This took almost an hour. By that time most of the others were awake. After breakfast we sorted our equipment, checked that everyone was fully geared and finally got on our way.

The diving boats here are relatively small.  They are similar to the ones we had in Moalboal last year – a thin body with two outriders made of bamboo.  We divided between two similar boats. 

Ayelet and me joined the "family boat", with three couples of parent/child - Iftach and Noa, Hagai and Gal, and Boaz and Naim. Naim arrived sick, and so did not join us for many of the dives. 

The other (slightly smaller) boat hosted the rest of our group - Ofer (our fearless leader), Meytal, Daphna, Omer, Avishai and Emanuel. 

On the boat we had a chance to chat with our divemaster, Abbet. With him on the same boat were three youngsters – Jim, Jules, and Jonathan (the three Js). Abbet said that he is diving for 38 years, almost everyday.

The first dive site was around the corner from an elongated island across the bay. Crossing the bay we got sprayed by the waves. But in all in it was pleasant to finally have some wind and smell the sea.

Dive #1 – Layag Layag

I was the first to roll off from our boat. The water below was clear and I could see a gentle slope with colorful outcrops of rock.

I later learned that there was a complication on the boat, Noa’s fin straps tore when she was putting them on. So it took a while to find a solution. In the end, Noa dove with Abbet’s fins, and he dove with Noa's single fin. 
Abbet diving with a single fin. He also was a believer in a minimal diving suit
Cardinal fish, probably keep eggs in his mouth
Popcorn shrimp
Anemone and a Clownfish
Sponge decorated by sea-lilies and small sea cucumbers

There was a noticeable current, and most of the dive we drifted along the slope of the reef.
Fairly early my camera stopped working (dead battery), and so there are few photographs. We saw multitude of sea lilies and many small fish.

Dive statistics: Depth 18.40 (max), 11.03 (mean), time: 34:40 

After the dive we returned back to the resort for lunch (as we started late, and it took time to get organized). After lunch and some rest, we set out again.  I had a chance to replace the battery in my camera.

This time our dive site was along the shore of the of the main island - just across from Arthur's Dive club. 

Dive #2 - Arthur's Rock

This was a rich reef on the steep slope of the shore. There were many small overhangs and life forms. Some of the corals and fish were familiar from the Red Sea and others were quite different.

There were huge barrel sponges along the reef. These are alway dramatic, and are different than what we are used to at home.

As we hoped, the area was rich with nudibranches.

At some point we spread out quite a bit, and I was toward the back taking my time exploring the reef. Abbet appeared next to me and signaled that he wants to show me something. I thought he wanted to show something just next to me, but he took me toward the other end of the reef, where he proudly showed me two large white frogfish.

Abbet started to probe the fish with his stick to get them lined up. I stopped him. I guess this is a local practice to "arrange" the objects for the photograph. I am against it, and later talked with Abbet about it, but this type of behavior repeated itself. I usually had to either go on (so that he would not have reason to keep annoying the fish) or tap him with my stick and signal "please stop".

We continued along the reef. I liked the combination of shapes and colors around.

Sadly, my air run out quite early, and I stopped the dive much earlier than most of my group.  Later I learned that Ayelet run into a colorful Mantis shrimp while I was away photographing the frogfish.

Dive statistics: Depth 16.01 (max), 9.32 (mean), time: 45:40.

From Arthur's rock we return to the club to drop off people who did not want a third dive. In the end only Ayelet, Boaz and me were interested in one.  The dive site was just around the corner from the resort.

Dive #3 - Koala 

We dived in to a relatively gentle slope with groups of corals. Trying my camera, I see that it is dead again. By now it is getting darker, and so most of the dive was in dusky light.

Abbet shows us a nice Mantis shrimp, but alas, I don't have my camera. We also see many small animals and nudibranches.

Dive statistics: Depth 20.31 (max), 12.18 (mean), time: 51:20.

We returned to the dive club, washed our gear and climbed back to our rooms. From the common porch between the rooms we could see the impressive sunset.

I realized that my batteries probably drained between the time I charged them at home and getting here. And so I set to recharge all of them before use.

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